Papaver rhoeas Angels Choir
2010-05-11. Papaver rhoeas ‘Angel’s Choir’. Austin, TX.

May 11th, 2010
Papaver rhoeas ‘Angels’ Choir’

One of my favorite flower tales is of the Rev. W. Wilkes, the Vicar of Shirley, whose keen observation and tenacious dedication is responsible for the Shirley poppy. He tells how “in the summer (I think) 1879 or 1880 I noticed in a wilderness corner of my garden among a patch of field poppies, one bloom with a narrow white edge”. He selected and selected over generations of descendants until he had obtained a strain of poppies with white edges and petals of pale pinks, mauves, and lilacs from the ordinary red corn poppy.

Papaver rhoeas Angels Choir

Papaver rhoeas Angels Choir

Papaver rhoeas Angels Choir

Papaver rhoeas Angels Choir

Over the years his single-flowering poppy was further selected for double poppies. On January 27, 2010 (a bit late) I planted the strain ‘Angels’ Choir’ from Renee’s Garden Seeds. The seed packet describes the ‘Angel’s Choir’ strain as an “award-winning combination of silken-petaled, double poppies featur[ing] shimmering watercolor shades including cream, apricot, peach, coral, lavender, pink and bicolors and picotees. It took breeders years of selection to develop these absolutely magical forms and lustrous soft colors”.

Going Rogue. Or Rouge

Following generations of work by those who carefully selected only the most delicate colors, I feel that I must dutifully rogue out the red and orange flowers. Although I like the clear hues, they really clash with the more delicate ones. Anyway, I can enjoy them inside.

Papaver rhoes Angels Choir

Zanthan Gardens California Poppy
2008-03-04. California poppy ‘Mikado’.

March 5th, 2008
California Poppy ‘Mikado’

One trouble with Spring in Austin is that when the trees start budding and the gardener feels that irresistible pull into the garden, it is already too late to start lots of plants from seed. I haven’t made a seed order yet, (I was too busy in the garden to look at seed catalogs in December and January) and already the spring plants are blooming. Arg!

Today (3/4), the first flower of the California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, opened. The flower is about twice as large as last year’s but then it’s blooming almost three months earlier. Given that this plant is one that oversummered, I consider this the “correct” time for California poppies to be blooming in Austin.

Last year (2007) I didn’t plant any California poppy seeds until the middle of January and those plants didn’t flower until late May. This year (2008) I was even later getting my seeds started. Those seedlings are up but I haven’t started transplanting them yet and here last year’s flowers are already blooming. So I better get busy.

Although the seed packet claims that California poppies “reseeds easily”, I’ve haven’t had much luck with them self-sowing. However they are very easy to sprout from seed which is much larger than other types of poppies. Now if I could remember to get them started earlier…

Garden History

2007-01-12.
Plant California poppy ‘Mikado’.

2007-01-30.
California poppies sprouting.

2007-02-21.
Begin transplanting California poppy seedlings. Because they have a long taproot, California poppies don’t like being transplanted. But they were only two inches tall when I moved them and watering them well at first helped almost all of them to survive.

2007-05-24.
Finally, two flowers on my California poppies opened today. The flower are quite small, not much bigger than a thimble. I planted them way too late for Austin (January 12th). They didn’t sprout until January 30th.

Zanthan Gardens California Poppy
2007-05-24. California poppy ‘Mikado’.

Here’s a factoid to demonstrate how late I was getting these in this year; in 1998, when I tried ‘Mission Bells’, they began blooming on February 28th.

2008-02-05.
Discovered that there were still plenty of seeds left in last year’s seed packet and sowed three rows. There are still seeds left! Several plants from last year survived the summer and just in the last month or so have been putting on a lot of growth.

2008-03-04.
First flower on a plant that over-summered. California poppies are perennials but they don’t usually survive Austin’s summers in my garden. The poppies I planted in February are just getting their true leaves and only two inches tall. Despite my springtime urges, spring is too late to plant California poppies in Austin.

2008-10-10.
Plant California poppies ‘Mikado’. I always start these too late (like Jan). The ones that flowered last spring overwintered. Start earlier.

2008-12-19.
Transplant a dozen California poppy ‘Mikado’ seedlings that I started on 2008-10-10. All that’s left from squirrels digging in the seedbed. Note: They always look to small and crowded to transplant. Wait until they have a few true leaves and are two to three inches across–later than for larkspur or bluebonnets. Don’t worry about crowding or thinning.

2009-01-01.
California poppy transplants have recovered and it has also self-sown, a first for me.