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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Poppies

I'm cold. Winter is close by. Tuesday will be the Winter solstice. My thoughts are turning to winter sowing even as the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the various quilts I have to work on breathe down my neck.

There's always hope, and I am the eternal optimist. Poppies are the first things I sow in the winter.

I love poppies of all sorts. This one is an oriental poppy called "Manhattan" or is it "Patty's Plum?" No, I think Manhattan as Patty rotted when I bought her as a bare root. It's too cold to go out now and check...and since is past midnight, I'm not about to.


Winter sowing Papaver somniferum (opium poppies) is the only way I have ever had success with them. Once you get them, in most soils they will come back again from the self-sown seeds. It is such a majestic plant, although it is illegal to sell them...as seedlings I think. I can never remember if it is the seed or the seedlings or the plant. This is one of those plants which has a great deal of mystique as it is handed from one gardener to another.

I think it is sort of silly for us to worry about such things. I highly doubt that any American is going to go to the trouble of growing them for the opium...you have to injure the seedhead while it is green. It then will exude a whitish sap which is collected. Far too much work I think for most Americans. We are more likely to save the seed to put on our bagels, breads and muffins than to go to all this trouble. If you notice the fringed one you can get a sense of the great variation which you get with this plant. They go from white to almost black and ever shade of red and lavendar in between.


This photo was taken in the dusk. I love how it glows. This is another oriental poppy called Victoria Louise...it is a clear watermellon sort of pink, at least that's how the plant catalogues describe it. I think of it more as raspberry sherbet.

I am waiting for the seed catalogs to come. Hopefully, I'll be able to find the seed of Turken Louis, a favorite orange poppy I grew in Connecticut and can't find here. So many nurseries carried it in Connecticut that I didn't think to bring any down here and I haven't been able to find them locally.

In the meantime, near my router sits a plastic container full of seed I have harvested. Soon they will be put in milk jugs outside and they'll start the stratifying that they need in order to sprout. In the meantime, I'll dream of catalogs and the gorgeous flowers which are gathering their power as they sleep in the cold. Just like me.




8 comments:

Shady Character said...

It's so nice to think of gardens and flowers right now. I can acutally feel the Solstice coming and even though there are months of cold, snow and ice ahead, it still feels like we're headed in the right direction.

OsageBluffquilter said...

Beautiful poppies. I can't belive that Patty rotted. Shame on her.
I'm having a give away, check it out.
Patti

Jessica said...

You have some beautiful poppies. I love poppies too but I never did get seed from the one at our old house. I will probably by some bare root in the spring to plant beside the house. I can't wait to play with the landscape here at our new house. Regarding the opium, there is only one species that is illegal in the US and that is the one with the most potent opium content, Papaver somniferum. You would have to harvest so much of the other cultivars that it would hardly be worth it. However, you can test positive for opiates if you eat enough lemon poppy seed muffins (2-3) in a short period of time. LOL

Jessica

Vivien said...

Those are absolutely gorgeous poppies! I think I'd like to add some color to my poppy bed; mine are all glorious orange. They absolutely love their spot, putting on a great show every year.

Michigoose said...

Thanks guys! Shady, I actually feel elated on the Solstice as I know the days will start getting longer. I found that since I moved to Connecticut, that I need the light. But it does seem particularly cruel that the cold winter is just starting.

Jessica, I was talking about somniferum. I grow a lot of it. :) I'll post a tutorial or information on the method of winter sowing I use, it's one which has a huge following and is virtually foolproof for me, although you do need to use seed which is viable. Old seed in some species doesn't work so well!

Vivien, I could never do without my orange beauties! Turkenlouis is an orange. I have so much space here that I can grow a variety of poppies. I have 3/4 of an acre, a far cry from my garden in CT which was only .28. :) But that also means I have more to weed!

Some people don't bother with poppies because their flowers are rather short lived as opposed to other perennials. Their color and texture, both for the flower and the plant as well as their seed heads are worth every minute and I'd never be without them!

Anonymous said...

Hello!
I have recently acquired a new home in Old Saybrook. I would love to add some Papaver somniferum to my garden. Where could I get some of these? I remember seeing some grown by the coast years ago, but I can't seem to remember where. Possibly near Mystic. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!
Brian

Michigoose said...

There was a person near Essex who used to have some, and I think that perhaps and old friend of mine had some in her garden in Mystic...but I have lost track of her and can't remember the name of the other person (I saw it on a garden tour).

You can get Papaver somniferum from people on eBay. They sell smaller amounts for about $3-$5, which is worth it because once you get it, you'll never have to re-plant it....unless of course you don't save the seed or leave the seed heads on, or use Preen.

Some seed houses specializing in heirloom seeds have it...but they are called "Danish Flag poppies" (I'm pretty sure that this is still somniferum--red with a white cross on on the inside); "Bread seed poppies" ,"Baker's Poppies' that sort of thing. You should be able to find them. Let me know if you don't.

Michigoose said...

OHH! I just remembered! You can get the seed from Comstock Ferre in Wethersfield. It was recently purchased by a company which has its main headquarters in MO and specializes in Heirloom seeds. I actually bought a packet of black ones as I was getting low on the seed. They have a couple of different varieties there, and it is worth a trip up there. Go when the scarecrows are out...it's really fun,and there are some good local places to eat. Nick's Diner on the Silas Dean is one of my favorites. Good food at inexpensive prices, although it IS a diner. :)