Oriental poppyBotanical name: Papaver...


June 01, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Oriental poppy

Botanical name: Papaver orientale

Pronunciation: pap-Ay-ver

Family: Papaveraceae (Poppy)

Origin: The Mediterranean, Persia

Class: Perennial

Display period: May, June

Height: 2-4 feet

Environment: Sun

Sacrifice is not normally a condition one would associate with beautiful flowers, but if any would require it, the Oriental poppy would certainly be one. Like a whirlwind romance, it electrifies you with dazzling color and brilliance for a week or two -- its flamboyance in the garden second to none -- then disappears, the gap it leaves the price you pay for the rapture experienced.

To fill in the space for the rest of the season, you can plant #F annuals, for poppies are perennials and will therefore come up again the following year.

The Oriental poppy is not to be confused with its famous -- or infamous -- relative, the equally glamorous opium poppy, or Papaver somnierum to call it by its botanical name. An annual, it's also referred to as "Flower of Forgetfulness." Nor is the Oriental poppy the same as the legendary scarlet field poppy, P. rhoeas (also known as the Shirley poppy), that sprang up in Flanders fields during World War I from long-dormant seed and henceforth has been worn to preserve the memory of those slain in battle.

The Icelandic poppy, P. nudicaule, similarly a perennial, is yet another species of the genus. Native, in part, to artic regions, it fares poorly when summers are hot.

Their exceptionally long tap-root ill-suits Oriental poppies to transplanting, which is likely to set their blooming back by a year. In establishing new plantings, therefore, start from seed -- an easy thing to do -- or use nursery container stock. The division of old clumps or propagation by root cuttings should take place in late summer, the flowers and most if not all of the foliage by then having died away. Choose healthy sections, preferably with three eyes, and set crowns 3 inches below the ground surface.

Except for sun and well-drained soil and mulching the first season to prevent heaving, Oriental poppies require no other special care.

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