The Downside of Poppies

poppies in perennial border

When they’re good, they’re very,very good, but when they’re bad, they’re awful…This photo shows the good, not the awful. No point in deterring enthusiasts from sowing poppy seeds!

When, in February, I sprinkle my ‘Fairy Dust’ concoction of harvested and saved annual  poppy seeds upon the snow throughout the borders, I’m thinking like a painter. Well, sort of. I’m thinking like a gardener/painter. A painter might, more strictly speaking, be thinking that the seeds will yield a predictable color palette. I know this not to be true. I DO know, that the palette will be in the white, pink, salmon, orange, red range of color, so, I suppose there’s a bit of predictability in that, but exactly where they’ll place themselves I cannot tell. Cold comfort when one wants to control color. As a gardener I’m imagining that the unknown germination rates and the locations where seeds might choose to germinate will present a set of unknowns that might completely overpower the deliberate design scheme. Hmmm. Is this the artist speaking or the gardener speaking? It’s all the same. The upside is that when the poppies begin to sing their Ode to Joy in June, the sight is so ridiculously exuberant that Beethoven himself would balk at the challenge. Downside? NOW. It’s July. Despite a few stragglers, most of the poppies are done. They are dying and setting seed. The browning, dessicated stems are an eyesore. Mozart would be hard-pressed to create a requiem for such a gloomy garden situation.

Andrew urges me to tear them out, let the hidden perennials raise their heads proudly and do their job. Oh, how I’d love to but I just can’t. The seeds need to ripen on their stalks so that I may harvest them at the end of the month. Yes, of course the gardens look awful, it’s true, but I cannot tear out the offenders without depriving the gardens of their Ode to Joy next year. Well, there you have it and that’s where it stands. Tomorrow they come out!

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