The poppies I kept

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I grew these peachy-pink Oriental poppies from seed (“Pizzicato Mix”) a few years ago when the Plant Goddess and  I were selling our home-grown herbs and flowers every Saturday at a summer outdoor farmer’s market.

oriental poppies, peach pink

We found that if you took a blooming poppy to the market it would always sell, just so you know, not that I mean to recommend being a farmer’s market plant vendor because I don’t.  It’s not just the endless loading and unloading of heavy flats of plants together with folding tables and other gear, and it’s not the tremendously depressing tiny profit margins or the impossible situation of storing sales stock at home all summer…

outdoor market flats

No, most of all it was the tent.

You certainly need a tent, which is really just a canopy, in order to sell at an outdoor market, because of both sun and rain. Our canopy was ten feet square and consisted of a one-piece metal folding contraption that sort of unfolded accordion-fashion to become a structure with four metal legs and a canvas roof stretched over the top. But for some reason we could never quite remember how to accomplish the unfolding.

Really the people who make these things have a warped sense of humor or are stupid because the tents don’t unfold like any reasonable exhausted hurried sleep-deprived semi-hysterical gardening woman would expect. So every Saturday morning at seven a.m. there we were at the market site having a ridiculous and embarrassing wrestling match with our canopy. People would come early to the market just to watch, and we became known not simply as the booth with great herbs and flowers, no, we were The Women Who Can’t Set Up The Tent.

We don’t do that anymore.

So anyway I sold all the red-orangey poppy plants and kept a couple of the pink ones, which I love, and I’ve divided these perennials so there are several now.

pink Oriental poppy

The poppy image was used often in designs of the past, and you find it being sinuous in the Art Nouveau applications and symmetrical in the Art Deco. There are things I gathered from my antique shop days–I love this old linen pillow, with flowing red poppies both embroidered and painted.

vintage poppy pillow

In the past I’ve also grown different annual poppies, like the breadbox poppy (Papaver somniferum) shown below–but not this year.

The rotund seed pods on that one wear hats that remind me of some post-WWII fashions and are darn stylish on their own.

Papaver somniferum

Those tall red breadbox poppies are pretty, with lovely gray green foliage –and every now and then I make an effort to grow them but they don’t self-seed in my clay soil.

I do think they are the opium poppy and maybe that’s why they are part of the setting in this old print by Susan Beatrice Pearse, showing tiny children going to dreamland, maybe pushed toward sleep by bloom proximity, like Dorothy as she approached the poppy fields outside the Emerald City.

This picture hangs on the wall above my bed and makes me sleepy when I look at it.

S.B. Pears print

So this year in the garden I only have the Oriental poppy blooms, so crinkly and delicate.  Today’s rain didn’t bother them as much as it bothered the dog, and me.

See Kininvie’s post about his blue poppy plants, just amazing. I’ve tried and failed with blue poppies but I haven’t given up yet because really they can’t be more impossible than that farmer’s market canopy tent and we always succeeded with it somehow.

Oriental poppy in the rain


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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35 Responses to The poppies I kept

  1. Lyn says:

    That poppy is so beautiful, especially with the dark foliage ( is it a Cotinus?) that echoes the poppy’s dark centre. I’ve never grown Oriental poppies, in fact I hardly ever grow any poppies, as they don’t like my soil much. But I was thinking of some red single ones for next Spring, and now I may check out the Oriental ones too. We can’t buy Opium poppies in Australia at all (don’t get me started) but I do love their seedpods with the little hats. Your print is also wonderful. You can probably guess I enjoyed this post very much. Sweet dreams!

    • linniew says:

      Wow Lyn, you are so right about the maroon leaves being a Cotinus. I planted it years ago and it has been a slow grower. At least now it blooms a bit of “smoke” later in the season.

      I think the opium poppies are outlawed in various places. I noticed in my reading that Ebay will no longer allow sale of the seed pods, which apparently some people were eating instead of planting.

      The Oriental poppies seem hugely tolerant. They need sun mostly it seems, and some place to kind of hide when the blooms are over. I expect they would be happy in your beautiful garden!

