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Poppies Galore! Which ones should you grow?

Poppies Galore! Which ones should you grow?

All of them is my short answer! Because, like me, you will probably become a poppaholic! I admit it: I am obsessed with poppies. Since relocating to Austria and becoming (perhaps at first a reluctant gardener), I have become a passionate admirer of poppies. I can't believe that I haven't written a blog about poppies before! But early summer is THE time for poppies! So, grab a poppy seed-encrusted soft bap, bagel or something stronger and get all the gen you will ever need on the wonders of the poppy.


Poppies are part of the Papaveraceae family, and their history is as rich as their vibrant colours. Originating in the Mediterranean region, these flowers have been cultivated since the Neolithic period, a testament to their enduring cultural significance.


The Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy) is native to the eastern Mediterranean and is widely grown in Asia, especially in Afghanistan, Turkey, and India, for both medicinal and illicit purposes. This species is notable for its role in producing opium, from which morphine and other opioids are derived.

Poppies in Literature -

The ancient Greeks and Romans associated the Opium Poppy with sleep and death. In Homer's Odyssey, poppies are associated with sleep and forgetfulness. In Greek mythology, poppies are often linked to the gods Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death). John Keats in his poem To Sleep, uses the image of poppies to evoke the peaceful, soporific quality of sleep. Alfred Lord Tennyson's work often features nature imagery, including poppies, symbolising themes of life and death. In his classic book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum includes a field of poppies that induces a deep sleep in Dorothy and her companions, representing both the allure and danger of the unknown. The seeds from Papaver somniferum are used in baking and cooking, in pastries and bread, and as a topping for various dishes.

Papaver rhoeas (Common Red Poppy or Corn Poppy), known for its bright red flowers, is widely grown for ornamental purposes and is commonly found in Europe, particularly in fields where they grow profusely in disturbed soil. This poppy has naturalised in many other parts of the world. The Common Poppy has become the emblematic symbol of primarily the First World War and, since then, has been adopted as the flower of conflict. The Canadian soldier John McCrae's poem written in 1915, In Flanders Fields, reflects on the Common Poppy which popped up in the exploded soil of the battlefields of Flanders in Belgium. They only last a day, and then their petals fall  - the life span of many ordinary soldiers was hardly any longer.


Papaver orientale (Oriental Poppy) is magnificent! It is native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, and northern Iran. It is the most spectacular of all the poppies—it is the one variety that you need to buy as a plant. The others grow exceedingly well from seed.

We especially love our Papaver atlanticum (also known as the Moroccan poppy, Spanish poppy or Atlas poppy). We love it because it has beautiful, delicate orange blooms that bloom even in our cold climate from April to October. The slugs don't seem to like them, and they keep on flowering. Plus, the foliage is also lovely all year round. But as with all poppies, though (apart from the Oriental poppy), you must be prepared to deadhead them regularly. Otherwise, they will stop flowering – see it as a meditative process, listen to the birds, and relax. A little warning, too – most poppies exude a sap that marks clothes permanently, so wear your worst gardening outfit and enjoy yourself!

Poppies have also been a rich source of inspiration for artists. 

In his Poppy Field series, Claude Monet captures the vibrant red poppies in the fields around his home in Argenteuil, France, a masterclass of natural light and colour. Van Gogh's Vase with Red Poppies, full of his usual bold use of colour and expressive brushstrokes, perfectly illustrates the poppies' emotional intensity. Another French artist, Odilon Redon, is known for his mystical and dreamlike works; Redon often included poppies in his compositions, using them to convey a sense of mystery and otherworldliness. The American artist Georgia O'Keeffe is famous for her close-up paintings of flowers, including Oriental Poppies, which highlight the intricate beauty and vivid colours of poppies.


I used to know poppies only from paintings and the paper ones we wear in the UK on Remembrance Day on the 11th of November. But now I have a thousand poppy images, my very own library of wonders. And they are very varied – because as our bees fly and hop from one to the other, they propagate all kinds of magical blooms – but they often never come again. This sometimes makes me sad, I admit. However, tomorrow will almost certainly bring another unique beauty! This one appeared today – isn't it lovely?

The ones we would like to grow next are the Icelandic poppy (Papaver croceum or P. nudicaule), a perennial in mild-winter regions, the Californian tree poppy (Romneya coulteri), the Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), the Prickly Poppies (Argemone), and the Welsh poppy. I have tried to grow the rare blue Himalayan poppy and failed, but I will try again.


There is always something to look forward to when you grow poppies. They are good for the soul and great for wildlife – the bees go nuts for them! So why not have a go? If you already grow poppies, post a comment with your favourite specimen. If you haven't started yet, grab a few packets of seeds – they are really cheap – and sow them in the autumn because most of the slugs have gone by then. They are very winter-hard – then wait. (Our various poppy seeds have happily survived -17 degrees C). In the spring, you will be dazzled and amazed!


Finally, in my book Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature, I was very lucky because a common poppy popped up on one of my 52 walks in 52 weeks; I only saw one the whole year on my particular walk! So, I dedicated an entire chapter to the poppy. I cover the campaign to make the white poppy the poppy of peace, and I also discuss in more detail its adoption as a symbol of war.

There are many other wildflowers, birds, and trees, plus more than 50 images of the Austrian countryside. If you also want a pick-me-up reading about my walk might be just the tonic you need.

Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power is available as an immediate PDF download or Epub Kindle version.

Or even a real book—signed and in full colour (53 images)—which is currently on offer (I only have a handful left) for 15.00 Euros.



Postage is free in the UK and Europe.


Also available via Amazon worldwide – and please, if you buy it from Amazon and can leave me a review, I would really appreciate it!


Also available in German – Alchemie des Gehens: Selbstfindung in der Nature.


Postage is free in the UK and Europe.














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