Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Papaver orientale 'Saffron' with Bowles Golden Grass, Mileum effusum 'Aureum' and marigolds.

Wasn't the summer wonderful?  Three delicious days of blissful sunshine, swallows crapping all over the car in the garage, bless them, and gentle airs bringing the scent of field beans wafting into the garden to blend with a socking great perennial stock which is flowering furiously, despite its roots being crammed into a paving crack. 

I don't know whether anyone else does this, but I tend to travel through life, guided by seasonal milestones.  The arrival of the swifts, here, tells me that spring is moving summerwards and once they are settled into our roof - where several pairs nest each year – I know that it's time to rummage in the chest for shorts and sandals.  You should know that I invariably wear sandals with socks.  (Better to come out to the Fashion Police, now, about such things, than to be spotted at large, so badly dressed as to cause surprise, alarm,  despair and terror.  

A big summer milestone, for me, is the emergence of the first poppy.  Meconopsis, especially blue ones, are pushy, premature and don' t really count but the year's first startling, red, wild field poppy is a true and peerless herald. 

Seeing those first bright blooms among lengthening roadside grasses, or lining a cornfield, always delights.  This year, the first Papaver rhoeas startled me into a spasm of frenzied hand clapping while yodelling a bar or three from the Hallelujah Chorus - which would have been acceptable if I hadn't been driving down a narrow Rutland lane at the time.

Poppies really are extra special.  They float my boat absolutely.  They are utterly the biz.  So to celebrate three days of precocious summer, I thought I'd treat you to a few piccies which I dashed into the garden to shoot at the week-end.  This was done between sowing the last of the vegetables in the new raised beds, re-potting some of the containers on the terrace, digging out exhausted parsley plants which had grown an impressive 1.5 metres high, making runner bean wigwams and showing my 6 year old granddaughter the similarities between Pacific Coast and bearded irises. 

While doing that, I had to discourage her two year old sister from drowning herself in the micro-pond, garotting herself with string intended for the runner beans, feasting on foxglove leaves or monkshood and trying out a bit of self-pruning with my Felco secateurs.  Phew!  I'd forgotten how much self-destruction an under 3 can achieve in about 15 seconds of not being watched.

But here, without further ado, here's a montage of Poppies out in my garden on Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

Papaver orientale 'Saffron' - same as top picture, but with fading flower.  A bloom which dies with such grace, is better than an opera heroine at Covent Garden - not to mention, a dam' sight cheaper!

One of my annual poppies.  This one, I suspect, is a hybrid between Papaver rhoeas and the Eastern European P. apulum.  The white halo over the dark pollen guides is typical of the latter species, as is the deep, intense red.

Why does this bud remind me of the GQT we once did at a naturist camp, one chilly morning, in deepest Kent?  It is of Papaver 'Snow Goose,' raised by National Collection holder Sandy Worth, and certainly worth growing!  It stands well, despite the wind and has nice bracts cradling the bud.

Papaver 'Snow Goose' when fully open, bereft of its pubescent calyx and all the better for that! The white is brilliant, but with just a smidgin of a faint trace of pink, to soften it, and with nicely showing pollen guides.

The real Papaver 'Patty's Plum.'  Having wanted it for some time, I'm not so sure, now I've got it.  A great 'flower show' poppy, but rather a grungy pinkle (purplish-pink) in the garden.  I think I prefer these two below:

This was sold to me as P. 'Patty's Plum' which it obviously isn't.  Lovely seedling, though, and I'm glad to have it.  Harmonising, here with the chocolate leaved Persicaria 'Red Dragon.'

The seedling in close-up.  The flowers fade deliciously from blackcurrant fool to a gentle blancmange

The only British Meconopsis - M. cambrica the Welsh Poppy.  An invasive pest, but so wonderful for crowding together in a shady spot where little else will thrive.

Here's the orange form of Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica var aurantiaca, which seeds nicely behind a fence for me.

And finally . . . don't forget the poppy relatives.  Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus (above) is a delightful wall weed and looks lovely with Welsh Poppies.  New to our garden this year is a poppy shrub, last seen growing wild, in California, Dendromecon rigida.  Then there are all the dicentras, Corydalis, Hylomecon, fumitories, plume poppies and so on.  But enough, as they say, is enough.

I'm listening to Nicholas Maw's Odyssey.  A great British composer who died last week, and whose music is not listened to nearly often enough.  Odyssey lasts 90 minutes, so you need patience and a careful ear.  

This week's film was Sergio Leone's  Once Upon a Time in the West.  A long Western which pulls no punches, and which has the most compelling opening sequence of any film ever made. The ravishing Claudia Cardinale could hardly look more out of place and speaks in Italian with English dubbed in afterwards.  Hmmmm. And the usually angelic, baby-blue-eyed Henry Fonda makes a surprisingly spine-chilling villain.  Good story, too, with breathtaking scenery divine horses and much roisterdoistering.  What more could a body want?

This day in  2006 I was being bombarded by my publishers with requests for last minute alterations to a tome, Plant Solutions, on which I was doing a lot of work for very little money.

Happy Whitsun.  Bye!


  1. I normally save my poppy love for the opium ladies, but you make a persuasive case....

  2. A great post - I have several oriental poppies flowering now, and I am really growing to love them.

    The Patty Plum-ish is a rather splendid variant. You must give it a name (assuming it doesn't already have one).

    Sorry to be less vulgar, but oriental poppies in bud remind me of the plant in "The Little Shop of Horrors".

  3. I must confess that I have never grown a poppy! Maybe next year.

    They do look fabulous. Especially the rhoeas. We have a gorgeous corn field nearby where they grow wild, such a sight.

    I'm actually reading a book of yours. Didn't make the link for a little while but it's a good read! Kudos to you!


  4. Yum - love that black-currant fool poppy. You should propagate it as Colborn's Charmer or something similar.

    I quite often natter to the Patty (Patricia Marrow) who bred Patty's Plum (that bloomin' poppy she calls it) - a real old-school nurserywoman and amazing character.

  5. Planted up 'Californian' and 'Atlantic' poppies this weekend. Looking forward to seeing the best of them next year but should get a few flowers from the plants these next few weeks.

    Swallows a plenty here and another variety of hummingbird this weekend (a Rufeous Hummingbird). Looks like a tiny sparrow as it's brown but up close it has some lovely colouring. Likes petunias and fushias so far.


  6. Excellent film choice - I particularly like the use of a different piece of music for each character :)

    Oh and the poppies are plumptious too ;)

  7. I love the name blackcurrant fool... what a lovely evocative name for that colour. Well done newshoot!