      • Lyn says:

        Eating poppy seeds instead of planting them for beautiful flowers – some people are weird. Even weirder is the fact that you can buy or sell opium poppy seeds here, but you are only allowed to eat them (for baking bread and cakes) not plant them in your garden. Their logic is far beyond our human logic.

  2. Grace says:

    Funny, even before I started reading this post, Linnie Girl, I was assaulted by this irresistible urge to take a nap. Here at my desk at work. Dang. I’m so freaking sleepy! And also funny in a curious way is that I spread all kinds of bread seed poppy seeds in my gardens last year after they finished blooming and there is only one, teensy-tiny little plant emerging this year. Most years I have them all over the place. Maybe the slugs got them. … I don’t blame you for giving a rest to the Farmers’ Market junket. It had to be tons of work. The painting is absolutely precious.

    • linniew says:

      I’ve sprinkled the poppy seeds many times Grace and had no plants at all. If you have one then you will at least have a million seeds for next year. I’ve done best actually starting them in pots first and then planting them outside. You really only need a few plants…

  3. What’s with this breadbox stuff—they are opium poppies. I agree with you about the farmer’s market. Every year they ask me to sell: “please come just once for a guest appearance,” and I relent. Then it is struggling with the plants, the supplies, the tables, and yes, worst of all, the tent. I am going this weekend and will report back if I live through it.

    • linniew says:

      I really love calling them opium poppies– some people are entertainingly shocked.

      I wish I could help you at the market this weekend Carolyn because you know tents are my specialty. I hope it goes well and just be comforted that you are only doing it once instead of every Saturday all summer. (Well I never did it ALL summer either, it just seemed like it at the time.)

  4. kininvie says:

    Lovely to see your big asiatic poppies – mine are just starting. And I really don’t think they are opium poppies, because they grow in Scotland for a start, which is not a place which has the opium habit (though it has many other habits). There would appear to be two species: papaver orientale and papaver somniferum – and only the latter is grown for opium. But what is a breadbox poppy?

    • linniew says:

      Oddly, breadbox poppy and opium poppy are the same thing: Papaver somniferum. Sorry I was apparently not very clear with that. The seed from the opium poppy I believe is the poppyseed used in baking, and that is the breadbox part. I expect opium is not unknown in Scotland– even if Thomas De Quincey was English…

    • I’m wondering if what grows in Scotland is Papaver rhoeas, the one mentioned in the poem about Flander’s Field? They’re sometimes called Shirley Poppies because a British minister whose last name was Shirley selected a variety. There are also lots of other species of Papaver…

      • linniew says:

        Yes Peggy, there are many poppies. I love the Flander’s Field story, of the blood-red poppies coming into bloom when the seed was disturbed by the soldier’s graves. I’ve never grown those annual Shirley poppies but I admire them in other gardens.

      • kininvie says:

        Hi GiW. The Flanders poppy does indeed grow in the UK, and can still be found growing wild in cornfields all over the place. It much prefers chalky or neutral soils, so we dont see much of it in Scotland, where mostly the soil is acid
        Wiki tells me the Shirley poppy was named for the parish of Shirley, by the vicar who bred it (from the flanders poppy). A lot of people grow it as an annual (a popular choice for childrens’ gardens because of the range of colour and ease of growing).

  5. Alberto says:

    Ok, reading Mr K comment I got the bread part too! Lovely colour of your poppy, I should try oriental poppy too, for some unknown reason I think they are fussy plants and never give a try. I used to grow the opium poppies though, I had a lot of them and they breed easily, so you have these fluo, often fringed, petals popping (poppying?) up here and there but the very reason why I grew them was for their seed heads (which I didn’t get if you like it or not, yet). Then I gave up, people passing by (on my previous garden) gave me some nasty glances, probably thinking I was growing drugs… I used to have also a lot of chleome, that looks like marijuana leaves. So I gave up with opium and pot, I even gave up smoking at all, I just drink now.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Alberto
      In my experience the Oriental poppies are very independent and dependable. They need some sun– that’s about it. I have one beautiful plant thriving in the woods adjacent to my garden and it receives no real help from me.

