"Pleasures are like poppies spread -
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed."
Papaver orientale 'Patty's Plum' really only became known to the general public since 1999. It was developed in England by Patricia Marrow of Somerset. The very first one was found as a volunteer in the compost heap at her Kingsdon Somerton Nursery. When saved to grow more like it, news of the sensational new color variety spread rapidly around the world.
When the buds first open, they present as crushed-satiny plum-wine flowers with dark spots at the inner base of the petals, & a black circle in the center.
These soon age to a purplish brown. In brightest sunlight they turn mahagony. To preserve the initial & fabulous plum-wine color a wee bit longer, it is suggested they be provided with a bit of dappled shade.
Perennial poppies are not picky about soil conditions or pH, & even prefer soil a little on the poor side. They are drought tolerant, though should probably get moderate watering their first year while getting established. They accept extremes of temperatures & can be grown in zones 3 through 9. They're easy, reliable bloomers for May & June, preferring plenty of sunlight.
The bristly grey-green leaves die back in summer but return in autumn, providing a ferny presence for the winter garden. Every few years it is possible to divide the broadening clump. Whether just to transplant or to divide, oriental poppies should be moved only at the start of autumn when the leaves first begin to regrow after their summer rest.
Autumn would also be the best time to plant fresh young oriental poppies so they'll be well-settled for their first bloom the following late-spring or early summer. But nurseries tend to stock them early in the year when about to bloom, only because it is easier to sell lots of flowers when the bloom is actually upon it. Though this isn't the ideal time of year to get the best from them, they're hardy enough to do fine, even if they end up looking better their second year in the ground.
It is useless to attempt to take poppies for bouquets because they will practically fall apart before you can get them in the house. But the seedheads can be taken in summer, & are perfect for dried flower arranging.
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