April 7th, 2011
Papaver "Dorothy Cavanaugh"

Dorothy Cavanaugh
Two cherry pink poppies contrast with the salmon-colored “Dorothy Cavanaugh” passalong. (They are a bit soggy having just survived 1/2 an inch of rain.)

Dateline: 2010

This year I finally got around to buying and planting some ‘Lauren’s Grape’ breadseed poppies. Lauren Springer Ogden is a neighbor of mine (although I don’t know her personally). Over seven years she isolated a “plum-colored single poppy with gray foliage” which is now available from Select Seeds. Not only was I drawn to the color of ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (I love deep plums, blues, and violet-colored flowers) but to the idea of it. One of my great joys in gardening is trying to select my favorite strains of the various annuals I grow.

I planted ‘Lauren’s Grape’ in two spots. One, I had grown poppies before. The other, only larkspur. When the seedlings came up, I thinned them. I watched and waited with impatient anticipation for the first buds to unfurl. When they opened, I was disappointed to see they were peony-flowering and a deep, cherry pink. More and more opened and they were the same. Had I been shipped the wrong seeds? When some of the same type of flowers popped up in places in the front yard where I hadn’t planted ‘Lauren’s Grape’ I realized that they were flowers from previous years.

Looking carefully, I noticed that the peony-flowering poppy had a bluish-gray foliage. But the poppies next to it had a brighter, more lime-green foliage with more compact leaves, and were taller overall. I thought, “Ah ha! These are these ‘Lauren’s Grape’.” But no. When the flowers opened they were very double and salmon colored. The lime-green plants were the “Dorothy Cavanaugh” passalongs from @HumanFlower.

Here are two photos I took of the same flower on May 1, 2008. The second photo shows how the afternoon sun brings out the clearly orange tints.
Dorothy Cavanaugh

Dorothy Cavanaugh

This year I like “Dorothy Cavanaugh” better than I did initially. I’m not a big fan of salmon-colored flowers. The only orange I like in my garden is the very clear orange of the California poppies ‘Mikado’. Slowly, “Dorothy Cavanaugh” is winning me over with her charms.

I’m still hoping some ‘Lauren’s Grape’ will pop up somewhere. [Update: and they did!]

Update: Dateline 2011

Dorothy Cavanaugh
2011-04-06. On a cloudy day, the camera makes these poppies look even more pink than they do in life.

By the end of the 2010 season, I could distinguish between the three different strains of poppies which differ not only in flower color but in the color of their foliage and shape of their leaves. This year I wasn’t surprised to see the cherry red (pink?) poppies bloom first (4/1) on very gray foliage. I’m happy to see that they all came true and didn’t revert to any singles or reds. The first orange flowered one opened today (4/7).

by M Sinclair Stevens

10 Responses to post “Papaver "Dorothy Cavanaugh"”

  1. From Diana:

    While I understand how you can be drawn to certain colors, these are stunning poppies. The two photos are fascinating – I know that the sun wreaks havoc on my photography, but what a difference a few hours can make. I especially like the delicate nature of the blooms – they are so wispy compared to many other varieties – I’m sure they look lovely in your meadow right now.

  2. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    I am still wondering why I don’t grow poppies. Every spring I see all the posts about them…

    Anyway, I hope some ‘Lauren’s Grape’ show up for you. It would be disappointing if they didn’t.

    Poppies are big and somewhat messy plants and they flower for such a short time. I’ve wondered if they’re worth the space. Yet, I keep trying more each year. I haven’t found the balance yet. — mss

  3. From Robin at Getting Grounded:

    I would have loved to see the plum poppies, too, MSS, but salmon flowers are on my list of favorites, and that delicate poppy with so many petals is stunning. But darnit, I know that feeling of anticipation and disappointment when a new plant doesn’t appear…yet?

    I’ll save some seeds for you but there’s no guaranteeing what color will actually show up. — mss

  4. From Vertie:

    Certainly hope your grape poppies show up somewhere too. I’d like to see them. I like how you show how different the poppy color looks in the different light. Maybe that’s a factor in all the pink v. red poppy discussion.

