It is always satisfying to grow something new and one of the oddities this year is a poppy relative – Dicranostigma franchetianum. The name is intriguing and although I have a nasty feeling that it may have had a name change, Dicranostigma means ‘two-pronged stigma’. It is a small genus of plants from China and other parts of Asia and this one is named after the French 19th century botanist Adrien Franchet.
It is generally considered an annual or biennial and although we grew it as an annual this year, sowing in March, I have collected lots of seed from the long, narrow seed pods (very like eschscholzia) and will sow next month so it will be grown as a biennial. There are suggestions that it may be perennial but I find that doubtful.
At first it makes a loose rosette of attractive, blue-green leaves that resemble sow thistles, with deeply indented edges. It then sent up tall stems that branched repeatedly and the terminal bud opened first.
The buds are beautiful in themselves, covered in bristles and the two sepals drop off so the crinkled petals can expand, like most poppies.
As the plants mature, a long succession of flowers open all over the plant. I put the plants about 30cm apart in groups which was about the right spacing. At their peak they were very showy, with lots of flowers open at one time. I would guess that each plant produced about 100 flowers – I would expect more from it when grown as a biennial.
The blooms are a pure, lemon yellow – very attractive – and I noticed that they were very popular with honey bees which landed in the centre of the blooms and ‘ran’ around the stamens as though collecting pollen on their tummies.
I would definitely grow this again – I have collected seed so I can sow a lot more – and it is a plant that looks better in real life than on the packet! It has a bit of wildness about it yet is still showy and garden worthy – just how I like my plants – colourful but with some personality. Reaching about 60cm (2ft) high it is just the right size for adding to a border though perhaps not in bloom for quite long enough (about two months) to make it quite good enough for a bedding display.