Sunday, 18 July 2010

Surprising Wild Flowers

Under my kitchen window is a swathe of glorious poppies, Papaver somnifera. Yes, a relative of that one, the opium poppy. So very imposing with their tall stately form and elegant silver grey leaves, nothing prepares you for the stunning flamboyance of their flowers. Unlike the oriental poppy - Papaver orientale - the better known ferny leafed perennial species, these are annuals and just like the field poppy of the battlefields of Flanders they only come-up in disturbed ground.

For years my garden was full of them then suddenly they stopped appearing. But I have recently had to dig a trench in the front garden to lay a new drain and, lo and behold, six months later all those old seeds have come to the surface and produced the most amazingly colourful display of blooms.

Some are similar to the frilly double peony bloom, others like the simple arctic poppy, a few a mixture of the two. The colours are equally varied, from bright scarlet to softest mauve, with a cross between these producing a soft French rose. Now they are dropping and I am having trouble remembering which were my favourites so I can save the heads for seed. As usual I meant to tie a coloured thread around the ones I wanted and, as usual, I never had time and now the chance is lost. So I will probably scatter them all and, if they deign to grow next year, try and remember to do it then.

I tend to let self-seeders alone in my garden. Aquilegas – Granny’s Bonnet to some – come up all over the place and they are so light and pretty they never intrude on any plantings. Michaelmas daisies, feverfew, violas, hostas, evening primroses – all are allowed to remain where they don’t look too out of place. Which is just about anywhere really!

And it is on my walks with Freddie through the local country lanes and woodlands that I am most often surprised. Because I have planned and planted nothing here and what I see is often very subtle, a tiny violet, a clump of primroses. Yesterday I noticed the honeysuckle in flower, weaving its way through the native hedgerow like thread in a tapestry.

But a couple of weeks ago I had to yank Freddie to stop because I spotted something quite outstanding in the verge. I was thrilled to see it was an orchid, pink and elegant, an exotic thing of beauty in amongst the simple grasses and annuals of the verge. Thankfully, when the verge was cut the longer grasses under the hedgerow were left and this native orchid survived.

Having not seen one in flower there for at least five years I am hoping that this one sets seed. Only last week it was still there, nearly two foot (60 centimetres) tall but beginning to fade. I hoped it didn't attract unwanted attention. Inspecting it closely, the flower spike was made up of hundreds of little umbels, palest pink spotted with vermilion. Absolutely exquisite. Amazing how such little things, such unexpected acts of nature, can give so much pleasure.


1 comment:

Aenne Carver said...

I too grow this lavender peony poppy. It was Monet's favorite.
If you get a chance check out my web site& my blog and see my poppies!