The scoop on poppies

The scoop on poppies
Pantry 20 pounds short of two-ton mark
Fall is the best time to plant poppies. That’s the easy part.
The hard part is finding your way among these flowers, because
there are poppies, and then there are poppies.
The scoop on poppies

Pantry 20 pounds short of two-ton mark

Fall is the best time to plant poppies. That’s the easy part. The hard part is finding your way among these flowers, because there are poppies, and then there are poppies.

There are poppies that are annuals and others that are perennials. Some tolerate shade, some crave sun. All can be started from seed, but some do better as transplants.

Then there is the matter of names. The best way to correctly identify any plant is to use the Latin, or proper name, including the genus and species. Of course there are people whose eyes glaze over at the mere suggestion of using Latin names. But stick with me on this.

The Genus provides the grouping to which the plant belongs and the species narrows that identification down yet further.

So, what do we have among the poppies?

For starters, the poppy family is relatively small. There are only some 23 genera (that’s plural for genus) and about 250 species in total. Most of us have heard of the “California poppy,” (Eschscholzia californica) and we probably are also aware of the “Iceland poppy,” (Papaver nudicaule).

These are but two of the genera that have “poppy” ascribed to them, yet they are as distinctly different as a rose and a tulip.

Even within the California poppy grouping there are several different species and sub species. Some of these are called “natural hybrids,” meaning that they have hybridized in nature. These natural hybrids of California poppy usually manifest themselves in color variations.

Within this grouping you can find a number of interesting colors, including the traditional orange, cream white, white, yellow, red, and pink. Treated as wildflowers, the California poppies can be sown after the first significant fall rain – or by the end of October – whichever comes first.

The California poppy is so named because it is California’s state flower. It is easy to grow, requires little maintenance, and is a very rewarding annual, although in warmer climates it acts as a perennial. The flowers are velvety soft and the fern-like foliage is delicate but hardy. My patch of California poppies have reseeded themselves and come back for at least 20 years.

Other kinds of “poppies” include the Opium Poppy, (Papaver somniferum), the Prickly Poppy, (Argemone hispida) and the Matillija Poppy (Romneya coulteri).

Well suited to our region is the Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), a perennial easily recognized by its crinkled petals in shades of orange, red, salmon or white. It starts blooming in late winter.

Sow Shirley poppies (Papaver rhoeas) in early spring. The single scarlet flowers with black base are gorgeous eye-catching blooms. They are usually sold as “American Legion” or “Flanders Field” poppies. Just as the California poppies give up, the Shirley poppies will take over, blooming through summer.

And, what about the Opium poppies? An annual that self-sows, Opium flowers are 4-inches across in white, pink, red or deep purple, some with fringed petals. However, the seeds are hard to find. With their narcotic properties, you can guess why.

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A Reader Wants to Know: In regard to your potato story last week, there used to be a potato seed source in Idaho, but it has gone out of business. Any idea where I can find or buy seed potatoes beyond the “New” potatoes you mentioned?

Barrie R., San Juan Bautista

Joan Says: That potato company sold its potato stock to a Washington state source. Their address is Irish Eyes Incorporated, P.O. Box 30, Thorp, WA 98946; 800-964-9210.

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Tip of the Week: Plant everything including trees, shrubs, lawn, groundcover, cold-season vegetables, winter annuals and bulbs.

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Tomatoes in all shapes and sizes made up the major donation to Community Pantry from Plant a Row for the Hungry gardeners. Along with 75 pounds of tomatoes, gardeners donated 25 pounds of zucchini and 15 pounds of apples, for a total of 115 pounds this past week. That brings the total to 3,980 pounds of fruit and vegetables donated so far this year.

If you have fruit and vegetables to share, take them to Community Pantry, 30 Airport Ave., Hollister. For more information, call (831) 637-0340 or check www.CommunityPantry.com.

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