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Mid to late summer my poppies die back. After a spectacular spectacle of color, they wither and brown until I’m tired of seeing their ugly stalks and cut them to the ground. Any stalks with seed pods are carefully cut, the pods emptied out over a dish, and the empty pods saved for dried flower arrangements. The pods are not very pretty unless spray painted, but have very interesting shapes. The seeds from Papaver oriental (perennial) are saved for more plants, those from Papaver somniferum (annual) are saved for use on baked goods, plus a few a hopefully spread around the garden for next year’s poppies.

Since the plants are quite large, they leave gaping holes in the garden’s symmetry. Luckily other plants can be grown close to them to fill the space, but there are still a few weeks of transition where the view isn’t so pleasing. In September the dormant roots send up new leaves that form small mounds until hit by several really hard frosts. Their green is welcome at this time of year, and a good sign that the poppies will bloom next summer.

papaver

Poppy leaves in fall

You know every seed is different from every other seed from basic biology class. Even though every plant in a field of corn, or wheat, or each pink petunia, might look the same to us, each plant has its own identity, a face as different as yours is from mine. Which means every packet of seed you plant contains the possibility of surprise, like finding a red green bean or a green sunflower.

In 2006 I planted some seeds for Papaver orientale ‘Brilliant’ from Thompson & Morgan Seeds. I selected the seeds for their orange bloom, and planted five pots in January, with plans to place them in my orange and pink garden later in the spring. (After all, you can only have so many poppies in a small garden!) Last year they finally bloomed. While two of the plants bloomed in slightly different shades of orange, and two had to be transplant so were set back and haven’t bloomed yet, the fifth plant bloomed pink.

Pink poppy surprise

Pink poppy surprise

Papaver 'Brilliant'

Papaever 'Brilliant'

(Off topic: Have you noticed how difficult it is to photograph orange? It never seems to fit in with rest of photograph. Same with white and black.)

Both of these plants are huge, 40″ plants with blossom stems reaching 48″ and more, and luckily, the pink still goes in my pink and orange color scheme. Especially, since due to the poppy’s taproot, it is nearly impossible to transplant once established.

Now, this could be a genetic change, but, what I suspect is more likely, a seed from another poppy type somehow flew into the mix. However it happened, it was a great surprise!

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn't it beautiful?

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