The Poppy Story

When I first moved to my current home, a man lived next door who was an old gardener. I use the term old to not only refer to his elderly status but more importantly, his vast knowledge of the earth, its soil and how to grow food.  He was one of those old souls magically connected to the earth upon which he tread. He knew vegetables and taught me how to garden. Our near daily conversations were filled with talk of plants, seeding, soil and experimentation.

Under his influence, I learned to start seeds indoors under grow lights. He also encouraged me to try perennials. Flowers could be expensive, wouldn’t it be wonderful to start them from a $3 pack of seeds. He loved Poppies. So did I.  I added seeding Poppies to my spring seedling plan.

They grew successfully. I gave half of my Poppy seedlings to him. We each planted them in our yards, understanding that they would not bloom until the following year. The seedlings were planted and forgotten. The following year we watched for them and nothing appeared. We tried a second time, again planting seedlings, again waiting the following year for blooms, again nothing. What they heck? I was having so much success at every other plant. What was going wrong with the Poppies?

The third time we tried. Nothing came. We gave up. And one spring day we were out in the yard talking. As we spoke, he reached down and pulled an ugly weed out of my lawn.

“There’s one of those dam weeds”, he replied. “I find them all over my yard”.

I agreed as I had them as well.

“If they get too tall they have a dam ugly bulb on the top of the stem.”

This made me curious. It was true, I have pulled ugly green bulbed stems out by the roots myself.

Toying with one in my hands as we talked on about our gardens, I peeled one of those ugly green bulbs apart. Surprisingly, it was a gorgeous, bright red inside. Embarrassingly, it was the very same color as the Poppies that never made an appearance in either of our gardens.

The two of us stood silently staring at the opened ugly pod, now revealing a gorgeous Poppy bloom.

“Dam”, he said, ” I guess they have such ugly leaves, I thought they were weeds”

“Me,too.” I said.

The lesson I learned, hilariously I might add, is that you may be expecting a wonderful bloom, but learn all of its body parts. Plants grow in stages, make sure you know what they look like before you pull them as weeds.

Here is a pictorial of Poppies.

Poppy Leaves

Poppy Leaves and their green pods.

Poppy Blooms

If not mistaken as a weed, the green pods will begin to open.

Poppies beginning to blossom

Poppy blooms starting to reveal themselves.

Poppies first bloom

The First gorgeous bloom, so dramatic coming from that green pod.

Poppy Bed

Soon you have a colorful bed of Poppies.

Poppy Flowers

So pretty and strong in the flower garden. Perennials are so worth the work of growing them by seed.

  4 comments for “The Poppy Story

  1. Kieran
    October 29, 2019 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for your reply. Yes, the nursery bed idea sounds better than hit and miss seed scatterings, although the random surprises can be fun:).

    Sometimes it can pay to be patient with those “unusual weeds”

    I once had a “weed” appear in my front garden, and although my immediate impulse was to quickly pull it up, I decided to let it be. Mainly due to its slightly unusual grey/silver colour,

    I kept an eye on it from time to time to see what would come of it, and eventually it produced some little white flowers with pink centres. The gift of nature flown in by air I later found out were pink eyed rose campion. As they clearly liked the spot I let them spread.

    Last summer I witnessed a number of Monarch butterflies clambering all over them, with legs in all directions trying to get their long extended tongues to the centre of the flowers. Whether it was perfumed dew, or some kind of nectar, they seemed to love it, as they gorged from flower to flower. So the fact that the Monarchs love them was just an added bonus.

    • October 30, 2019 at 11:22 am

      I love it when the butterflies invade the gardens. We also had a lot of Monarchs last year and bees too. I think the garden is always surprising and each year different.

  2. Kieran
    October 28, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Hello. Nice story!

    I had a similar experience just recently. Autumn two years ago I scattered some flanders poppy seeds in an area by a fence that was barren and I thought would be nice with a dash of red. I have never planted them before. I also dropped a few into a couple of pots I have around my place.

    Spring and Summer came and went and there was nothing. I basically just accepted that the conditions weren’t right for them, and moved on.

    This year I put some cornflowers seeds into a few pots around the place for a splash of blue. Again I have never planted these before, so was looking forward to them. In one of the pots they shot up with their attractive silver leaves. In the same pot right next to them and growing vigorously among them was some large weedy looking plant! I was baffled as to what it could be until just a couple of days ago I noticed some hairy looking buds forming. It then clicked. I thought “they must be poppies!”. I did a quick google pic search to confirm what they looked like prior to flowering, and that is what lead me to your poppy story.

    As you say it is easy to see how in their early stages they can be mistaken as weeds, and I now wonder if I too may have inadvertently pulled a few up without realising!

    • October 28, 2019 at 10:50 pm

      This was fun to read that I am not the only one on this learning curve. Thank you for sharing your experience. I have since learned to have a nursery bed. Its a tiny protected garden meant for perennials that are still small so I can tend to them as such and watch for their sprouting leaves. After they spend a year there, I then transplant them out into the beds they were meant for. THis has help so when weird weeds come up in bunches, I know they are probably a perennial in sprouting form. Its all fun.

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