Indescribably elegant, Papaver somniferum var. paeoniflorum is superb in the flower border, with lush frilled, LIGHT pink, often palm-sized blooms.
Peony poppies send up thick flower stems that produce five to ten nodding flower heads. When the flowers do burst, overnight, from their casings, what a treat to enjoy some of the most dramatic flowers in the plant kingdom. As if this weren’t enough to tempt any gardener, once the petals drop, one is left with a spectacular, instantly recognisable seedpod.
Sown in early spring, the plants grow quickly and the first flowers appear in early July. They grow to about 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) tall and have thick stalks and broad lettuce-like leaves. The light green, almost round pods are well-suited for crafts and dried floral arrangements. This annual variety will readily self-seed and will make an excellent addition to any garden for years to come.
These poppies grow quickly. Grow them in a position with deep, well-drained, fertile soil in full sun, they can also be grown in large containers.
Sowing: Sow in peat pots in autumn or sow directly in spring, flowering in June to August
Poppies have very sensitive root systems and do not transplant well at all. With care, they can be sown indoors and transplanted while young, but often better results are gained when seeds are simply sprinkled outdoors where they are to grow.
Whichever method you choose, the seeds are best sown very, very thinly. You can thin the seedlings out if they grow too close together, but not good results likely to transplant them. The seeds need darkness to germinate and at temperatures of around 20°C (68°F) will germinate in less than two weeks.
Sowing Indoors: Sow in spring March to May
Seedlings have long taproots, so are best sown in deeper pots, rather than shallow trays. Fill the pots with fine seeding compost, stand the pots in water and then drain. Take a very small pinch of seeds and lightly sprinkle on the surface, press the seeds lightly down so that they make contact with the soil. Place in a propagator, on the window-sill, or in a cold-frame. The seeds germinate in the dark, so use newspaper or lightweight cardboard to cover the pots until the first green shoots appear, it can then be removed once they have germinated.
Use care when planting out the seedlings from mid-May. If the plants get too big before the weather is suitable for planting out, stand the pots in a cooler spot this will hold them back a bit. They will begin to bloom 10 to 12 weeks from the time you plant them. Keep the pots moist at all times.
Sowing Direct: Sow in spring or in autumn.
Sow from the end of April through May, or sow in late August to September.
Seed can be simply sown directly where the plants are to grow in the garden. They can be broadcast sown over a wide area, sown in groups or short drills for maximum effect in the border, or sown in straight rows for a cutting garden.
Draw a furrow and label the row. Mix the seed with fine sand and sow very, very thinly along the row between thumb and forefinger. Cover with a maximum of 50mm (¼in) of soil, press carefully down with your hands and sprinkle finely with water. Sow extra rows at no less than 20cm (8in) apart.
If sowing more than one annual in the same bed, mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label. The seedlings will appear in rows 6 to 8 weeks after planting.
If sowing early in spring remember that young seedlings are susceptible to frost so do protect them if it is forecast. When sown in autumn the plants will form a tap root which is fairly hardly, so while the leaf above ground will be lost over the winter, the plant will shoot from this tap root again in the spring.
Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 30cm (12in) in apart by early summer. Be ruthless, just leave the biggest and most healthy looking. By doing this, you’ll get more flowers and pods per plant that are bigger and stronger.
Poppies don’t need to be watered too often, but when you do water, give the plants a deep soaking. This will promote strong root growth.
The most serious problem for these poppies is root rot. Excellent drainage is a must. Once they get established the plants are very hardy.These poppies are annuals, but on a well-grown peony poppy, the blossom can be just as large as the perennial Oriental poppy, and they bloom later than their perennial cousins. And most people don’t seem to know that you can deadhead peony poppies to get rebloom. Follow the stem of the spent bloom down to the first set of leaves and cut the stem just above those leaves. In many cases you can see the incipient flower bud forming where the leaf attaches to the stem.
The blooms make stunning floral arrangements and keep well in the vase. The pods are also beautiful for flower arrangements, they can also be dried for winter arrangements and dried floral projects. Cut the pods off leaving a long stem if possible and hang upside down to dry.