The Poppy is a flower of nostalgia – a reminder of lost childhood and the fallen dead. The buds bow their heads and the delicate petals are short-lived, but modern garden varieties are so gaily coloured that the sad symbolism is lost. The flowers are borne on long stalks – the single varieties are cup-shaped with four wide overlapping petals; the double forms are ball-like with many petals. All Poppies have a dainty appearance but do not need staking. Removing dead blooms, however, is necessary in order to prolong the flowering season.

VARIETIES: The most popular annual Poppies are descended from P. rhoeas, the Corn Poppy which grows wild in the countryside. From this wild flower Rev. Wilks evolved the ‘Shirley Poppy’ which grows about 2 ft high and is available in both single and double forms. The usual colours are pink, white and red. A rather similar annual is P. commutatum ‘Ladybird’ (1.5 ft) which bears black-hearted crimson petals. The showy annual is P. somniferum, the Opium Poppy – choose the ‘Paeony-flowered Mixture’ for its double blooms. Some Poppies are treated as biennials, sowing in summer and thinning the following spring. P. nudicaule (Iceland Poppy) is the favourite one – the tissue-paper petals have the widest colour range of all and they are excellent for cutting if you gather them when the flowers are in bud and sear the cut ends with a match. Typical varieties are ‘Champagne Bubbles’, ‘San Remo’ and ‘Kelmscotf. The small P. alpinum or Alpine Poppy is also treated as a biennial. White, yellow or orange flowers are borne on hairless stems.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil will do – thrives in sun or light shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 6 in.-3 ft.

Spacing: 9 in.-1 ft.

Flowering period: May-August (P. rhoeas, P. nudicaule and P. alpinum), July-September (P. somniferum).

PROPAGATION: All Poppies dislike being transplanted. With annual varieties sow seeds in April where they are to flower. With biennials sow seeds in August – thin to required spacing in March or April.

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