      Now that your gardens are more rural maybe you can get beyond the paranoia about onlookers suspecting your planting motives! I’m glad you were able to quit smoking. I have never been a smoker except when I am asleep–sometimes I have dreams where I am smoking, so maybe in a past life…

  6. Roberta says:

    It’s no surprise the poppies sell well at markets. They look impossibly fragile and delicate. I love poppies and have always doubted that they would grow here in Central Texas but early each spring I see a lot of giant red ones blooming. I planted my dear California Poppies because my heart will always be in California. I didn’t think they would ever bloom and was tempted to pull out the whole mess of them, then one day a little orange flower appeared and then another and another over the course of a week or two. They’re nothing so grand as your pink ones but they are delicate little reminders of the west coast.

    • linniew says:

      I love the California poppies and have grown them a couple of times but they don’t reseed. They do volunteer along the roadsides here, along with foxglove and camas and a pretty pink flower called Meadow Checker Mallow. Happy memory associations are a huge part of gardening, I have found.

  7. Fay says:

    Hello there my dear – loving the poppie photos/emboidery. Oriental poppies even do well here in the frozen north.
    As a fellow – ex-farmersmarket-plant-seller, I concur with your loathing of the tent. They try to bite your fingers when you’re far too sleepy to fight back.

    Beautfiul photos of the niche you kept in your garden. Just lovely.

    Peedie say’s Hi to Max – he’s decided to keep the puppy.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Fay
      I likely painted the market experience a bit darkly. It was fun in many ways and some people do it for years. I burned out in two summers however.

      Please report to Peedie that Max is having a friend come to stay for a few days soon, a Cairn terrier named Argyle Braveheart! There will doubtless be images later…

      So glad the puppy gets to stay.

  8. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – I’m impressed with your propogation skills, shame it didn’t turn into a lucrative business. How do you put a price on the love and care it takes to grow a plant ?
    I do like your pale pink and black poppy, it’s leaves look more refined than my red one which grows into a bit of a monster. Do they flower more prolifically as they age ? – mine is flowering more in its second year.

    • linniew says:

      Hi b-a-g
      Yes the poppies mature like any perennial. I wonder if your red one is the red-orange Oriental poppy. I have one of those too but it needs more sun.

  9. greggo says:

    I planted two pink varieties from seed this winter. They survived the peat pots and are now in onion crate planters outside. They’re sleeping for the summer I suppose, as they are pathetic in their laziness. I added other bedding plants to add interest. They are the oriental varieties. I’ve had good luck with California poppy’s here but they do not reseed. Darn..

    • linniew says:

      I expect your poppies will be more interesting next year– much bigger and likely filling up the onion crate planters. But, what is an onion crate like? I’ve seen trucks filled with onions but no crates.

  10. kininvie says:

    So, Linnie, we now need a post on ‘Look how my clematis cuttings are about to flower’ I remain EXTREMELY suspcious (you will not be surprised to hear) …and surely they must be about to bloom?

    • linniew says:

      Nope. But of course clematis cuttings don’t bloom until the second year, or at least mine don’t. I could post more pictures of little leafy vines if you like… But now that you mention the wager Kininvie, what I want to see are some images of neep plants in your vegetable garden.

  11. Alistair says:

    Dont get me going about profit margin, I slogged on with my grocer shop for thirty years with a 12% margin. Lovin your poppy, I just planted a group of the blue poppy Lingholm which I see Kininvie is not so fond of, glad you gave us the link though. I always liked the Californian poppies although they struggled in our climate.

    • linniew says:

      Keeping a shop is difficult and incessant. I’ve been there Alistair, and I am impressed that you persevered for thirty years–I lasted about eight.

      California poppies are in bloom everywhere here now, except of course in my garden. I keep meaning to get a photo of them along the roadside…

  12. Susan says:

    I’ve been looking for this “sleepy time” picture, the one that hangs above your bed, for quite some time. I has sentimental value to me. Where did you find it?

    • linniew says:

      Hi Susan
      I bought the picture in an antiques shop maybe ten years ago. I think it was on a trip we took, perhaps in California or southern Oregon…

  13. Junkman says:

    I just stumbled across your blog and like it. I just wanted to add that it really is a felony to grow papaver somniferum, opium/breadbox poppies, even if your local gardening store sells the seeds innocently enough. Sad, but true.

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