Just about half a year ago, I was lamenting the loss of my favorite pink peony poppy. Thanks to one of my readers, I learned that these beauties are being sold on eBay. EBay! I had known that seeds and plants were sold on eBay, but had never thought to look myself.
Julie Calhoun and the One Stop Poppy Shop(pe)
That tip led me to discover the One Stop Poppy Shop. In addition to my long-sought-for pink, they carried poppies in colors I’d never seen before. My curiosity was aroused, so I put on my investigative reporter hat and my “Curiosity did not kill the cat” pin, and sent an email full of nosy questions to One Stop Poppy Shop.
Who are you, and how did you get interested in poppies?
My name is Julie Calhoun. I live in Northern Wisconsin (zone 3) in the middle of Nicolet National Forest with my husband and 4 dogs. Twelve years ago, I met my husband, and was blessed with the opportunity to live out my dreams, gardening and being surrounded by dogs. I have 3 lovely stepdaughters and 6 adorable grandkids.
My Mother, bless her heart, is responsible for my love of the poppies. She always had the Scarlet Peony Poppy in her garden, and it was always my favorite flower when I was a child.
I grew up in the city of Green Bay, and in my adult life I lived in rentals and apartments, never having the gardens that I wished for. After I met my husband and moved 100 miles north, I finally got to start gardening, and of course, that Red Peony poppy was on the top of my list.
My mom passed on two years ago now. I grow a big Scarlet Peony poppy garden every year in her memory. They are still my favorite. I added a few more poppy varieties, and my ‘poppy love’ grew.
What got you started selling poppy seed?
A neighbor lady was visiting one spring day and when she saw my poppies, she asked if I would save her some seeds. I said that I would, and it wasn’t until fall of that year when I was collecting the seed that a light went on in my head. “Gee, I wonder if anybody else would like some of these seeds?” I listed a few varieties on eBay, and they sold right away. That only fueled my appetite for more varieties. I have over 50 varieties now, and am always looking for more. It is hard to believe there are so many different kinds. So many beautiful colors and such different shapes and sizes.
How do you run your business?
I have been selling my seeds on eBay for 4 years now, and have just recently launched my own web site, One Stop Poppy Shoppe. (Just to clarify: My ebay address is www.onestoppoppyshop.com. My ebay user id is onestoppoppyshop. My web site address is www.onestoppoppyshoppe.com.) I am not an expert on poppies…. although I wish I was. I am not a professional gardener. I do not have any gardening degrees. I am simply a home gardener. I am a Poppy collector. I do not grow all of the varieties that I sell. Although I have grown them for the photos, it is more economical for me to buy some of the more common varieties. I prefer to grow the very rare and expensive ones.
All of my poppy seeds are open pollinated. There isn’t any way for me to separate them from the bees. The perennial poppies come largely true from seed, and although I have read that the annuals cross pollinate, I have not noticed this in my varieties, and I think it may take many years to see changes. I harvest and clean the seed by hand. The seeds of most varieties are weighed, though I do count out seeds by hand for some of the rare varieties.
What’s the best way to grow poppies?
Poppies are very easy to grow and do not require much care. The one thing that they do require is well drained soil. We have clay here where I live, and I amend the soil with loads of peat moss, cow manure, and compost. I prefer to use liquid fish fertilizer. Poppies are successfully grown in every state of the U.S. In the deep south they are grown in the winter time.
Is there some kind of reference work on poppies?
I do have a book here called Poppies, by Christopher Grey-Wilson. That is the only one I know of.
But wait! There’s more!
Checking back with my commenter, I learned that she hadn’t bought her seeds from Julie. And that’s how I got to know another eBay seed seller.
Shelley Davis, the eBay veteran
What got you start growing poppies?
