This week we’re taking a look into the world of Poppies, particularly Papaver orientale, commonly known as the Oriental Poppy, which is a herbaceous perennial. These gorgeous flowers are a sight to behold when their petals unfurl, but I find them to be a great plant of interest throughout the growing season. From fluffy flower buds, to large beautiful flowers, followed by eye-catching seed heads, they truly are a wonderful addition to the garden.
Care & Maintenance
P.orientale enjoys deep, fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny position or partial shade. They can reach heights of up to 1 metre high so it is a good idea to provide support to prevent the stems from snapping. This can be achieved by using bamboo canes and string or any other slender wood you may have. We often use long, slender branches that we have previously removed from a tree or shrub. Many gardening websites and books advise cutting back the plants after flowering, however we choose to leave them over winter as they provide habitat for insects and the seed heads will release food for seed eating birds.
‘Beauty of Livermere’
With bristly and toothed lance-shaped leaves and striking scarlet flowers with black blotches, this cultivar is bound to catch the eye of both humans and bumblebees alike.
‘Prinzessin Victoria Louise’
If pink is more your thing, why not try growing this cultivar. The delicate pink flowers with small dark blotches are a great addition to any grassy border or wild flower bed.
‘Black and White’
Accompanied by bristly, pinnate leaves, this cultivar brings beautiful flowers of white and black with gorgeous burgundy centres. An unusual, but delightful addition to the garden.
Apart from being beautiful additions to the garden, poppies are a great source of food for bumblebees. Many people often assume that bees are only interested in nectar, however when it comes to bumblebees they also feed on protein-rich pollen. Many of our crops, such as blueberries and tomatoes rely on bumblebees for pollination as the anthers on the flowers of these crops have very small pores and so very little pollen is released when visited by non ‘buzz’ pollinating insects. Bumblebees tackle this problem by utilising ‘buzz pollination’. This involves the bumblee grasping the flower with their legs or mouthparts and vibrating their flight muscles very rapidly without moving their wings. The vibration from this practice causes the electrostatically charged pollen to shake out of the anthers and become attracted to the bumblebees oppositely charged body hairs. Later, the bumblebee will groom the pollen out of their hairs and deposit them into the pollen-carrying sacs on their hind legs to take back to their nest. Interestingly, poppies do not have the small anther pores that the aforementioned crops have, but bumblebees still apply buzz pollination when visiting these flowers. It is thought that they do this to release the pollen more quickly and efficiently.