PAPAVER: THE POPPY
Favorite Annuals, Biennials and Perennials for Garden Decoration and Cut Flowers
Hardy perennial, biennial and annual plants which are of great value in the garden. A collection of different kinds furnishes showy flowers throughout a long season, from early summer until autumn. The Poppies are natives of Europe, eastern Asia and North America, and belong to the family Papaveraceae. The word Papaver is the ancient Latin name for the Poppy.
Poppies flourish in ordinary garden soil, most kinds preferring that which is well drained. They must be grown in a sunny place; they are not successful in the shade. Poppies vary greatly in size, from the tall Oriental Poppy, 2-3 ft. high, to the low-growing Alpine Poppy, which is suitable for the rock garden.
The Oriental Poppy
The Oriental Poppy, Papaver orientale, is a hardy perennial, 2-3 ft. high, with large, deeply cut leaves, which bears immense, cup-shaped flowers of various brilliant colors in early summer.
This is one of the most striking of all the flowering plants which are in full beauty in May and June. In association with Lupines and Bearded Irises, it provides a brilliant display of bloom before many perennial border flowers have opened.
The Oriental Poppy thrives in ordinary, well cultivated garden soil and may be planted in early autumn or spring. Autumn planting is, however, greatly to be preferred, for, if put in then, the plants are far more likely to bloom the first summer than if planting is delayed until spring.
Parsnip The Oriental Poppy has thick, fleshy roots and dislikes being disturbed. It becomes established rather slowly and flowers little, if at all, until the second season after planting. It should, therefore, be placed where it is to remain indefinitely, for the plants increase in size and numbers of flowers annually for many years.
This Poppy looks best in small groups in the perennial border; it should be placed in the middle or towards the back of the border, for the flowers are over in June and afterwards the large leaves are rather untidy.
Taking Root Cuttings. The Oriental Poppy can be increased by means of root cuttings, which should be taken as soon as the leaves have died down. The plant should then be lifted, and the roots cut into pieces 3-4 in. long. These are set in sandy soil in a frame kept close for a few weeks. They may be laid horizontally and covered with an inch or so of soil, or vertically, the tops being covered with 1/2-1 in. of soil.
The soil must be watered occasionally to keep it moist; water should not, however, be given until the soil is moderately dry while the cuttings have no roots. If kept in a cold frame during the winter and protected from severe frosts, the cuttings will be well rooted by spring and may be planted out of doors in May where they are to grow. Root cuttings may also be taken in spring and planted in the open ground.
Raising the Oriental Poppy from Seeds. Raising Oriental Poppies from seeds is a perfectly simple matter, though varieties will not, of course, come true to color (most seedlings are likely to have orange-red flowers). Seeds develop profusely on established plants; the pods should be gathered before they open and the seeds saved until spring. Or, of course, seeds can be purchased at that season. The seeds may be sown in sandy soil, in a frame in April, or out of doors in a nursery border in May.
The seeds are very small and, if sowing out of doors is practiced, the soil must be pulverized by forking and raking. The seeds are scattered in very shallow drills and are covered merely by raking the bed over lightly. The seedlings should not be disturbed until autumn, when they will be large enough to be set out in their permanent positions.
Some Brilliantly Colored Varieties. Of the named varieties, these are some of the most striking: Barr’s White, pure white with purplishblack blotches; Cavalier, scarlet; Curtis Giant Flesh Pink, huge flesh-pink flowers; Curtis Giant Flame, immense blazing red flowers; Curtis Salmon Pink, salmon-pink; Enchantress, soft rose; Gold of Ophir, golden orange; Indian Chief, mahogany; May Sadler, salmon-pink with black markings; Perry’s White, white with crimson-maroon blotches; Salmon Glow, double flowers of salmon-orange color; Watermelon, deep cerise; Wunderkind, begonia rose-pink.
These named varieties do not breed true from seeds; if an increased stock is required of any of them, it must be obtained by division or root cuttings.
The Iceland Poppy
The Iceland Poppy, Papaver nudicaule, which is a native of Siberia, is an exceptionally fine garden flower for regions where summers are not very hot and humid. The saucer-shaped blooms, in orange, yellow and other colors as well as white, are on long stems and prove invaluable for cutting. They are in full beauty in May and June. The Iceland Poppy is grown as a biennial; that is to say, seeds are sown one year to provide plants that will bloom the year following. After they have flowered, the plants are of little use and a fresh stock is raised annually.
