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Flower Fights: Poppies

poppies 7

Hi guys!

Today marks the launch of a new project: Flower Fights. The purpose behind this series of posts is to put various varieties of one specific flower to the test… which cultivar will come out on top?!

The first flower to duke it out in this fun series of floral feuding is… the poppy!

The way I see it, there are just too many varieties of poppies out there to cram into what little gardening space you have. The ornamental value of these flowers in the garden is priceless. Cut flower properties… not so much.

Shown in the two images above and in the image below is the Papaver somniferum, or the Opium poppy. Despite being the source of many narcotics including morphine, heroin, and codeine, this specific cultivar of poppies is widely known as the “common garden poppy”. It’s layers upon layers of ruffled petals make for an eye-catching showstopper in the garden.

In the image below on the right is the Shirley poppy (papaver rhoeas). Derived from the European wild field poppy, its flowers full of delicate ruffled petals bob and sway in the gentle summer breeze. The particular variety I planted in my garden (last year, these are volunteer seedlings that self-seeded this year) is Angels Choir.

On the left you can see a colorful favorite the hits close to home for me, the California poppy. The official state flower of (duh) California, these bright beauties (known by the botanical name of Eschscholzia californica) come in a wide array of colors. In my garden I have a bunch of self-seeded plants of the common variety (orange) and then several plants in shades of red (Copper Pot) and cream (Cream Swirl) that I seeded this spring.

Aside from the varieties I have in my garden, there are also Icelandic poppies, Oriental poppies, Atlas poppies, and the list goes on and on. Like I said, so many poppy varieties, too little garden space!

As some of you may or may not know, there are several “tricks” us gardeners use in a futile attempt to prolong the notoriously short vaselife of poppies. One such trick is singing the cut end (which I label as “match” in the video). A second trick is submerging the cut end in boiling water (which I refer to as “water” in the video). These tricks are used in particular with the Shirley poppies and the Opium poppies due to the milky sap produced by the two varieties¬†when cut. If this sap is allowed to harden, it will seal the stem and the flower will be unable to absorb any water. The singed end (either from boiling water or a flame) keeps the milky substance from reaching the cut, thus allowing the flower to continue to “drink” for a few extra days.

Well… let’s see!!


As you can see, the Shirley poppy that was not treated in any way (marked as “nothing”) lasted less than two days before the first petals started to drop.

The Opium poppy treated with a match lasted a bit longer, hovering right around three days before loosing its petals.

The Opium poppy treated with boiling water held on even longer, lasting a decent four days before giving up its fight.

The Californian poppies (as expected) held out the longest. Copper Pot and Cream Swirl duked it out until the very end, both giving up after a very respectable six days.

All in all, any variety of poppy will make for a great cut flowers if you’ll be entertaining for just a night. If you want your poppies to last a bit longer, I’d suggest sticking the cut ends in boiling water for several seconds. Even then, your “milky” poppies (Opium poppy, Shirley poppy, Icelandic poppy, Oriental poppy…) will only last for several days at the most. California poppies, on the other, although not quite as elegant and dramatic as their cousins, will hold up longer in bouquets.

I hope you enjoyed the first of the Flower Fights! I’ve already got some ideas up my sleeve for upcoming battles.

Have a wonderful day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!

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