Progress Report 2

– Posted in: Garden chores
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On Saturday I thoroughly weeded the Juneberry bed in front of the house, in preparation for putting in three delphiniums that have been patiently waiting in pots. Didn’t quite get to planting them before darkness set in, which is a pity, as we are supposed to get rain today and tomorrow. (Went to the zoo on Sunday with the family, and came home too exhausted to plant.) When I ordered these plants in spring, I was confident I had room for them. But, boy, was I scratching my head as I surveyed my weeding progress. What was I thinking? I came to realize that some self-sown corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) were growing in the spots I had picked out for the delphs. So I am going to have to pull out one of my husband’s favorite flowers to make room for them. The poppies are past their prime, so it won’t hurt (me) too much.

These poppies are descendants of the Shirley poppy mix I bought from The Cook’s Garden many years ago. Shirley poppies were selected out of a bunch of corn poppies by a guy who lived in Shirley, England. (They’re not named after a girl.) Over the years they have “deselected” themselves and look more like the species, though I always do get a few interesting or especially beautiful ones. While we’re on the subject of confusing names, they are called corn poppies because they are a weed of corn, that is, grain fields, in Europe. (In British English, corn means any grain, and what we call call corn, as in corn-on-the-cob, they call maize.) Consequently, the key to having them self-sow is to make sure they have cultivated, that is, weeded, soil for them to do their sowing on. For this reason they are no longer growing for me in the bed around our propane tank, where I originally planted them, which is a certified disaster area, but they are growing in the Juneberry bed, which is in pretty good shape in comparison. I never sowed the poppies in this bed, but between the compost pile and the children (those seed pods are fun to play with) they managed to find their way here.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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Chan S. July 26, 2004, 10:24 pm

Nice coincidence–I’m just in from the garden, where my first corn poppy has started blooming today. The background on Shirley poppies and the “corn” moniker is fascinating! I’ll have to give Shirley poppies a try and see how they revert over time.