4th July 2016
Oriental poppies are one of my favourite, must- have plants. These are perennials that are native to Turkey, and unlike other poppies almost all of which are annuals they can be relied upon to reappear each spring with their hairy, green leaves that are soon overtaken in height by tall stems holding their famous swelling flower buds atop.
When these buds burst open, they reveal one of the blowsiest of all blooms: like silk crossed with tissue paper, large and sumptuous yet still seemingly elegant and delicate. I'd have a garden packed with these, and they certain look best when grown en mass. They will tolerate most soils, but do appreciate full sun as well as a feed of well- rotted muck each spring.
Last year I took root cuttings to create more plants, and now it is the time to repeat the job the oriental poppies have finished flowering, and their yellowing foliage can be chopped to the ground and their clumps carefully lifted up with a garden fork.
You may want to save their seed heads, as they look impressive when dried and sprayed golden as Christmas decor.
Once you've lifted the root ball, look for a few of the fleshly white roots. Cut a few of them off with a pair of scissors, trying to remember the correct way up of the root attach some ribbon to the upwards end before you cut it off, as once it has been cut from the root ball, one end looks identical to the other!
With the cut roots, take them onto the potting bench or kitchen table and chop them up so you end up with several bits of root that are 2-3 inches long. Take a terracotta pot filled with a gritty, sandy compost mixture and push each bit of root into it, around the pots edge. Water the pot little and often and in 3 weeks you should start to see little leaves appearing from the pushed in bits of root.
Once they have grown a small rosette of leaves, each new poppy can then be potted up individually so you'll have lots of these fabulous perennials for free! These can be either over wintered in a cold frame or planted out into the garden in September.
Replant the parent poppy back in its spot - as its died back, you can plant cosmos or dahlias around it so that you don't have gaps in the border for the rest of the summer. The clumps will grow fresh leaves normally once cut back though and sometimes, if the summer is long and warm, they will give a second flush of blooms (but this will be far sparser than the guaranteed late spring show).
There are lots of varieties of oriental poppy Goliath is the largest, with flowers of Beefeater-jacket red, but my favourite is the smaller 'Patty's Plum'. The strain I have in the garden at Stoke is especially dark like a blackcurrant sorbet!
Happy gardening and thanks for reading - Arthur
4th July 2016