Friday, June 8, 2018

In the Garden -- Growing Flanders Poppies

Ruth de Jauregui

Often associated with Remembrance Day and Memorial Day, Flanders poppies are a bright addition to the home garden. Flanders poppies are the red-flowering variant of the corm poppy (Papaver rhoeas). Flanders poppies grow up to 2 feet tall. There are a number of cultivars developed from the wild corn poppy, including the well-known Shirley poppies, which produce flowers ranging from white, pink and lilac pastels to pink and red.

Canadian doctor Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae immortalized the red poppies of Flanders in his poem "In Flanders Fields". The poppies grew rapidly in the disturbed soil amid the trenches and around the graves of the fallen. McCrae gave his life as well, falling ill with pneumonia and dying on January 28, 1918.

Frank Lucien Nicolet (1887 - ?) 
Department of National Defence
Ottawa - Wartime Information Board
Ottawa McMaster University Libraries

"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."

How to grow:
Hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, the Flanders poppy may be planted in late fall or spring when soil temperatures rise to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Plant the seeds or transplant seedlings in full sun in a well-drained location. Like most poppies, the Flanders poppy prefers a loose, rich soil. Add several inches of compost and well-decomposed manure to the garden bed. Water thoroughly, then plant the seeds and barely cover with soil. Keep the flowerbed moist until the seeds germinate, then slowly reduce watering.

Credit: imagefactory /
Once the plants are established, water weekly when the soil is dry to the touch. Water at least twice weekly when the weather turns hot. Container-grown plants may need more frequent watering; containers dry out quickly in warm weather. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the plants, pulled 3 to 4 inches away from the stems, to help conserve water and maintain an even level of moisture in the soil.

Flanders poppies begin blooming in spring after the weather warms and may bloom again in fall under ideal conditions. Deadhead the dying flowers, or allow the seedheads to develop and scatter seeds for the next year's flowers. Wear gloves and safety goggles when working with the poppies. The cut stems produce a latex-like sap, which can cause an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.

Consider adding a variety of corn poppies to the garden, including Flanders and Shirley poppies, for an eye-catching, waving field of flowers.

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