Big, blousy, glamorous, fleeting, whatever you feel about Oriental poppies they are hard to ignore. Wonderful for mixing in borders, they produce large, often brightly coloured flowers that bloom from mid May into June.
The blooms unfurl gracefully from large, hairy buds and open into deeply cupped, or shallow saucer like flowers. Some have only a single row of petals, while others are semi-double with several rows of petticoat like petals. The texture of the petals also varies. It can be smooth and silky, delicate as crepe paper, or ruffled. Most have smooth petal edges but a few are serrated along the edges. In the centre of all oriental poppies sits a velvety, black doorknob that is fringed by fluffy black stamens. The colours range from white, pink, to salmon oranges, vibrant reds to dusky damson.
The flowers are carried on thick, bristly stems, which if snapped seep a white sap that as far as I am aware is not harmful. At the base sits a dense rather tufted mound of long notched leaves. These disappear after flowering emerging later in summer with lots of new growth, which stays around throughout winter.
POPPIES I LOVE
There are many, many different varieties to choose from, and many more that have disappeared over the years. These are some of my favourite varieties at the moment
‘Beauty Of Livermere’ has dramatic vivid red flowers, with silky petals and a big black centre. The flowers sit on top of upright stems. 105cm x 75cm
‘Forcett Summer’ (see above) has large salmon pink flowers that are fringed along the edges of the petals. It is not a tall grower so it is great for smaller gardens. 75cm x 60cm
‘Garden Glory’ is a big, fluffy thing with semi-double salmony pink flowers carried on stout stems. 90cm x 75cm
‘Karine’ produces delicate flowers, more reminiscent of the field poppy, but soft pink in colour. 75cm x 75cm
‘Mrs Perry’ is great old variety that produces cupped soft pink flowers with black splodges at the base. 90cm x 75cm
‘Perry’s White’ is another old, but great variety. The while flowers have black markings in the base around the black centre. 90cm x 75cm
‘Patty’s Plum’ was unique when it first came onto the market. The deeply cupped flowers are a sort of washed out damson colour. It is best grown away from sharp sunlight that tends to scotch the petals. 90cm x 75cm
‘Turkenlouis’ produces the most intense scarlet red flowers. Each flower is semi double and the petals are serrated along the edges. They are held on strongly upright stems. 90cm x 75cm
WHERE TO GROW POPPIES
Oriental poppies are easy to grow, long-lived and tolerant of many types of soils as long as it is well drained. They really do not do well in a soil that stays wet during the winter, however they don’t mind poor soils, or rich soils. They do best in a sunny spot.
WHAT TO GROW WITH ORIENTAL POPPIES
Poppies need border companions that do not compete with their large flowers. Lupins are good with them as the disciplined upright spikes of flowers providea handsome contrast in shape. Low mounding plants such as hardy geraniums, geums, centaureas are ideal for planting in front of them as are short irises. Be a little careful with taller irises, as the large flowered varieties can compete with poppies and neither benefits.
After flowering the leaves of poppies die right back (to make root growth) and re-emerge with even more vigour in late August. This means that during July and August there will be a gap in the border. If poppies are planted with other perennials the gaps are filled quickly with the surrounding neighbours leaves and flowers. Certain plants come into their own just about this time. Calamintha, Coreopsis, Gypsophila and Veronicas are just a few.
However you choose to grow poppies, as long as you love big blousy things you can never be displeased with these beautiful, easy to grow plants.
If you would like to see what poppies we have at the moment go to Poppies
by Claire Austin
Posted on 20/03/2012