Last week the lively and uplifting colours of our tulips began steadily fading as their petals began breaking apart and falling to the ground. At this stage, we tend to start dead-heading the tulips, snipping discreetly to just above the second leaf down in an attempt to encourage the plant to divert its energy away from seed production and into bulb development in the hope for a good show next year.
Our appetite for colour has been whetted and now a steady stream of blues, purples, yellows and reds flows into our Flower Garden as the first flowers of Lupins, Aquilegias and Foxgloves begin to open the floodgates to early summer colour.
Chief amongst these colourful contributors is the humble poppy which takes many different forms. The bright yellow Welsh Poppy (Meconopsis cambrica ) cheerfully gate-crashes into our borders – mixing happily alongside soft blues, deep purples and rich reds (Forget-me-nots, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and the last of the ‘Red Shine’ Tulips).
Then we have the Ladybird Poppy (Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’) – a relatively small poppy whose incredibly strong, vivacious red colouring catches your eye from across the garden. A dark black centre gives this flower a strong focal draw and I’m always impressed at how this strong image belies the fragility of its delicate, paper-tissue petals.
We make two sowings of this plant to provide a longer season of display – an Autumn sowing which we grow on throughout winter under unheated glass is flowering now; whilst and an early Spring sowing produces plants that flower about a month later. This allows us to selectively dot this plant into small gaps in the borders now, as well as into some of those spaces that open up as we start to lose the forget-me-nots and other early-Spring flowerers. A quick note of caution here – you don’t need lots of these Ladybirds in your garden – punctuation is the key.
Another poppy growing here is Papaver glaucum. Slightly taller than the Ladybird poppy and with the glaucus foliage that gives it its name, this is another stunning red poppy whose drooping flower buds have fine red hairs along the stem.
Each year we collect seed as well as buying some in – this give us a mixture of true to type plants as well as some subtle but exciting variations including a Ladybird poppy with fine white margins to the petals and a stunning double form of Papaver glaucum.
Words by Robert, photographs by Martin