Garden with a Winner!™

November 11, 2018- Poppies

I found these few lines referencing the tradition of the poppy on November 11th on a Canadian Legion site.

Each November, Poppies bloom on the lapels and collars of millions of Canadians. The significance of the Poppy can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, over 110 years before being adopted in Canada. Records from that time indicate how thick Poppies grew over the graves of soldiers in the area of Flanders, France. Fields that had been barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. During the tremendous bombardments of the war, the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing the “popaver rhoeas” to thrive. When the war ended, the lime was quickly absorbed, and the Poppy began to disappear again.

Not all poppies are the crimson red that we are so accustomed to seeing on Remembrance Day, as well there are perennial and annual varieties. Royal Wedding and Pink Ruffles are categorized as Oriental Poppies, which indicates that they will support large flowers that are heavily ‘crinkled’ or ruffled.


Culture for these old timers is relatively simple but there are a couple of important considerations. Primarily, these plants can not stand wet feet, that is to say they require excellent drainage. Further, once you have established a location for your crop, do not move them as they dislike being interrupted. Finally, during the peak of the heat months, Oriental Poppies will look rather sad, that is to say, their foliage yellows, large gaping holes appear in the clumps and generally, they appear to the novice eye, to be dead. This condition often encourages new gardeners to water their clump over and over again, hoping to revive them and alas, the drainage issue raises its ugly head and the clump succumbs. The point here is to plant companion perennials that will grow and cover the failing foliage of the Poppy. During the cooler weather of autumn, the dormant roots will awaken and push forth a new rosette of vibrant green foliage which remains as such until the spring. In milder winter climates, many gardeners will plant their Oriental Poppies in the fall, I wait until spring as I garden in zone 3. In discussion about planting, as these plants do not like to be disturbed, take caution when installing a container grown plant. Prepare the soil with ample compost and provide excellent drainage, ensure that the hole is dug deeper and wider than the container. Very gently remove the plant from the container by tapping the bottom of the pot, invert the pot securing the plant and soil with your other hand. Make muck like preparing sand for a sand castle using a beach pail! Place the soil ball gently in the prepared area and backfill. Water sparingly only to ensure that there is good adhesion with the native soil and no air pockets.

Your newly established Poppy Patch will last indefinitely with very little maintenance. Just remember the life cycle of dormancy in the heat of summer and you are all set.

November 11th, 2018