Sunday, February 9, 2014

Will Spring Ever Come, Poppy Seed and a Garden Show

The crocus that hasn't been. January 27, 2013

 Spring usually starts coming in slow fireworks in the Ozarks by this time of year with the first early snow crocus in the last week of January, but it seems like this winter has gone on forever, with nary a sign of blooming anything. Or maybe it just feels that way after being spoiled by the mild winters of the past few years. I find myself wandering aimlessly in the garden, looking for any signs that the “song of the turtledove might soon be heard in the land”, but the ground is still frozen, and according to the weather forecast, it looks like it might be that way for a while. We need any moisture we can get, so I’m not complaining about the snow.
A few early dandelions are blooming, and weeds though they are, at this time of the year, they are drops of sunshine that make me smile on gloomy days.

Who says I’m a weed? I’m so pretty!

To quote Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; “It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

That’s it. Spring fever. I’ve got garden catalogs scattered over the house, with lists of seeds and plants that I simply cannot do without. Garden web sites are bookmarked with “shopping carts” full of would-be orders parked and waiting for me to make up my mind. I always over-order, so there is a basket of seeds left over from last year that wants sorting to see what I really “need”.

A small jar of poppy seeds saved from last summer to sow after a February snow, will be scattered this week where I want them to grow. The seeds are tiny and should be mixed with a little sand so they don’t all land in one spot when they are broadcast. These are Papaver somniferum, annual poppies with big fluffy, silky flowers, single and double in a myriad of luscious colors; but tangerine and mauve are all that are left here so last fall I ordered a few new varieties to introduce. My son-in-law brought me seeds for black ones from California and also shared some other colors from his own garden.

Tangerine red poppy

The original ones that my seed came from are undoubtedly the old-fashioned “breadseed” or opium poppies, which have been growing in America’s cottage gardens for many generations; “passed along” from one gardener to another, indispensably useful in both medicine and cooking to the early settlers. The new cultivars are a peony-flowered cross but the true type can still be found in many garden catalogs.

They grow best for me in gravely soil, and are happily at home along the gravel walk that circles the south side of the deck, in the accidental flower bed that grows there, in company with the Queen Anne's lace, black-eyed Susans and larkspur that have also planted themselves there. Growing them from seed is the best option as they have a tap root and resent being transplanted, although it can be done carefully with very young seedlings. They bloom in late May, and in June, the stems are cut when the pods mature, but before they pop open and disburse their seed. Then they are hung upside-down on the lattice that encloses the side of the deck, so the seeds get “planted” right there where I want them to grow. They won’t germinate until the next spring, but I believe in going by Mother Nature's schedule, and She plants them in mid-summer.  Some seed is saved for late winter planting or to share. The empty pods are later kept for dried arrangements and fall wreaths.
Note: As poppy seeds need light to germinate, they should just be scattered on the ground and not covered with soil.

Shirley, California and other interesting poppies are annuals that grow easily in most sunny gardens. They are on my garden lists too, but I missed the spring window this year to order and get them in time for planting here, so it will have to be for fall.  
Oriental poppies are perennials that can be purchased as plants. Put them where they won’t be disturbed as they don’t care for transplanting either and are likely to turn their toes up and die if they are moved.  A big clump of them has grown by the front gate as long as this garden has existed, so they are very long-lived indeed. They haven’t reseeded much; in 50 years time there are only three more plants even though I always try to make sure the seeds don't just get flung to the winds. Maybe the birds are getting them.

 Bright red corn poppies, the "remembrance" poppy, Papaver rhoeas L, or Flanders poppies as they were called because they were growing in the battlefields during World War I, were immortalized in the poem “In Flanders’ Fields” by John McCrae, and have become the symbol of Memorial Day veterans. They are also annuals. I have never been able to get them started with much success here, but I recently read that seeds should be planted in the fall, and in early spring the ground should be disturbed; then they will germinate and grow. If I can find some seeds I’ll try with them this month anyway, or I’ve got them on my list for fall—planning ahead already! Got it in my garden journal!

 Speaking of planning ahead, the annual Lawn and Garden Show next weekend (February 14-16) in Springfield (MO.) at the fairgrounds is on our calendar, weather permitting. It’s one of our favorite things to do in February, a breath of spring in late winter and full of inspiration for the garden.



Display at the Lawn and Garden show, 2013

 Educational seminars presented by the Master Gardeners of Greene County will be going on all weekend, packed full of information and how-to’s; and there are wonderful vendor displays, herbs, unusual succulents, the latest tools, whimsical garden ornaments to buy, and much more information and products to make your outdoor living space the best ever.
The Greater Ozarks Hosta Society, of which we are members, will have a booth full of fresh spring hostas, and the sight of hostas in full glorious growth is a miracle in midwinter. Next to them will be the Springfield Botanic Garden, Friends of the Garden and Master Gardener's booth, where we get to visit with old friends and make some new ones.
We always look for the Missouri Conservation Dept.  booth where they will be giving away free seedling trees.  
Ticket cost is minimal and worth every cent. Can you tell I’m excited? It’s what I’m getting for Valentine’s Day!
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
                ----Major John McCrae

Always remember.


1 comment:

  1. Lovely! I so love poppies, and we learned something new, that they need light to germinate. Thanks! I always like reading your posts.