It’s no wonder that poppies were the perfect fit as the official Flower of Remembrance for the fallen soldiers of the First World War. They used poppies as offerings for the dead in Greek and Roman mythology way before the war occurred and because they are, most commonly, blood-red in colour, their long-time symbolism and association with death is obvious. According to Aggie Horticulture, while the general symbol for poppies is eternal sleep, oblivion and imagination, the red poppy also denotes pleasure. In classical mythology, the red signifies the promise of resurrection after death.
Of course, red isn’t the only colour poppies are available in, and each colour has its meaning. White poppies are used to console, while yellow poppies symbolise wealth and success. Poppies are also a symbol of sleep and peace — mainly because of the opium extracted from them which was used as a sedative in more archaic times. Egyptian doctors also used to give their patients poppy seeds to eat, to relieve pain.
One of the most favoured poppies for modern day gardens are Iceland Poppies. Standing approximately 30cm high when fully grown and available in either single colours or white-rimmed pastel shades, their appeal for brightening a mainly green flower bed is palpable. They can either be planted in groups or as borders and mid-borders, and they’re the perfect complement to other spring annuals.
- When buying poppy seedlings, don’t fret if there aren’t any showing in flower yet, it just means you’ve arrived early enough to ensure a long blooming good show.
- Not handling the heat too well, it’s best to get them in the ground as early in the season as possible if you’d like a showy display, right through to spring. Since poppies need a home where they can bask in the winter sun, preferably all day, but aren’t fans of heat; try to keep them away from heat reflecting walls.
- Poppies are incredibly rewarding but need a little bit more TLC until they’ve found their feet in their new home. Plant your seedlings about 15cm apart and try not to plant them too deep. Using the seedling tray they came in will assist in judging this depth correctly. Watering the seedling tray before transplanting them will go a long way to making sure they don’t feel unnecessarily disturbed as they can be lifted out and replanted with the tray soil still intact.
- Water your poppies frequently until they’ve established themselves and look firmly rooted in their new home. Once they start blooming, remember to deadhead the spent flowers regularly to keep them coming or, even better, take cut flowers and fill your vases as often as you like. If you don’t, they’ll quite possibly go to seed earlier than necessary and your flower production will stop as swiftly and unapologetically as it started.
So, if you love to have a house full of blooms, straight from your garden, just pop into your local garden centre and pick up some poppies. Your garden will also be brighter for it.
Information Supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. For more information on bringing Life to your Garden, visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za or join the conversation on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lifeisagardensa.