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"Growing the Many Different Oriental Poppies"

Late spring and early summer is a colorful time in the flower garden. All sorts of different perennials are coming into bloom. One group of late-spring and early-summer-blooming perennials that are beginning to show their colorful flowers now is Oriental poppies. Those of you who have attended my gardening workshops know I have the bad habit of using (or perhaps overusing) the word "favorite" when talking about plants, but this group of plants truly is one of my favorites for many reasons.

Their bright, vibrant flowers bridge the gap between the spring-blooming perennials and the summer-blooming perennials. They are easy to grow, tolerate poor soil, are drought tolerant, and bloom in a range of colors. Their flowers are large and the flower petals have a crepe-paper-like appearance.

Most people associate the color orange with Oriental poppies. Although orange is the most common color in Oriental poppies, it's not the only color. There are red, white, salmon, and pink Oriental poppies. There are also blends of colors and many have striking black spots that contrast with the petals.

Oriental poppy 'Little Candyfloss'In addition to a range of colors, Oriental poppies also come in a range of sizes. One of the smallest is Oriental poppy 'Little Candyfloss.' It grows just 12 to 14 inches tall, making it a good choice for the front of the flower bed or border. It forms a dense mound of dark-green foliage above which stand bright-pink flowers. The flowers have black-purple spots surrounding a black-purple center, creating a stunning contrast.

Oriental poppy 'Turkenlouis' Oriental poppy 'Turkenlouis' has very interesting flowers. Each flower petal is heavily serrated, giving the flower a fringed appearance. The vibrant-red flowers have a dark-purple-black center. The flowers are held on two-foot-tall flower stems and stand above a tidy clump of foliage.

Oriental poppy 'Perry's White'Oriental poppy 'Perry's White' bears crisp-white flowers with maroon-black spots surrounding a nearly-black center. The flowers are large, nearly six inches wide and stand atop two-foot-tall flower stems in late spring and early summer.


Oriental poppy 'Queens' Oriental poppy 'Queens' bears some of the largest flowers. Easily six inches wide or more, the heavily ruffled blooms are deep pink blending to pale pink at the edges. Maroon-purple spots and a pink and maroon center contrast nicely with the flower petals. This variety is one of the taller Oriental poppies, growing to 30 inches tall.

Oriental poppy 'Fatima'Oriental poppy 'Fatima' bears eyecatching, bicolored flowers. The crinkly petals are white blending to pink at the edges. As the flower matures, the pink coloration spreads down the petals toward the center. A large, dark-maroon-purple center and dark-maroon-purple spots really stand out against the flower petals. This semi-double poppy has an extra row of petals surrounding the center, giving it a very full appearance. The flowers stand on sturdy stems that reach three feet high.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Add Organic Material before Starting New Lawn"

Q. We just bought a new home and we're trying to get our lawn started. Some of the grass seed is up, but there are large areas that didn't come up. They had spread about a half inch of loam over the yard and that's on top of very sandy soil. What can we do to get the grass to grow? Thank you for any help you can provide.

A. At one of my gardening workshops I was asked the same question recently, only their soil was mostly clay. The answer is the same for both situations.

Spreading loam was a good idea to improve the soil, but there should have been more than just a thin layer of it and it would have been better to mix the loam into the existing soil, rather than spreading it on top.

What probably happened is your grass seed that was on top of the thin layer of loam dried up when the loam dried up and the seed wasn't able to sprout. The sandy soil (or clay soil) that is underneath does not hold moisture well, either. A sandy soil dries out quickly and when a clay soil dries out it really dries out and cracks looking like a desert.

What I'd recommend is to redo those areas where the grass seed did not come up. Whether you have sandy soil or clay soil, the solution is to add and mix in organic material to amend the soil. (Organic materials include, but are not limited to, compost, manure, peat moss, top soil, or humus.) Most importantly, make sure you mix or rototill the organic material into the soil well.

Once you've leveled and rolled the area, sow the grass seed. It is very important to not let the grass seed dry out until it has germinated, so set up sprinklers and turn them on each day until the grass seed has sprouted. After that, the lawn should get one inch of water each week, either from your watering or natural rainfall.

In addition to improving the soil, the organic material you will add will help the soil retain moisture and help your new lawn get established.

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