This family includes many annuals from Europe,
Asia, North Africa, western North America or the
Papaver nudicaule, the Iceland Poppy, with flowers
three inches or more across of white, yellow,
pink, salmon and orange has given rise to a number
of well-known strains of garden origin, notably
the Coonara, Gartref and Kelmscott.
Papaver nudicaule is strictly a perennial, but
is best treated as an annual.
The Opium Poppy is Papaver somniferum, of Europe
and Asia, with flowers of double and single form
with frilled petals, that vary from white to red
and purple. Grows wild throughout the UK on any
type of soil.
Papaver rhoeas is the Corn Poppy, native to Britain,
with scarlet flowers, and is parent to a host
of varieties, of which the Shirley Poppy is most
There are also the scarlet Papaver californicum,
the Tulip Poppy (Papaver laerigatum), with scarlet,
black and white flowers;
Papaver glaucum, from Syria, with scarlet flowers,
spotted purple at the base;
The Peacock Poppy (Papaver pavonium), from Afghanistan,
with scarlet and black flowers.
Seed may be sown in spring or autumn where the
plants are to flower.
The flowering season is from late June to September.
Poppy – Papaver
The large family of Poppies is conveniently divided
into the Perennial or Herbaceous kinds, and the
Biennials and Annuals raised from seed.
The Perennial Poppies vary a good deal in habit
and size and in the treatment required.
The largest class is that called Orientale, in
which the plants spring from the root-stock early
in the year, rapidly form large bushes, and in
March and April produce enormous single and semi-double
In the “type” Orientale these are
an intense orange scarlet with a black blotch.
Newer sorts are Salmon Queen, Silver Queen, Pink
Beauty, Prince of Orange, whose names indicates
(These names the beginner will do well not to
take too literally).
The roots should be planted out in October; their
proper place is in wide herbaceous borders, where
each clump may have two or three square yards
to swagger in. ordinary garden soil suffices,
but it should be fairly deep, and not encroached
on by roots.
The plants may be allowed to sprawl at their will,
or while the flowers are still in bud, three or
four sticks may be placed round each clump, and
the whole supported with tarred string.
This may be done quite inconspicuously, and the
flowers will hold up their heads advantageously.
The top-hamper may be cut down by July or August;
the ground should be pricked over, and well top-dressed
Papaver orientale may be raised from seed sown on a
fine seed bed in the open in June or early July.
In heavy, unkind soils sow in boxes, and give
a little help with shade and water. Prick out
the plants when large enough, and finally put
out in autumn.
The plants may be increased by dividing the roots,
taking care to plant pieces possessing both leaf-shoots
and root fibres.
Small offsets may often be found a little distance
from the main clump.
Papaver bracteatum is a somewhat more compact orientale,
with vivid crimson scarlet flowers of imposing
It blooms from May to July.
Its culture is the same as that required by orientale.
Papaver pilosum is about eighteen inches high.
The leaves and stem are hairy, the flowers are
large, and their colour is variously described
as salmon, terra-cotta or apricot.
It may be raised from seed sown as directed under
The flowering time is in June and July.
Papaver nudicaule, the “Iceland Poppy”,
does not exceed a foot or eighteen inches in height.
It forms a ground-tuft a light green leaves, and
throws up a sheaf of flowers on elastic hairy
The colours are pure white, lemon yellow, and
a light reddish orange; the texture of the petals
is very beautiful, delicately crumpled and half
Though classed as a perennial, the Iceland Poppy
has a trick of decaying at the collar, and vanishing;
the best plan is to sow seed, thinly and lightly
covered, on a nice fine seed-bed at the end of
Thinned out, the plants will flower about July,
and continue in bloom a month or more.
Later sowings will produce plants which may be
put out to stand the winter, and flower the following
In a good soil and situation the flowers will
sow their own seeds, and sometimes a large breadth
of fine plants may be had without any trouble.
All the three shades of Papaver nudicaule are particularly
charming in contrast with Campanula
Papaver alpinum resembles nudicaule, but is slighter
Its range of colour comprises white, orange, yellow,
buff, apricot, etc., some of these tints being
The plant may be raised from seed sown in spring;
but it has not the vigour and stamina of the Iceland
Papaver Cambricum. Welsh Poppy (see Meconopsis).
The annual Poppies may be roughly divided into
the tall varieties, double and single, of the
somniferum tribe, and the dwarf kinds resembling
the wild corn poppy, of which the “Shirley”
strain is the best known representative.
The tall Poppies have handsome silvery green foliage,
much cut and waved; the flowers are as much as
five or six inches across, and are followed by
large seed heads.
The catalogues contain sundry classes, such as
the Pæony and the Carnation-flowered, Giant
and Japanese, which show little practical difference.
The colours comprise white, puce, black-purple,
rose, salmon, bright scarlet, rose and white,
Next to these come an intermediate tribe, growing
about two feet high (such as umbrosum, crimson
flowers with black blotch; lævigatum, two
feet, scarlet and white) leading to the third
class, namely, the descendants of the wild red
poppy of the fields.
The Tulip Poppy is a very fine annual for patches
or small beds, a semi-double in which the inner
petals gracefully close in over the stamens while
the outer ones expand; the colour is a fine deep
The best of the dwarf annual Poppies, and one
of the best garden “improvements”
ever made, is the comparatively recent introduction
Hybridised from the wild English poppy, the flowers
are most beautiful in shape, single and semi-double;
the colours include white, pure and tinged with
rose, many shades of pink and rose, light orange,
scarlet and deep red; sometimes the petals are
flushed or edged with a second colour.
The flowers open in the early morning, and in
hot weather begin to fall about noon.
Strongly developed plants will continue to renew
their bloom for a fortnight or three weeks; weak
and over-crowded specimens have a much briefer
All the annual poppies should be sown about the
25th of March, in patches in borders, or in beds
and breadths where there is room for such display.
It is impossible to judge of the full effect of
the annual Poppies – and particularly the
“Shirleys” – unless they are
seen in a good-sized plot or mass.
The seed bed should be made smooth and fine, choosing
a time when the soil is crumbly and dry on the
top; scatter the seed thinly broadcast, rake it
in lightly, and when the seedlings appear, thin
them out mercilessly.
The taller kinds should stand eighteen inches
apart, the Shirleys six inches to a foot. The
latter, if allowed to stand after they have seeded,
will sow themselves, and sometimes stock half
the garden with seedlings.
These self-sown plants if thinned out or transplanted
will usually produce incomparable flowers the
following summer. Seed of the Shirleys may be
sown about August, to stand the winter and flower
strongly and early the next season.
Unless self-seeding is desired, the annual Poppies
should be pulled up and burned directly the last
flowers have fallen, and their room used for something
The situation for all Poppies should be quite
open and exposed to the sun; the soil should be
deep and in good heart, without positive manure.
Poppies suffer from the attacks of a specific
fungus which causes the leaves and stems to decay.
It is not as yet so widespread as the Mallow disease
and some others, but there seems no cure when
it has developed.
All affected plants should be pulled up and burnt.
See also : Meconopsis
, Oriental Poppy