Wet morning, just drizzle, and the poppy patch is at an end, but it's not going out without a final hurrah, and this is being supplied by the wild poppies – the ones that self-seed, pop up, flower for a day, then disappear. They're orange people, almost every one of them, but not quite. After all, they're wild, and there's always a misfit or two in a wild bunch, isn't there?
All the poppies in bloom this morning are orange. These wild poppies aren't quite the same luminous, clear orange that you find in Californian poppies. They're a deeper hue, decorated in the middle with a splodge or two of black. These short-lived poppies are the self-seeded second generation, whose parents were the white, red, pink or yellow Iceland poppies I planted last April.
The faded Iceland poppies still put on an interesting show, but not of flowers. At the end of their brief careers, the party is over for them. Still, it was a good one, just like last year. They started flowering in June, then powered through July, August, September and most of October. Then they just ran out of puff in early November and it's over.
A few months later and it's chugging along, never sending up spectacular drifts of lots of blooms, but always sending up a vase-full or two for use indoors. As well as feeding the plants monthly with a flower-booster fertiliser, my main job through this time was to deadhead the faded flowers, and I am sure this helped keep the show going for a month or so longer. Poppies are easy to deadhead - you can pluck stems with your fingers - and so each morning I'd spend two minutes picking 10 or 15 spent stems, to prevent seed pods forming and encourage more blooms to come up.
However, while deadheading I'd occasionally miss one or two spent blooms, and these then self-seeded and a while later the wild plants started to come up. This morning, the scene was all-orange, and the bees were flocking in.
Bees are the hardest people to photograph because they never stay still. They adore poppies of all sorts, visit my patch each day, and they'll be really disappointed when I pull up the remnants of the patch this weekend and replant it. But a few months later there'll be yellow and gold zinnias aplenty for them, so their disappointment won't last long. Life goes on, for bees as well as gardeners.
However, being wild things, they come up in other colours, notably in the lilac and purple end of the spectrum and these are my favourites. Only one in 50 wild ones is in this colour group, and it's such a thrill to see one raise its pretty head for a day. For a moment it feels like I'm in an unfenced meadow somewhere and not in the inner-city with planes droning overhead.
And so ends our second year of poppy-patching. Poppies are my wife Pam's favourite flowers, and I was quite proud of my efforts last year to provide her with five months of pickable poppies to bring inside. They look so nice indoors and Pam uses them so prettily. Now, with two good years behind us, we might as well do it again next year. It has become a tradition!