Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Herb of the Week - Ornamental Poppy

Poppy Seed is a wonderful item to cook with, however, you cannot grow Poppy Seed poppies in the United States, they are prohibited by both state and federal law since early in the 20th century.  However, in my bike riding these past few weeks I came across this field of Ornamental Poppies.

Poppies belong to the plant family Papaveraceae which consists of about 700 annual and perennial species found growing wild in temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere. They are herbaceous plants which produce a sticky milky juice (latex).

The so called 'corn poppy' is an annual of a brilliant scarlet color and grows wild in meadows and on hillsides in Europe. When I saw this field filled with naturalized poppies, it stopped me in my tracks.  I went back the next day to take these pictures.  A few days latter we had some terrible rain and many of the blooms were damaged.  I believe these are an annual variety that seeded itself in this park.  If left unattended, they will return again and again with other wild flowers.
Poppies have been extensively hybridized to produce sturdy plants for your garden in a rainbow of available colors ranging from white to dark red as well as yellow to orange shades.

With few exceptions, both annual and perennial types have bluish-green hairy foliage and stems. The flowers emerge in the spring from plump furry buds, one on top of each stem. Some flowers are double and ruffled, most all have a black 'eye'. Poppies are mostly raised from seed, but you may find some established plants available during the blooming season at your local garden center.

Poppies are among the easiest plants to grow. Most like it on the cool side. Ideal temperature zones for optimum growing conditions are Zones 4 through 8, which makes my area in Zone 5 a perfect place to grow them.  Although you will be able to find some more cold tolerant as well as those that can withstand the heat of summer in the more southerly zones.

If you have a bed of poppies and want to propagate, leave the bloom to produce pods. These will ripen and eventually turn dry. You can tell when the seed is ready to be harvested by shaking the pod. There will be a distinctive rattle, indicating that the seed is there. Pop open the pods and collect/store the tiny seed in a dry location until ready to plant.

Sow seed of both the perennial and annual type (including California Poppy with its fern like foliage) either in autumn or very early in the spring in full or partial sun. Select a well drained area. Cover with a thin layer of soil, tamp down and water. If you are sowing in spring, keep reasonably moist until seedlings with two permanent leaves arise.

They all thrive in poor, rather than enriched soil and require little care once established. Do not fertilize if you expect flowers. If conditions are right, you may see a second blooming in the fall. Leave annual plants in place until late fall to ensure that seed capsules have dried and opened. You should have new seedlings the following spring and hopefully every spring thereafter.

If grown for strictly ornamental use, you should deadhead the flowers and a second blooming may occur later in the season. Otherwise, you can leave the dead flower heads and harvest the seed once the capsules are dry in late summer.

If you want to cook with Poppy, you need the imported seed from the Netherlands or Australia.  Called blue Dutch Poppy, they are the seed you use to make muffins, scones and dressing.  the Backyard patch makes a great Poppy Seed Dressing which is available through our new dressing listing on Etsy, and of course on the Website-

1 comment:

  1. Had a hard time with my login name for some reason so trying again. I really enjoyed your pictures and the information you gave on poppies. I grew up in California and remember fields and fields of them growing wild. Was a site to se for sure.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...