Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Bit of Chaos

Summer is poppy time, and our garden includes lots of annual poppies. I like the informality they create by sprouting in all sorts of unexpected places. Just like forget-me-nots in the spring, poppies in summer create a bit of chaos. They soften all edges and bloom generously - too generously all the neat gardeners will say! But they are easy to remove and are difficult to control as the annual poppy is a plant that does not take to regimentation.

Common red poppies

The Flanders Fields poppies (Papaver rhoeas) is basically bright red, but it has been hybridized over the years and comes in different shapes and colours. I am thinking of the Shirley poppies which vary a lot in shape and colour. Shirley poppies are the ones I would recommend, if you want more control. In my experience, they have to be reseeded every year, which means they do not get as easily out of hand. Their unimproved red cousins, which self-seed readily from year to year, don't need to be reseeded (and can get out of hand).

Shirley Poppy
Shirley Poppies
Papaver rhoeas
Shirley Poppies

This is also the season for Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, which can also be different colours. In the bloodstream of my opium poppies, there is a kind of dark strain that comes up on its own. It will sometime produce a kind of washy, dusty red but, at its best, it turns out a beautiful purple.
Dusty red somniferum poppy

Purple somniferum poppy

The opium poppies here a more often double than single (I let more double go to seed). These doubles are usually pink, but some years I get red ones. The most common of the somniferum, in this garden, produces a pale lavender single flower with dark markings in the centre. For us, somniferums do self-seed, but not as profusely as rhoeas, hence they are less chaotic. They are easy to differentiate even before they bloom, as the rhoeas has hairy, green foliage and the foliage of the taller somniferum  is glaucus. 

Papaver somniferum
Papaver somniferum


  1. I like poppies--big and red! In your face.

  2. Lovely! They really have a soft, airy feel. You have some beauties. I like the annual poppies but don't have any right now. They don't reseed themselves well for me, I assume because I keep my garden heavily mulched.

    1. It might be a blessing if they don't reseed much as otherwise you end up having to pull out quite a few.

  3. I love the look of a natural or "old fashioned" garden. So beautiful!


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