MECONOPSlS

P. These are early summer-flowering poppy-like plants of considerable beauty, perfectly hardy, though some species, e.g. Meco-nopsis integrifolia and M. regia, are monocarpic (they die after flowering). They do, however, demand some care for really first-class results. It is useless planting meconopsis in a hot, sunny position. They are deep-rooting, demand a cool leafy or peaty soil and partial shade. Perfect drainage is essential as waterlogged ground in winter is anathema to them — a parched soil in summer is equally detrimental. Meconopsis are happiest where there is little or no lime in the soil. Slugs are very partial to the young plants.

The best known species is Meconopsis betonicifolia (originally described as Baileyi) which bears nodding brilliant sky-blue flowers with golden anthers, 2 in. across on strong stems. It is often referred to as the Himalayan blue poppy and on rich, moist soil may reach 4 ft. The secret of success is to prevent the plant flowering when young and before any side shoots have developed. On removal of the single centre rosette, several crowns will be produced and the plant should then persist for about 3 years. Amateurs often experience difficulty in growing Meconopsis betonicifolia and other species from seed. Spring sowings usually germinate badly and it is better to sow seeds in autumn as soon as ripe in pots or pans containing leafy compost. Thin, shallow sowings are essential. A shaded cold frame is necessary and the soil must be kept reasonably moist. Seedlings are pricked off into boxes of similar compost as soon as they can conveniently be handled, and set 2 in. apart. If germination is irregular, it is worth while to place the pots or pans on the north side of a hedge or fence (or other shady place) and leave them fully exposed to the elements as frost and snow often stimulate germination of certain plants, notably meconopsis and primulas. Note that seedlings of Meconopsis betonicifolia, as with other species, often vary in colour. Any with bluish-mauve or purple flowers should be discarded. M. integrifolia is monocarpic with soft yellow flowers on 18 in. stems (Farrer’s lampshade poppy is an alternative name). M. superba is taller with creamy white flowers and M. regia, another monocarpic species, reaches 5 ft. with yellow blooms. M. grandis has extra large blooms 4—5 in. across, growing to about 2 ft. Several forms of this species are available, in various shades of blue. It is a sounder perennial than most and can be increased by detaching the side shoots in early autumn. M. quintuplinervia is known as the harebell poppy. It is somewhat rare in cultivation and seems happiest in cooler, northern gardens and in Scotland. The soft lavender-blue flowers have creamy-white anthers. This species increases fairly quickly where conditions suit and should always be given a well-drained partially shaded position, the soil being enriched with peat, leaf-mould and compost.

M. cambrica is the Welsh poppy with yellow flowers. It only demands a little shade but will soon increase by means of self-sown seedlings. There is an attractive double form with orange flowers.

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