Poppy and opium, are always in news, generally for the wrong reasons. However, a good gardener will know how to take the richness of this vibrantly colored flower and turn it to an advantage. Considered as a 'common cornfield weed', today, it is one of the most popular garden additions grown in flower beds or in lined pots.
Native to Asia, poppies can be single or double petaled. The single colored variety is four or five petaled. They come in a wide color palate; white, pink, salmon, purple, yellow, orange, red, and blue with dark center markings. Each of them contains both; the pistil and stigma, female parts and clusters of long, thin stamens, the male part. With over 120 species of both annual and perennial varieties, they can be grown abundantly for a long period of time.
Symbolic Meanings: Rich in symbolism, these flowers have long been used as a symbol of sleep and death, or consolation and eternal life. They have been used as emblems on tombstones to symbolize eternal sleep for many years now. This myth has been depicted in the fictional movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where the magical poppy fields cause those who pass through them, to sleep eternally.
The corn poppies have been metaphorically mentioned in John McCrae's poem, In Flanders Fields, as a symbol for fallen soldiers since World War I. They are used to honor the dead in both England and Australia. The golden yellow colored California variety, Eschscholzia californica, became the state flower of California in 1903.
Seeds: The seed is harvested from dried seed pods found on the wilted flowers' stems. Each pod contains over a hundred kidney-shaped, tiny, black-gray seeds. The seeds have many uses, besides being a means of propagation. Seed availability is not really a problem for most species.
Poppies are grown for both illegal and legal trade purposes. The fields of Afghanistan are used for weapon funding through the opium trade. However, the seeds have medicinal value to aid sleeping and treat insomnia. Ancient civilizations have used the seeds to promote fertility. Not all seeds are used for medicinal purposes, some have culinary uses too. They are used to make a paste for gravies and baking or roasted as garnish for salads or desserts. The seeds are also used as bird feed and for oil extraction. You can use poppy seeds to make some really yummy meals.
Cultivation: The flower is easily grown and looks excellent for mass bedding. They are grown through tiny seeds, which should be mixed with sand for even distribution. Sprinkle them on moist soil, lightly rake the soil and cover it with newspapers, keeping the beds moist until germination occurs, that would be within a week or so. Acclimatize the seedlings to sunlight and transplant them when they reach a four leaf stage. As the plants grow to about two feet, space them about 5-8 inches apart. Fertilize once in a month, during its summer bloom period. Keep shearing any wilted flowers, but hold on to a few for the seed pod. Keep the bed weed free, and enjoy the blooms!
A mass bedding in varied colors or a single pot each will exude charm and beauty, while adding to the essence of your garden.