October 29 2020

Meraki is a Greek word meaning to put your heart and soul into what you do and to do it with love and pleasure. I almost never see what I do in the gardens as work-it's just pleasure. Even weeding! And watching every new flower unfold is nothing less than pure delight.

Of all the hundreds of plants that I grow, I think maybe poppies speak most loudly of joy. In fact, they practically scream happy, happy, happy! There are Iceland poppies, Shirley poppies, perennial Oriental poppies, and annual bread seed poppies. It is of the last I wish to speak. (California poppies are of the same family, papaver, but a different genus and blue Himalayan poppies are meconopsis, a different family altogether). So, breadseed poppies are also known as opium poppies-yep, that one. I have read that it is legal to grow opium poppies for seed or flowers as long as you don’t make opium from them. Well, duh, right? I have also read that is is technically illegal to grow them but it is not enforced for poppies grown as ornamentals. Apparently it is possible to test positive for drugs if one eats enough poppy seeds, but probably I can’t eat enough lemon poppyseed muffins anyway.

The Latin name for these poppies, somniferum, means sleep bringing, a reference to their narcotic properties. The flowers of breadseed poppies come in flamboyant stained glass colors ranging from white to pink to red to dark purple and can be either single (5 petals), double (like peonies), or highly double that look like pompoms. Each drying seed pod will produce hundreds of seeds and they will reseed prolifically, so I try to remove most of the seed pods before they drop seeds. The dried seed pods are pretty in dried flower arrangements also. Just knock the seeds out wherever you want poppies next year-anytime fall through early spring. Or just let nature do it.

I thought the seeds were tiny round black balls, but they actually have a honeycombed surface and are kidney shaped. You can see this with a hand lens. There will be no end to the questions if you start asking yourself why nature is so wonderfully diverse.

Bees love poppies-I frequently see 3-4 bees in each cup shaped bloom-but keep in mind that they will hybridize so if you want to save seeds from a particular variety, you will need to plant them far apart or cover and hand pollinate the flowers. I don’t think I can separate my poppies far enough and I’m not willing to bother with covering individual flowers, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised with a new color or petal count. You can extend the bloom time by either planting at different times (they like cool ground) or planting some in shady areas so they will come up later.

I shall have poppies wherever I go-it’s hard to be sad in the presence of poppies.

Papaver rhoeas-flander, corn, Shirley poppies-annuals

Papaver somniferum- breadseed, opium poppies-annual

Papaver orientale-Oriental poppies-perennial

Papaver nudicaule-Iceland poppies-perennial

Eschscholzia californica-California poppies-annual

Meconopsis betonicifolia (or baileyi)-blue Himalayan poppy-perennial