I’ve been gardening since I was a kid, first with my mom, and then later in my twenties when I was a home owner. I like the unusual to be sure. I searched for poppies forever it seems and was quite naive about all the varieties (pre internet). I thought all opium poppies were Red…
Several years ago, I sold my home on 5 acres and moved in with my husband in his tiny beach cabin on Vashon Island. We put all of my stuff in storage. Since there was NO storage on Vashon at the time, we rented a big garage (a barn really) from an English couple who had a beautiful old former chicken farm here on the Island. Her gardens were lovely and I spent a lot of time with her. And, she had deep vibrant red commercial opium poppies! She had brought them from England with her. She gave me loads and loads of green pods which I took home and kept in buckets of water.
I allowed the pods to dry and kept the seeds. Since our beach property is in the woods and shady all day I could never plant them. I held on to those seeds for about 3 years. When we moved to our new house, I planted them, and much to my surprise, they came up…A good indication about the viability of seeds!! I had gorgeous gorgeous huge red plants every where!
My garden is the absolute envy of the whole neighborhood when the poppies are blooming. They are almost breathtaking and I get so many people stopping to admire them. As you can see from my front yard, poppies are but a few of the things I grow…the plants in the forefront actually grew in the gravel walk and I just don’t have the heart to pull them out.
Most people on this island have them in their gardens. Certainly all of my neighbors do since the seeds can’t seem to stay at home and I give them away. I think poppies should be a mainstay in any garden. They are great mixed in with perennials and the deer won’t go near them. When the poppies are blooming, the deer actually leave my garden alone for a while. Once they’re done, though, it is a deer smÃ¶rgÃ¥sbord, I’m afraid.
What prompted you to start selling the seeds on eBay?
Well after growing these the very first time, I was hooked. I wanted to branch out and get other colors as purple and pinks are my favorite flower colors. Since I have been on eBay about 10 years, I used to do a lot of buying of just about anything. I started looking for poppy seeds on eBay which is how I “met” my two friends John and Pat.
I noticed that there were not very many out there, and I never saw the Turkish commercial red ones, ever. So, I decided I would sell mine so that others could find them. I named mine ‘Wizard of Oz’ and people have since “adopted” the name. I was the only one who had red for several years. It was kind of fun and I made a few extra bucks and made a new rule that I could only spend on eBay what I made on eBay…
How many different kinds do you sell?
Usually about 8 different ones. My absolute favorite one of all is my Black Peony. They have HUGE fabulous blooms, and I tend to pick them a lot and display them with my pink peonies (not poppies, real peonies).
The blooms are as big as the peony blooms. I only have a small area for those and usually have only a small amount to sell. I am mostly out for this year and need the rest to plant in case they don’t come up again this year. I am also out of my ‘Dancing Queen,’ a single fringe petal similar to ‘Drama Queen,’ only more pink than red. I have other varieties I have never listed before. Some huge Pink Giganteums and some smallish fuchsia colored singles.
How did you first acquire your other varieties?
By keeping an eye out and asking for seeds. (I can spot them a mile away) It is the only way. I also tried buying them at the grocery store…in the cooking section. Believe it or not, some will come up. I also traded with my former eBay friend that passed away, and you can still buy them at garden stores, usually marketed under their sub names. My big black ones came from my neighbor. She had one plant and she gave me one small pod. I planted the approximately 50 seeds and had 2 plants. It took me four years to finally get them going strong. Hers never came back. I got my giant ones from a craft fair where someone was selling large pods. I just drilled the seeds out.
Do you grow your own seed stock?
Do you try to keep your breeding lines pure?
Yes, I try to keep them as separate from one another as possible. I then mark the biggest and nicest specimens and keep the seeds from those. The ones I don’t mark go in to my “garden mix.” As a side note, it becomes very easy with time to identify poppies by their pod characteristics as they all different from each other.
Where can I learn more about these flowers?
I publish a Poppy Growing Guide on eBay. That’s a good place to start.
Time to buy seeds!
Thanks, Shelley. When I wrote about these last summer, many of you said you wish you grew them, but often forget to buy seed. This is your reminder! Whether from one of these eBay seed sellers or your favorite mail order merchant, the time is now! (Maybe past time for some of you Southerners, but the seed will probably keep for you as it did for Shelley.)