One that (nearly) got way

Several years ago I bought seeds of the ridiculously named Papaver dubium lecoqii var. albiflorum. There were just a few in the pack and I sowed them carefully in cell trays. A few plants grew and they were planted out in a well-drained, sunny bed. The poor little things grew to about 15cm, had a couple of tiny flowers, barely a few cm across and I felt very disappointed. This particular area is planted with bronze carex, a cistus and linaria and gets very dry in summer, being the top of a soil mound formed primarily for a young cork oak – did I mention that I wanted to be self-sufficient! Another resident is annual quaking grass which self seeds far too much but is easy to pull up.

I really didn’t notice any poppy seedlings last year but when I was weeding this spring I did notice a few large poppy plants and, in the hope that it might be this pink poppy and not wild field poppy, I left them to grow. And yesterday the first flower opened in the spring sunshine. These are plants from seeds that germinated in autumn, so have made bigger plants than those that germinate in spring. It is a true, hardy annual.

Papaver dubium is an Irish native, annual poppy, sometimes called the long-headed or yellow-juiced poppy. It has red flowers. Papaver dubium ssp. lecoqii seems to be an orange variant. So how there is any logic to the pink-flowered variant being called albiflorum (white-flowered) I really can’t tell.

The flowers are a delightful pink with a greyish blotch at the base, rimmed with white. They remind me of the ‘eyes’ found in some motaea. They are rather small for the size of the plant but are a lot bigger than my first plants. It is something of a mystery where it came from in gardens but it is sometimes called Beth’s poppy because it was (possibly) introduced by Beth Chatto, is a resident at Great Dixter and appears at Chelsea frequently.

I am not too concerned that this may be the trendiest plant I have in the garden, I am just glad that it has settled in and made itself at home. It is always rewarding when, against the odds, a plant decides it likes you and decides to make your garden its home. I am hoping the same for the yellow umbellifer Smyrnium perfoliatum which I used to grow years ago. I have a small group of seedlings that should bloom next spring and then (being biennial) seed around. But, for now, I will enjoy a month or so of these delicate pink poppies.

UK gardeners can get seeds from Special Plants


9 Comments on “One that (nearly) got way”

  1. David J
    April 15, 2023 at 11:13 am #

    “It is always rewarding when, against the odds, a plant decides it likes you and decides to make your garden its home.”
    How so very true Geoff.

  2. John Hric
    April 15, 2023 at 4:12 pm #

    A pleasant surprise!

  3. Paddy Tobin
    April 16, 2023 at 8:13 am #

    Do you eat the Alexanders?

    • thebikinggardener
      April 16, 2023 at 8:24 am #

      This one is not the wild alexanders – but that does grow in the hedges nearby. I have never tried to eat it – have you? and how do you use it? Would be interesting to try since it is so abundant here

      • Paddy Tobin
        April 16, 2023 at 9:48 am #

        No, I’ve never tried eating it; just something I’ve read about so often.

        • thebikinggardener
          April 16, 2023 at 10:38 am #

          I think I should go for a walk and try some!

          • Paddy Tobin
            April 16, 2023 at 1:56 pm #

            Should we come looking for you at some stage?

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