Friday, July 8, 2016


One of the features of the Garden House is the use of naturalistic planting in a number of different areas in the garden,  Drifts and mixtures of plants - annuals, perennials, shrubs - planted and allowed to seed around to produce tapestries of colour and interest.  It requires a lot of maintenance to avoid thugs taking over but, done well, it can produce some magical effects.  Different combinations and plants dominate at different times of the year.   Late June and early July is highlighted by the annual poppies.

Papaver rhoeas is the Flanders poppy, a common European and British annual that thrives in cultivated land.  The seeds can lie dormant for decades, only to sprout when exposed to light.  Open pollinated variations on the basic red, pink or white theme are all over the Summer garden, Cottage garden, and Bulb meadow, producing bright colour for the start of the long summer season.

Papaver rhoeas provides bright colour in the Summer Garden....

....and in the cottage garden....

..and in the bulb meadow
Most of these are the descendants of an initial planting of Shirley poppies.  Bred from a single seedling found by the Reverend William Wilks in late Victorian times they are characterised by a white centre rather than the black of the wild type.  Two examples are shown below.
Pink flowered Shirley poppy

Red flowered Shirley poppy
Unless rigorously rogued they can revert to type - but enough survive to produce very interesting contrasts with their attractive colouring and crumpled petals.  Tough and hardy, once you have them they will always be there, even if as dormant seeds waiting for the kiss of sunlight as you turn over a bit of the garden.

Much the same can be said of the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum.  Dozens of different seed strains are available, singles and doubles, in a bright variety of different colours and colour combinations, but all having the waxy, glaucous foliage that tells of their arid land origins. Personally, I find them a bit overblown - except when the buds are unfurling.  Then, their beauty is at its most evident.

Unfurling bud of a double flowered opium poppy, Papaver somniferum