14 June 2015 - 5:54pm

Poppies

At the time of writing this – mid May – the oriental poppies are coming into bud. They are so quickly over I vow every year to look them out every day to make sure I enjoy every minute of their short lives. My best laid plans to stake them properly and effectively early in May have been forgotten as usual ; the best way when I have got round to it is to use brushwood stuck into the ground around and between them. It disappears as the poppies grow up and looks more natural than those green wirey jobs. Oriental poppies are of the perennial, herbaceous variety. That means they come up every year from a strong root and die down in winter. They usually are a fabulous bright, shocking red (pictured), but you can find pink and white varieties. ‘Perry’s White’ was found by nurseryman Amos Perry. When a customer contacted him to complain that a poppy he had brought from him in good faith as pink turned out to be white, he acted quickly. He sped over, gave the customer his money back, dug it up and took it away to propagate from it. I have one here at ‘Charnwood’, it is lovely, with a crimson splodge in the centre. But I admit to liking the bold and brash red ones best. Although they only last a short time in flower, you can use the space afterwards by cutting them hard down to the ground and planting annuals such as cosmos around them. They won’t mind at all and will grow a lovely green crown of new leaves in time, ready for next year. In my experience they are quite hard to propagate from as they have a long, fleshy root so take a while to settle down if you move them. The usual way of propagating oriental poppies is from root cuttings, again not the easiest or quickest way to get new plants but worth a try if you want more and are prepared to give it a whirl. Early winter is the best time. Talking of annuals I have managed to grow some Cleomes this year. They are a rather unusual, fairly tall and elegant plant, their common name is spider flower. The instructions on the seed packet were rather involved, so I risked a simple sowing in a seed tray and stuck them in my unheated greenhouse. They germinated really well, so it just goes to show, you don’t have always have to faff about for good results. Mine are C. Violet Queen described as; Eyecatching and strongly-scented (can’t say I noticed that) the deep violet flowers and palm-like leaves of this beautiful plant will add a tropical look to the late summer garden. Great for adding vertical interest to a perennial border, the spidery flowers will also make attractive cut flowers. The seed heads can be dried and added to bouquets, too. It’s a bit late to sow them now, but I have bought them off the excellent garden club plant stall at the village event or at a good plant nursery. By that I mean one that sells a wide range of reasonably priced well grown plants rather than barbeques the size of a small car or nasty jumpers. (Sorry, starting to rant…). June is such a lovely month, so take the time out to sit in your garden and enjoy!