Garden Diary - May 2011

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Friday, 10 June 2011
Not Quite A Poppy Field

Opium poppies show up in the news as a page filler about opium production in Afghanistan. It worries gardeners, concerned that DEA agents are going to raid their gardens should they grow some of these exquisite annuals. Clearly, growing Papaver somniferum with the intent of producing opium is illegal. Growing the flowers as an ornamental - that's a different matter. There are numerous mail order sources for the seeds, indicating that there is some wiggle room in the system. And without the opium poppy there'd be no poppyseed bagels (eat from two to four, and test positive for opium), or mohnkuchen, a German poppyseed cake, or other European and Indian culinary specialties. The consensus seems to be that if you want to grow some opium / sleepytime / bread seed / lettuce leaf poppies you're O.K. Just don't scarify the seed pods and assiduously scrape off the gummy sap. Instead collect the seeds for home-grown use.

Poppies transplant poorly but self-sow with enthusiasm.

They make a nice "follow-up" to Spring bulbs, especially tulips
flowering as the bulb foliage yellows, withers, and looks unsightly.


The delicate petals soon crumple and fall. Flowers are at their peak between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.

Easy to see where the lettuce leaf common name came from.

Late morning. The petals begin to drop, leaving the fat green seed pods
Once they turn beige-brown the dry pods are popular for arrangements.
After, that is, you've collected the blue-black seeds, spilling some to self-sow.

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