08 July 2011

Ankle Deep In Poppies

My seed order came in spring with yet another free seed packet of something I didn't order and didn't know where to plant. Upon closer examination, this free seed packet was filled with poppies - how could anyone refuse free poppies? And these were California Poppies (Eschscholzia) to boot. I am not sure which exact species these ankle-high babies belonged to.

I read the seed packet to learn more about the booty of treasure I had been blessed with. OK, now I get it:
Packed for 2010. Sell by 10/31/10.

I threw them outside in full sun, in clay soil, along the platform running down the side garden. They took their sweet time in germinating, and then began filling in the small space with blue-green lacy foliage as I had imagined. They were off to a good start.

After our hot weather hit, they started blooming. Only 9 inches tall at most (20 cm), the plants barely made it up to the raised platform surface. The first blossoms were biggest, then as the weather got hotter, they decreased in size. The mixed colors of red, orange, yellow, and cream on the seed packet turned out to be mostly yellow, with a few cream.

I was a bit disappointed in the limited number of blooms. In fact, the number opened at one time never amounted to more than 20% of the plants. I was hoping for the showy displays in the Dave's Garden photos and on the seed packet. They were, however, planted in Virginia clay, and never thinned out as the seed packet recommended. Who thins out outdoor seedlings?

In researching some facts about my tiny beauties, I found that they are native to North America, but named after Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz, a German botanist. They are toxic (so they are at home in my 'poison' garden.) Native Americans used Eschscholzia californica to treat lice, and to induce sleep in children. (I hear toxic plants usually do that to children.)

"This species is highly variable (more than 90 infraspecific taxa have been described), not only among different plants and locations but also within individual plants over the course of the growing season, especially in petal size and color."
An interesting feature on the plant is the seed pod. It starts out small inside the flower, then grows into a 3-inch long (7 cm) string bean after the blossom dies. I will try collecting seeds for next year to cultivate more blooms if they are not self-reseeders.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with some peat amendments
  • Full sun
  • No serious pests or disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: pink & orange cosmos, rudbeckia, nicotiana, liatris, cleome, coneflowers, marigold, echinops,
    coreopsis, calendula, loosestrife, rose, physostegia, eschscholtzia, daisy
  • Harvested: 3 grape tomatoes


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
Third attempt at a comment...my internet issues. Love your California poppies, amazing how different the seedpods are from other poppies.
Nancy said...
Nice. They look good for growing in clay.
Swimray said...
Regarding seed pods, I notice the botanical name for these is eschscholtzia, and not papaver like other poppies I have, (not the same family).

Thanks - I did not expect free seeds to grow in my clay.
Racquel said...
Anything willing to grow in clay is a plus in my books. Clay is our natural soil type here even though I amend it yearly with compost.