Come to think of it, my whole garden is really built around the blue poppy, meconopsis ‘Slieve Donard’. One of the first plants my parents acquired back in 1962, the blue poppies have continued to lighten the early days of June ever since – and slowly, consciously or unconsciously, other plants have been chosen to coincide with their flowering.They have not been good this year. That is to say – not as good as usual. The devastating May frosts browned some of the earliest buds; they are normally immune. Also, one of my two beds, deep in the shade by my Pictish folly, has, I suspect, been invaded by tree roots which have choked the drains and leached nutrition from the soil. I’ll have to move the poppies and dig out the roots. So there’s a big, muddy task ahead for Autumn…. The unfolding bud of the blue poppy is the closest thing in nature to crushed silk. As the flower opens, the colour lightens,with the yellow stamens providing a star of contrast in the centrem. ‘Slieve Donard’ is one of the many cultivars from the ‘Infertile Blue group’ (see the link in the sidebar for others). There are two fertile species, m.baileyi and m.lingholm, which you can often find for sale, but I don’t like them so much – the yellow centre is too prominent.
Blue poppies like some shade, and they like damp soil with lots of humous. Not every soil type suits them (luckily they seem to like yellow clay). They suffer in excessive heat, and wind doesn’t do the flowers any good either. Dividing the clumps (early spring or autumn) is easy – although sometimes they seem to revert to the monocarpic tendencies of many of their tribe and refuse to reappear the next year.
Of course, in my folly, I’ve also attempted some of the monocarpic species – the spiny m.horridula, and the ultra-desirable scarlet m.punicea – but it’s like tearing up ten pound notes, and I’ve resolved just to stick to what I know.