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Poppies, naturally, boost a summer show.

Poppies are among the brightest and easiest flowers to grow in the summer garden.

Many kinds are from overseas - including huge oriental poppies and small, frilly Californian types. The famous Shirley poppies are essentially British. They are directly descended from the red cornfield and cottage garden flower from which they were bred by the Rev William Wilks - and named after his parish, Shirley in Surrey - more than 100 years ago.

The three main kinds are:

* The most vigorous and vivid poppies, belonging to the genus Papaver.

* Californian poppies, which are Eschscholzia californica, annuals with fluted, silky cups in shades of orange and white on 30cm (12in) stems.

* The more dignified types, the blue Himalayan poppy, up to 1.2m (4ft) tall, and yellow Welsh poppy, at 45cm (18in). These are species of Meconopsis , deciduous perennials with saucer-shaped flowers containing golden stamens, especially striking against the rich azure petals of the Himalayan poppy. There are double flowered and orange forms of the Welsh poppy.

Papaver orientale, a biennial or short-lived perennial, is the parent of the most spectacular varieties with huge flowers on 90cm (3ft) stems, among them scarlet Allegro, crimson Beauty of Livermere, and pink Cedric Morris, originally Cedric's Pink.

All have dark centres, a characteristic that makes the white-petalled variety Black and White a surprisingly stark flower. Pizzicato is free-flowering in a mixture scarlet, orange, salmon, mauve, pink and white.

The Shirley poppies, around 60cm (2ft) tall, are annuals, varieties of Papaver rhoeas and are available in a mixture of single and double flowers in yellow pink, orange and red.

Other hardy garden species include the Iceland poppy, Papaver croceum, 30cm (12in) biennials with flowers of yellow, orange or white; and Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, a 1.2m (4ft) annual with flowers of pink, purple, red and white. The seed-heads are valued for flower arranging. The variety Paeony Flowered has large frilly blooms.

Poppies can be grown from seed sown in spring and many kinds will self-seed once established. They like full sun and well-drained soil.

There are a number of national poppy collections.

The seed firm of Thompson & Morgan in Ipswich (01473-688588) holds a seed bank of annual Papavers; Water Meadow Nursery in Hampshire (01962-771895) grows 173 oriental poppy varieties; and Houghall College, Durham (0191-386-1351) keeps 40 kinds of Meconopsis.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 31, 2003
Words:383
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