Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale)
The poppy family includes 50 kinds of poppies, but only about 2 dozen kinds are grown in American gardens. Oriental Poppies are old-fashioned favorites that come from southwest Asia. They boast vividly colored, crepe-paper-like flowers which are a mainstay of many flower gardens during the pause between the explosion of spring flowers and the appearance of summer ones. Perennials, these plants winter over each year and return in the spring.
Size: The slender, hairy flower stalks of Oriental poppies rise above the clumps of foliage from 1 to 4 feet. Individual plant foliage measures from 8 to 10 inches wide, and lies fairly flat, eventually spreading to form large clumps of poppy plants. After several years, these clumps of poppies may reach 3 feet across. They usually do not spread much farther.
Foliage: Poppy foliage is grayish green and covered with long coarse, translucent hairs. The leaves grow from the base of the plant as long as 10 to 12 inches. They have deep indentations along their edges and pointed tips. After flowering, the foliage dies back, but it reappears in late summer or early fall.
Flower: An established Oriental poppy plant may bear several dozen blossoms, each on a single stalk over a 2 week period in June. Relatively short-lived, each goblet shaped bloom lasts for only 3 or 4 days. Individual flowers have 4 or 6 tissue paper petals, which have dark blotches at their base. Blossoms may be up to 6 inches across. Oriental poppies come in a wide range of vivid colors such as red, orange, pink, coral, lavender and white. The center of each blossom is marked by a large mass of velvety, purplish-black stamens. There are also some double-flowered types of Oriental poppies available. After the petals fall, an attractive wheel patterned seed pod remains.
`Barr's White' is white;
`Olympia' and `Scarlet Glow' offer double flowers in stunning red-orange;
`Brilliant' is red and `Princess Louise' is salmon.
`China Boy' has soft orange petals with white blotches at their bases;
`Lavender Glory has lavender flowers;
`Pinnacle' has white petals edged in scarlet.
An attractive pink variety is `Spotless'.
Efforts to make oriental poppies more heat resistant have produced hybrids called "Minicap" series. These new types bloom long and more prolifically and tend to have shorter stems. Some examples are: `Angelface', `Cardinal', `Downtown', `Sprite', `Sundance' and `Tara'.