Papapver orientale at Old School Garden

Papaver orientale at Old School Garden

Papaver (poppy) is a genus of 70 species of annuals, biennials and perennials native to many parts of the world. The perennials include Papaver orientale (Oriental poppy), which is native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, and northern Iran.

Perennial poppies are easy to grow – all are sun lovers and will grow well as long as they are in the sun and the soil is not waterlogged. They do best in poor but deeply cultivated, well-drained soil, (on the calcareous side) or even sharply drained in the case of Papaver alpinum and its forms. Apart from Papaver orientale other perennial poppies tend to be short-lived.

Poppies are tap rooted and do not transplant well, so should be sited carefully when first planted. Propagation is mainly from seed.

The flowers (which open from late spring into mid summer), are short-lived but beautiful – I particularly love the way a lowish sun can light up the garden as it shines through the large, brightly coloured, silky petals of the flowers. The flowers are followed by distinctive ‘pepper pot’ shaped seed capsules – best removed if you want to avoid abundant self seeding, but if this is not a concern, leave them to ripen on the plant –  they also provide a striking feature amidst other early summer flowering plants.

The flowers are low in allergens and are good for arrangements. However, they need to be picked at night before the bud opens; the bottom of the stem dipped in very hot water; kept cool overnight; then arranged in the morning. The seed pods are also good for arrangements, either fresh or dried.

The only drawbacks to poppies are that they often need to be staked; are prone to downy mildew; and the foliage can become untidy after flowering, This should be removed and another flush of leaves (and sometimes a second flowering) will follow. Alternatively, make sure the foliage, once removed does not leave a gap in your border by having other plants nearby that mature a bit later and take up the space left behind.

Further information:

Papaver orientale – Kew Gardens

Papaver orientale – RHS

Papaver orientale ‘Ladybird’

Nastional collection of Papaver orientale

Papaver alpinum

Papaver nudicaule

Poppyland: A Victorian romance and the birth of Norfolk tourism

Old School Gardener

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