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Entries in oriental poppy (2)


Oriental Poppy Princess Victoria Louise

Perennial gardeners' eternal challenge is finding a local nursery that offers a wide variety of Oriental poppies. Few in my area sell Papaver orientalis , even fewer offer a wide selection and almost none sell the plant in a size that blooms same season.

Adding this perennial to the flowerbed is an excruciatingly painful exercise in deferred gratification: - buy it now, watch it wither and hope optimistically to see flowers next year because reawakening is never guaranteed.

Online nurseries have been somewhat helpful in addressing the above issues especially when they offer hard-to-find new introductions. Unfortunately, plugs of Oriental poppies dislike being shipped by mail and their survival rate in my garden after planting is poor.

Another challenge for this gardener is how to integrate the most beautiful and tallest varieties of these poppies – the red ones - into a predominantly pastel-colored English style garden. It’s not an easy design task unless one replaces standards of beauty with bold and theatrical visual drama.

The more appealing design solution is to plant the variety Princess Victoria Louise because it blends well into most pastel-colored gardens.

One of its attributes is the ease with which light and weather variations transform the color of its petals. Cloudy days make them glow in a fluorescent shade of light coral. Cool sunny days bring out  rich peachy tones and brutally hot weather causes the petals to fade into soft delicate shades of pastel almon-pink.

Another quality is the ease with which it moderately propagates itself by self-seeding. Although many favorite perennials do so, it is thrilling to see this happening to Princess Victoria Louise.  Over several years, if left unattended, it will fill the flowerbed with a riot of large, billowing pastel salmon-pink petals that seem to float above the tops of all other perennials in the spring garden. The results can be breathtaking.

The large oval seedpods of Papaver orientalis offer dramatic architectural and textural interest to the garden after petals have dropped. However, those who desire greater control over the appearance of their flowerbeds are urged to deadhead the plant immediately after blooming to avoid self-seeding.

Finally, this perennial prefers sun and dry growing conditions. Transplanting is frustrating due to deep-reaching tap roots. If it must be moved, expect instant trauma and dormancy. The likelyhood that it will endure to bloom the following year is high.


This Oriental Poppy is a Turkish Delight.

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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.