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Papavar somniferum – Common Garden Poppy – Southern Gothic

Rare in our garden are annuals, their uniform sameness unrelenting through summer. The common poppy (Papavar somniferum) is an exception we are happily willing to make.

The common garden poppy is welcome any time.

Papavar somniferum
Papavar somniferum – among the most beautiful of spring annuals
poppies garden
Common garden poppy flower detail

Growing poppies is easy

Direct sow seed in the garden in a sunny place as soon as any danger of snow is passed. In places without snow anytime fall through March is fine. Don’t plant poppy seeds deeply or cover with soil. A light pressing to ensure contact with the ground is enough, should you care to bother with it. In nature, poppies are not dependent on humans to do anything after all.

poppies, papavar seed pods
Poppies – seed pods.

In subsequent years after the first, the poppies themselves will take care of business, reseeding around the garden in a charmingly haphazard way.  You can find seed packets for Papavar somniferum at many garden stores.

Papavar somniferum (common garden poppy) comes and goes quickly in mid-spring.

poppies after bloom

In the same place where I met the elderly man and his Florida azalea, I grew corn one summer. I was 19 years old. There was a field where I was allowed to garden. This place, outside of Roopville, Georgia, was always full of the mysterious and unexpected. Welcome to the true southern gothic, the backroads and warrens of the rural south. Unlike True Detective, our memories are real.

Anyway, I planted corn and watermelons and dutifully watched them grow. Eating corn raw out of the garden while the summer sun serves as some type of baptism is one of the great pleasures of a gardening life. That spring thousands and thousands of brilliantly red flowers appeared in and around those fields. I didn’t even know what they were until the elderly fellow told me they were opium poppies.

The poppies came every year with no human help. Should you plant poppies in your own garden I encourage the same attitude. Let them come and go.

Common garden poppy The poppies seedheads are beautiful whether fresh or dried in the garden.

Poppies are used for opium manufacture. If you grow them in your garden (of which I am assured is legal) just don’t scarify the seedheads. Such an act could be interpreted as changing the intent from gardening to opium production, which is highly illegal.

Perhaps the most famous and entertaining gardener to recount his experiences growing poppies is the great writer Michael Pollen.


One Comment

  1. Louise robinson

    So glad to find someone that loves poppies as I do. One of my favorite flowers along with morning glories.

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