Friday, October 10, 2008

Perpetual poppies

All good things come to an end, but it's lovely when they take their time about it and aren't in a hurry. Like this year's Iceland poppies. My first post about them was in early July, and that was by no means their first colourful day out in the sun. And here it is October 10 and they are still powering along and don't look like finishing any time soon. So a little homage to our seemingly perpetual poppy show is in order.

This is why we planted poppies – to supply us with cut flowers. My wife Pam loves poppies, and so I planted them for her, and this is a little corner of her studio, which overlooks our garden.

And this is what Pammy can see from her studio window. This is about as dense as the poppy flowering ever gets, but as we look out to the north-east from our back door, the morning sun streaming in back-lights the poppies every day, and I can't resist stopping and just standing there for a while to enjoy the sight. They're just so pretty and the delight of seeing them never seems to diminish a bit – that's Groundhog Day at its floral best.

This pic won't exactly get the sharp focus award, but it glows with colour and shows the crepe paper loveliness of the petals, too.

We cut flowers for poppies all the time, with our secateurs working silently alongside the humming teams of bees which tolerate us every bit as well as we tolerate them. Get on well, we do, all of us garden workers! I stopped and watched a bee for 10 or so minutes the other morning, trying to see if there was any kind of logical pattern to its flitting from one flower to the next. Absolutely none that I could see! Almost seems like the perfect randomness, chaos theory as applied to collecting pollen. Maybe that's it?

And then there are the short-lived (one day only) wild self-sown poppies which come up as a second generation on completely different looking plants. This one seemed to be winking at me one wet morning. Most of them are this sensual mauve/purple hue.

And so that's it for blogging about pretty poppies this year. What a wonderful treat they have been. Definitely growing them next year, and hopefully for many years more.

One piece of growing advice that a good gardener gave me early on was to keep "growing" the young poppy plants, by pinching out and discarding all the early little flower stems that popped up before the plants had reached full size. Though you lose a few early flowers doing this, getting the plants up to a good size before you let them flower seems to be the trick. The 'good size' is to have the plants almost touching when they are spaced about 25-30cm apart. After they get to this size, they then flower on for ages, and very strongly. I kept on fertilising the plants to get them up to size, but once I let them start flowering, I stopped all fertilising and left them to survive on natural rainfall, of which there has been a good but merely normal amount here in coastal, temperate Sydney.

Of course the other 'trick' is to bring cut flowers inside for vases all the time (which Pammy does very enthusiastically), and also to dead-head (ie, cut off) any flowers which have finished (my job). This regular cutting helps to keep the flower show going for much longer, too.

I suspect they'll still be flowering well enough to keep on picking blooms for vases well into November. Considering that they started blooming in June, that's almost perpetual motion.

1 comment:

Erica Spinks said...

Hi Jamie,
I have just discovered your blog and wanted to say how much I love your poppy photos. What a lovely outlook your wife has!