When to Sow Seeds. The seeds are sown out of doors in May or June in a spare border where the soil has been broken down finely with fork and rake; it is necessary to do this because the seeds are very small. They are sown in drills half an inch or so deep and 10 in. apart.
It is wise to sow the seeds thinly because the seedlings should be left undisturbed until autumn, when they are planted out where they are to remain and bloom the following year. If the seedlings are crowded in places, they must be thinned out. They can, if necessary, be transplanted, though it is wiser not to disturb them, for they make better progress and develop into finer plants if not moved before the autumn.
An alternative method is to sow the seeds in small pots in a frame, and grow the seedlings on in these, after thinning them out to one in each pot. Plant them where they are to flower, before they become root-bound.
Iceland Poppies look well in groups towards the front of the perennial border or they may be set out in the rock garden. It is worth while planting some of the seedlings in an out-of-theway place solely for the purpose of providing flowers for cutting.
Beautiful Varieties of Iceland Poppies. In recent years several grand strains of the Iceland Poppy have been raised. The flowers show a wider range of coloring than the older kinds and the stems are longer. They make showy groups in the garden and, as already suggested, are ideal flowers for cutting for decorative use indoors.
The Annual Poppies
These are beautiful summer flowers, indispensable both for garden decoration and for cutting. The chief types are the Shirley and the Opium Poppies.
These are hardy annuals which are raised from seeds sown out of doors in late August or early
September to provide flowers in May and June, and in early spring to provide flowers in early summer.
Sowing Seeds in Late Summer. The finest possible plants are obtained by sowing the seeds in August-September; they are more vigorous than others raised in spring and yield a profusion of bloom. In gardens where the soil is well drained or light, late-summer sowing is much to be preferred, but on heavy, clayey land the losses among the seedlings during the winter will be severe. If late-summer sowing in this kind of ground is contemplated, the site should be dug and sand and compost added freely to make the soil crumbly.
The seeds should be sown where the plants are to grow; it is unwise to transplant the seedlings. The seedlings must not be thinned out severely before winter because some are certain to disappear before spring. The final thinning out should be deferred until March or April. Each plant will then probably need to be 10-12 in. from its neighbor, to allow room for full development.
Seedlings raised in spring should be thinned out until they are about 6-8 in. apart. Poppy seeds are so small that they are usually sown far too thickly, with the result that the plants are poor, weedy specimens which have a short flowering season. If the seeds are scattered thinly, the seedlings well thinned out, and all faded blooms and seed pods are picked off, annual Poppies will bloom freely for many weeks.
When to Cut Poppy Blooms. If wanted for vases indoors, Poppies should be cut as soon as the buds assume an upright position; they will then open perfectly in water indoors and will last much longer than they would have if left on the plant until the buds were almost ready to burst into blossom.
Shirley Poppies. Seeds of several strains of the Shirley Poppy are sold by seedsmen, including a variety with double flowers which, however, lacks the charm of the single ones, in rose, blush, pink and allied shades.
Opium Poppies. Of the gray-leaved Opium Poppy, there are many varieties with large, double, brilliantly colored flowers—for example, Carnation-flowered, Peony-flowered, White Swan, and Mikado.
Other hardy annual Poppies are Papaver commutatum, 12 in., and the Tulip Poppy, P. glaucum, 18 in., both having scarlet flowers; and the Peacock Poppy, P. pavoninum, 18 in., scarlet.
Alpine and Other Poppies
The Alpine Poppy (Papaver alpinum) is a charming little plant for the rock garden; it grows only about 6 in. high and bears flowers of various shades of color—orange, yellow and salmon as well as white. It thrives in a sunny place in light or well-drained soil, and is increased from seeds sown in spring, preferably where the plants are to grow. It is not long-lived.
Other beautiful Poppies are Papaver pilosum, which bears orange-colored blooms, and P. rupifragum, with flowers of apricot coloring. They are short-lived perennials but easily grown from seeds sown out of doors in summer.