In the Wizard of Oz, the classic team of characters came across a field of poppies. You might have been surrounded by them in your gardens growing up, or maybe this cinematic field of gregarious heavy-headed blossoms could have been your first exposure to them. Poppies in general are often associated with death or sleep and are quite often left as grave markers or in memories of fallen soldiers. They aren't to be pigeon-holed however, as their diversity knows no bounds in petal type as well as color.
Photo by Tara Heibel
Today we'd like to take a look at the oriental poppy. It has oversized blooms with fuzzy serrated foliage along the stem. Originating from Turkey and Northern Iran, these pretty plants are best kept in zones 3-8 and prefer a slightly alkaline soil. These blooms are ok with a little drought and aren't big fans of overwatering. You'll find them in whites, pinks, red, orange and even a few multi-colored varieties, truly a plant that has something to offer everyone.
The large blooms come up through mounds of hairy foliage that add great texture to your outdoor spaces and will bloom multiple times per season if the stems are cut the first go round. Oriental poppies are a close relative to the Great Scarlet poppy which is usually harvested for its pain relieving and recreational drug purposes. This type however, won't give you much more than a bad taste in your mouth, but they do pack a punch in the beauty department where it matters most. They bloom in late spring and even after the petals have fallen they have a mysterious soft velvet-like black stamen that has a hint of iridescence. This can carry the beauty well after its bloom, popping up above its foliage. During the heat of the summer the oriental poppies foliage can look slightly beat up and visually benefit from perennial pairings that will mask some of the leaves. If you are craving a flower punch in your full sun bed that has a high color saturation, or if you are a Wizard of Oz groupie, the oriental poppy is an alluring treat that should not be missed.