Friday, December 12, 2014

Growing Giant Poppies

Is this legal? I caught myself asking. Can I really grow giant poppies in my garden without a drugs squad raiding my yard? All these things raced through my head when a friend of mine gave me my first ever giant poppy seeds late last year. I got my chance to sow them in Spring this year.

To say I was surprised was a little bit understated, as I was actually expecting giant DOUBLE poppies, but got the equally spectacular singles.

Yes, it is perfectly legal. In fact my neighbour up the road decided to plant the very same thing, but that lucky-duck had the doubles that I was so hoping for. Don't worry, I have my desired seeds on their way, I have been assured.

How easy are they to grow?
You may have seen poppy fields of the middle east on the news and documentaries. Rain much over there? There's your answer. They are the easiest and most drought tolerant plant I have ever grown. Perfect for South Australian dry conditions. Minimal watering, thrives on neglect for an amazing bloom. I still watered them via the weeper hose.

How should giant poppies be sown?
Directly onto the worked soil where you want the crop to be is best.
No need to cover with soil although a light dusting of sand to hold them down from being blown away can help. Water in and that is all.

Don't sow them too thickly, but that can easily get out of control due to the size of the tiny seeds.

How big do they grow?
These hardy annuals grow to a height of 2-4 feet (up to 120cm)
My whole crop was at least 4ft.

Do they have a fragrance?
No discernible fragrance but bees are highly attracted to these poppy flowers.

How long do the blooms last for?
A very short period of time. Rapid flowering of only a couples of days.
When the heads are about to open, the green heads go from a limp to an upright position and then flower the next day.

What happens after they lose their petals?
The seed capsule then ripens. With the petals gone, you will see a gorgeous flat pattern on top of the seed capsule.

When will the seeds be ready to harvest?
Little vents appear just underneath the flat pattern on top. When that separation occurs the seeds are ready to be harvested VERY CAREFULLY. If roughly handled or tipped upside-down at this stage, the seeds will empty back onto the ground ready to reseed themselves. The foliage will also start to dry off around the time of harvesting. So cutting down the stalks at the same time as harvesting the seeds is ideal.

Why grow Giant Poppies?
They are a spectacular addition to the garden, a real statement piece for Spring. They add height to the garden as well as needed colour and texture interest. They also encourage bees to the yard for cross-pollination which every garden needs to survive.

If you love flower arranging, the petal-less seed capsules can look beautiful in an arrangement. Even once the seeds have been shaken out, the pods are still usable for dried arrangements.

I can't wait to try the double giant poppies next year!
Right now, I'm swimming in giant poppy seeds to give away for Christmas.