Poppy Power

Can there be a lovelier flower than the poppy? What other can look so frail yet be so resilient to wind and rain? And how can such a paper thin petal hold such an intensity of colour whether it is the scarlet of the wild, the pale pink of the domesticated or the dazzling purity of the white?
< Poppy seed needs light to germinate and this is why they appear in their thousands in disturbed soil whether it is the ploughed cornfield, the scarred battlefield or just our humble vegetable plots, newly dug. They can survive buried for centuries and have even been known to germinate from seed found in archaelogical excavations.
< In the garden I use them all the time – sometimes the wild and sometimes the cultivated varieties, either mix with all types of plants and in all situations. <

These double white Icelandic poppies weren’t carefully sown in trays and planted out – just a packet of seed thrown onto the ground where I noticed some of our native White Campion (Silene alba) growing in a border. Both flowered for months and when fading pulled up and put onto the compost heap: there will be enough fallen seed of both to germinate again next year.

< The pink Oriental poppy shown here is the variety ‘Turkish Delight’ growing amongst Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ (not named, unfortunately, after me!). Unlike most of the poppies which are annuals, the Orientals grow year after year from the same rootstock and require some staking to keep upright unless you cheat like me – the Geranium disguises the partially collapsed, sprawling stems.

< A sea of catmint, ox-eye daisies and bright red Oriental poppies I planted below creates a dramatic walk through an old walled kitchen garden. The poppy is ‘Beauty of Livermere’ and has an extravagance that our smaller native poppy could not achieve. Extravagance in space too for this border will only look good for about two months. Once the flowers fade, which they do together, they are all cut off – leaves and all – to ground level. Within two weeks new growth will appear but there will be no more drama until next year.