Poppy. Red. Very.

Brewer, Maine, October 11, 2007, a slide talk for the Maine Herb Society. We get to the part where the sky comes in, as an important part of garden design.


And the illustrative images include


Not surprisingly, people want to know what it is. Also not surprisingly, I have brain melt and forget until I’m driving home.

So. The bright red poppy is Papaver bracteatum, sometimes called the Persian Poppy or Great Scarlet Poppy. It’s a perennial, very similar in appearance, needs and habits to old fashioned Oriental poppy (P. orientale).

But Great Scarlet is accurate: flower stems are 4 or more feet tall, thicker and stiffer than Oriental stems; the flowers are a good 6 inches across and the scarlet is truly breathtaking, even redder than the Oriental ‘Beauty of Livermere’ ( or Livermore), with which P. bracteatum is often confused.

Plants of the Beauty, itself well worth having, are sold by Bluestone Perennials and High Country Gardens, but if you want true bracteatum you must – as far as I can tell – grow it from seeds. J.L. Hudson sells them, but I didn’t know that when I bought mine, from Thompson and Morgan, the seed company everyone loves to hate. T&M is expensive, especially in view of how few seeds you get, and germination problems are common. But they have a stupefying variety of nifty stuff not available elsewhere and in fairness it must be said that many of those nifty things are difficult to grow from seed. Caveat garden dreamer when browsing through the too-tempting catalog.

Happily, P. bracteatum is comparatively easy. Sowing where it is to grow is wise, and that should be in very well drained, sandy soil, in bright sun, somewhere in (roughly) zones 3-8. It will do better at the low end; winter cold doesn’t faze it but heat and humidity are not its friends. Remember that like P. orientale it is huge in spring and absent in summer.

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