Monday, March 3, 2014

Peonies and Poppies Need the Cold



As we continue to endure harsh winter conditions, remember that most of the garden will not only survive but two of our favorites will actually flourish because of the freezes. The Queen of Flowers, the majestic Peony, needs the cold as does the precious Poppy.

The Peony will not bloom well unless the temperature of the winter months gets low enough for her to go into full dormancy. For this reason, Peonies can not be grown in the Deep South and yet flourish in New England with amazing success and few problems.

 The Peony has blooms that are breathtaking for the shere size and breadth of the deeply lobed flowers which appear in a glorious range of colors. A favorite is the Chinese Peony who comes to the garden in hues of pink, pale yellow and purest white, often edged with a hint of rouge on the inner petals. Each flower is supported by lovely deep green foliage. Peonies make charming long lasting arrangements which fill the air with their sweet lemony scent.

Poppy seeds also need the cold for they have a hard shell which must be seasoned by freezing temperatures to allow it to fracture before growing. The colorful paper-thin blooms on the poppy only last for one day, however the round pale green seed pods which form from each spent flower, are most interesting by themselves. The darling pods have tiny holes in a zig-zag circular pattern at the top and once they have dried and turned brown, they may be shaken to release the seeds.

If you had poppies last year, many of them have self sown and will appear early in the growing season. However if you collected seeds, the snow is an excellent medium in which to toss them. Place the seeds in a salt shaker and then shake them into the snow filled garden. The white of the snow will allow you to see (and make mental note) where the seeds have fallen. As the snow melts, the seeds will follow the thaw and nestle snugly into the soil where they will await warmer days. The poppy is a tall plant so the back of the bed is a desirable place to seed them. If paired with Larkspur the contrasting colors and form always make for a dazzling display. This year the Peonies and Poppies will be in rare form and are well worth the wait.

*Remember that each day we are 2 minutes closer to spring!

Pic: Pink Poppy By Catherine Dougherty