    I’ve learned it’s easier to compare flowers when you photograph them next to each other. When I see the cherry red poppies, they look quite red to me. And then I some some clear red single poppies and realized mine are more a deep rosy pink. But they are not at all the pink of, say, pink evening primroses. The “Dorothy Cavanaugh” poppies don’t look all that orange just to my eye. I have to see them next to the other poppies to notice the difference. Then there is so much variation as we each select and sow our favorites. Go! evolution! — mss

  5. From Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings:

    Those doubles are amazing. I wonder why Lauren’s Grape was a no show. Poppies for me are like that. I’ll have a bunch one year and none the next. They are definitely inconsistent. I did plant Lauren’s last year, and they came up and bloomed. I may only have three seedlings this year though. Strange.~~Dee

    Did you like the color? I’ll have to go search your blog and see if you wrote them up. — mss

  6. From Jenny Austin:

    It is very interesting to see your frilly poppies. I have these in my garden this year, I wonder what is going on. I never had any but the single petaled ones last year. I doubt they will be fertilized as the bees can’t even get in there. I wonder if Lauren’s poppies don’t breed true. Ihave this problem with Ca poppies. I tried to grow red ones and they ended being up orange. The seed people told me that they revert really easily. So maybe that is your answer. You can keep your fingers crossed.

    I don’t let any single poppies stay in the garden for even a morning after they open. For the double ones I take a watercolor brush and swish the pollin around every day that they are in flower (different brushes for different colors). A selection should stabilize after several generations. ‘Lauren’s Grape’ was grown over 7 generations. I think the ones I had last year just got off to an early start and crowded them out. We’ll see as the ones where poppies were never planted before haven’t opened yet. — mss

  7. From Darth Paul:

    So funny. I had a similar situation this year. The seed packet I bought said they were double white poppies, but they turned out single purple-y ones, and a little on the runt side. But they are lovely and still work, so I’m happy.

    I think there’s a lot of guess work in these seeds. Seeds from a plant do not necessarily bloom like the “parent”, and I don’t think the majority of the retailers are botanical geneticists. But I love poppies, all shapes and colors, so it’s an ongoing game for us.

    True a seed inherit traits from both its parents. However, seed providers isolate strains and cross them over several generations until they stabilize…that is, the majority of the plants produced will have certain characteristics (color, form, scent). Variations will still occur but the first generation that you get should be true to whatever they were selling on the packet. I’m still waiting for a last set of poppies to open to see whether they will be the ‘Lauren’s Grape’. Obviously, the ‘Dorothy Cavanaugh’ got mixed in–they’re popping up all over the yard. — mss

  8. From Julie:

    Poppy mysteries continue. The “Dorothy Cavanaugh” that first bloomed here was salmon pink, but with each successive year the blooms have gotten deeper either in the orange or the red direction. How to account for the darkening and variation of color? Author describe “reverting to red” but that’s not really an explanation, is it?

    I think it’s that poppies mainly cross-pollinate rather than being self-pollinating, and I sowed corn poppies (red) in the front yard several years ago. But after quite a bit of of Internet searching and some inquiry to “experts,” I’m still not sure.

    Looking forward to learning what you learn with your disciplined and rigorous approach. Laziness/passivity — and red itself — are teaching me to enjoy red.

    This year I definitely have two strains (which are probably crossing) from the seeds you shared with me. Not only are the plants of the cherry red flowers more blue-gray but they all bloomed about 10 days earlier than the salmon ones. Maybe that will help keep the two colors from crossing. The reason plants revert is that an odd trait, like red hair, is recessive. Through the generations, the dominant trait will reassert itself. (My father is redheaded but only 3 of 8 children and 1 of 14 grandchildren are redheaded. Now if I’d mated with my brother, we might have upped the odds of more redheads among the grandchildren.) In the garden, I attempt to restrict the gene pool by pulling out anything I don’t like before it has a chance to cross. Let’s have this discussion again in 5 years. Meanwhile, I need to reread my Mendel. — mss

  9. From Keith:

    I have never had enough luck with poppies to justify trying them continually. After seeing your lovely photographs, I may have to revise that plan. Do they have special soil needs?

    Like most wildflowers they prefer a poor soil. If the soil is too rich (has too much nitrogen) they will produce greenery at the expense of flowers. — mss

  10. From Todd Eric:

    Rose is the queen of flower .But i want to know,how many types of cultivation of flowers?