This Oriental Poppy is a Turkish Delight.
September 22, 2012
Allan in Garden Design, Perennial Plants, Turkenlouis, Turkish Delight, dry soil plants, flowerbed colors, fringed petals, oriental poppy, papaver orientale, perennials, plant combinations, propagating plants, red flowers, self-seeding flowers

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Some gardeners have no favorite colors. Any will do as long as the flower is pretty. Others, like me, are fussier, and they seek out plants that fit into their preconceived color schemes.

I used to consider red -  the color of apples, hydrants, and fire trucks -  difficult tones to include in my garden. For many years, I shunned magnificent red tulips and romantic red roses because I did not feel comfortable using them in my English-inspired flowerbeds where pastels reigned supreme. That is no longer the case. I am much more adventurous now.

Two years ago, towards the end of the planting season, when one red Oriental poppy, Papaver Orientale Turkenlouis, or Turkish Delight, remained unsold, I placed it in an empty spot in one of my flowerbeds. That was a bold decision. Never before had I planted red or scarlet flowers in my garden, nor did I remember what color plant would bloom next to it, the following season.

By planting haphazardly, with total disregard for composition, I created the unusual but rather attractive color scheme shown above and below. My personal sense of color balance would never permit me to intentionally combine pastel yellow [Siberian Iris Butter and Sugar] with red, yet here it is and it is remarkably refreshing. Like the chaos and unpredictability of nature, sometimes the unexpected and the unplanned can be as beautiful as the deliberately arranged.

Oriental poppies like Papaver O. Turkenlouis bloom in full sun, during May to June in Zones 3 to 6 and prefer a poor, dry soil. While its coarse, rugged grey-green foliage tends to grow like a miniature fountain closer to the ground, its flower stems reach 24 to 30 inches in height and support 4 to 6 inch-wide lustrous and fringed scarlet-red petals.

This feathery effect on any flower is a delight to enjoy in the garden, no matter on which plant it may be found. It is an added visual pleasure, where the eye skims the edge of the flower to experience soft texture.

When poppy blooms are spent, gardeners have two choices: either to allow bulbous black seed heads to form at the top of the stems so that plants can self-seed, or to remove the browning stems and heads with a hand prunner. In either case, after a poppy has flowered, its leaves will turn yellow as the plant reverts to dormancy. This will occur long before most summer perennials have begun to bloom.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to plant summer flowering perennials close to the poppies so that the foliage of these later-blooming plants can hide the yellowing of the poppy leaves and fill in the empty space created by the eventual and total disintegration of the slowly shriveling foliage. For some gardeners, this disappearing act necessitates recording the location of the hidden plants; it’s easy to forget they are underground when digging the flowerbed in mid-summer. By autumn, new foliage will have popped out if the ground, thus creating fresh markers for the gardener.

Oriental poppies do not like being transplanted. These perennials grows deep and when lifted, their foliage crowns risk being separated from most of their fleshy roots. Propagation is more successful with the shallow planting of root cuttings that is best done during the summer.

A cautionary word: - If budget permits, plant more than one of this Oriental poppy. In the spring, when it is in bloom, gardeners are so bowled over by the synergistic combination of sensual fringes and intense scarlet-red that they regret having planted only one and not several.

A grove of this dramatic perennial may also be created, over the course of several years, by allowing Oriental poppies to self-seed. Novice gardeners should bear in mind that mulching near and around this plant will prevent this from happening.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (
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