I was just reading about them on Wikipedia and discovered they have sub-groups. I prefer the ones that actually look like peonies, such as the soft pink pictured at left. Unfortunately, I no longer have that one. If you ever see it being sold or have some seed of it you can share, please get in touch.The one I’m growing now was sold to me as a pink peony-flowered poppy, but this is really from what the Wikipedia article calls the Laciniatum group, “whose flowers are highly double and deeply lobed, to the point of looking like a ruffly pompon.” I don’t want a pompon, and I don’t want coral pink! But try telling that to a catalog copywriter.
You can deadhead these poppies for longer bloomThese 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:
Are they illegal?
I know, hearing them called opium poppies made you a bit nervous, didn’t it? The Wikipedia article that I referred to earlier said that low-morphine varieties are definitely legal. If you buy seeds of breadseed poppies, I think you can be certain you are getting a low-morphine variety. As for the more decorative varieties, if Michael Pollan is correct, ignorance is bliss. Don’t ask, don’t tell. If someone wants to know what they are, they are peony poppies (Papaver paeoniflorum) or (sigh) laciniate poppies (Papaver laciniatum)–and aren’t they beautiful?
How to sow them and grow them
They do best when direct sown. Most gardeners can sow in late fall, and they will sprout in late winter and be ready for business shortly after your bona fide peonies are done blooming. I can sometimes get away with that, but often the seedlings don’t make it. I usually try sowing in late winter or early spring, catching the last dreary snowfall or at least a good hard frost. They seem to need cold to germinate.
They like rich garden soil and plenty of room. The best ones are always those that have been thinned to–okay, I don’t really know how far apart is ideal. All I know is I never thin them enough. I always think, “What if this is one of my long-lost beautiful pink ones?” I try for 6 inches apart but I think it should be more, maybe even double that. Does anyone out there have a good rule of thumb?
It’s not seed buying time, and I hope you don’t forget these when you start flipping through catalogs. But I wanted to tell you about these now, so those of you already growing them don’t miss out on the extra bloom that comes from deadheading. They are the only poppies I know that you can deadhead, so take advantage of it.