Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’

Plants on the Move

Fall is a time for migrations. OK, plants don’t usually pull up their roots and go south for the winter, but this is an excellent time for gardeners to shift or divide the plants in their gardens. A week and a half ago, just before some scheduled minor surgery, I carried out a couple of projects.

Project #1. Quite a few of my plants have moved at least once since they came to this garden — usually in search of sunnier spots with fewer tree roots competing for water and nutrients. Earlier this year I made a list of Plants That Need To Be Moved. The demise of an old lavender shrub in the sunniest perennial bed was a blessing. I have a replacement, grown from a cutting, but I’ll have to find a different spot for it, because its former location — a space about the size of a bath mat — presented an opportunity to re-home almost the entire list.

Wide-open spaces freed up by demise of lavender shrub!

Wide-open spaces freed up by demise of lavender shrub!

 

Another view of the possibilities.

Another view of the possibilities.

The spot now accommodates two nameless yellow and white late-blooming iris, two purple Siberian iris, one Geranium “Johnson’s Blue,” one blue veronica, one Astrantia major, one Potentilla tonguei, and one small stem of Sedum “Bertram Anderson.”

Transplants settling in to their new space.

Transplants settling in to their new space.

OK, I know I’ve jammed too many plants into this spot. But consider: the irises are skinny and are cuddled up against a tall aster (whose bare legs are visible in the photo) that has attained its full growth for the year. And the other plants are undersized due to having endured poor conditions in their old spots, and will take a while to plump up. At that point, some adjustments will be needed. Those adjustments are an important part of gardening, so I’m just ensuring I’ll have something to do in a year or two. A thought occurred to me the other day: There is no point in having a garden, except to have an arena in which to do the activities that constitute gardening. (I’m speaking here of ornamental gardening, of course; growing food is another matter altogether).

Project #2. Several years ago, I prepared a small bed under a magnolia for a planting of Meconopsis X “Lingholm” (or, at any event, plants grown from seed collected from a known specimen of “Lingholm”).

Meconopsis bed, newly dug in April 2012

Meconopsis bed, newly dug in April 2012

The blue poppies bloomed well that spring, but since then have done poorly. I decided to dig up the plants, improve the soil and replant.

My estimation of the survival abilities of my Meconopsis plants has greatly increased, after removing 2 cubic feet of loofah-like magnolia feeding roots from the bed and the root balls of every one of the seven surviving blue poppies. I replaced the removed roots with an equal amount of nicely rotted compost. Most of the Meconopsis look better already, and I hope all seven will sprout out and bloom next spring. Transplanting in fall usually means you have to wait until the following spring to see real results.

 

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In the meantime, I’m forbidden to do any real digging, root ball wrestling or lugging buckets full of compost for the next few weeks, so the only thing to do is admire the new plantings, make more lists, and hope.

 

One Perfect Poppy

I have often grumbled about the difficulties of growing blue poppies (Meconopsis species). Over the past 20 years I have grown numbers of plants from seed obtained from two plants I bought — Meconopsis betonicifolia and Meconopsis x sheldonii ‘Lingholm.’ Most of my plants now are seedlings of Lingholm; all traces of M. betonicifolia have vanished from my place.

On two occasions in those 20 years I have had spectacular success (in a relative sense, of course) with my blue poppies. In May 2000 I had seven plants blooming well in a small rectangular bed. I did not take any pictures, expecting a repeat performance. Ha. In 2013, after working hard at producing more seedlings and preparing a bed for them near a large magnolia, I had 7 or 8 plants in bloom, This time I did take pictures, but because the bed was long and skinny — crescent-shaped, in fact — the effect was not as wonderful as when the flowers were massed together in a smaller space.

This year, I have one plant in bloom. Only one, but I have made sure to take pictures of both blooms.

April 19, 2015

This was the first one. As it faded, the second bud began to open.

001Fully open, it proved to be a much better flower than its predecessor.

003That colour! The ethereal texture of the petals! Definitely worth the trouble.

I hope to obtain some seeds from these two flowers, to plant next January or February.

The Garden in May — Blue!

In 2001 I had a small bed of Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia), seven plants in two short rows, all blooming at once.  In a typical case of gardener’s hubris, I didn’t bother taking pictures, thinking there would always be next year. There wasn’t.

Now I have eleven plants, seedlings from a plant of Meconopsis “Lingholm.” They are in a curving single row on the north side of a large magnolia, and eight of them are in bloom. This time I took a lot of pictures, a whole gallery in fact.

What else has been happening? Ducks fighting in the pond, epic struggles with excessive vegetation, tomato plants looking hopeful in their pots, and a new clematis (“Pink Fantasy”).

Blue Poppies in Pots? Not!

One of the most common internet searches that leads to hits on my blog is “growing blue poppies  in pots.” Sadly, I think I can now say that it’s not possible to do this well.

I have grown blue poppies (Meconopsis)  in pots and in the ground, and the differences in plant size and vigor are striking.

Three or four years ago I had 12 plants (mostly seedlings of ‘Lingholm’) in gallon-sized pots. A couple of them bloomed in the spring of 2010, but none bloomed well, and all but one perished in subsequent winters. It’s hard to regulate soil drainage in a pot, and I suspect they simply rotted.

Last spring I grew another batch of plants, fifteen of which came through the winter (in 4-inch pots) and sprouted out this spring. I planted eleven of them in a crescent-shaped bed on the north side of a large deciduous magnolia. This spring and summer have been cool and relatively wet, ideal conditions for blue poppies. I watered the plants thoroughly once per week. Now, near the end of July, they look promising, and certainly more robust than any of my pot-grown specimens. The biggest problem has been leaf-stems being snapped as the leaves are whirled around by occasional strong winds. I have planted three plants of Lamium maculatum ‘Pink Pewter’ near some of the blue poppies, hoping that they will act as a kind of windbreak. (I may come to regret this, if the lamium proves too vigorous and swamps the poppies).

Most of them have formed small offsets, and I hope for blooms next spring. Remembering my very first planting of M. betonicifolia in 2000, I am confident that they will winter well, since my sandy soil is well-drained. (It’s too bad I didn’t bother taking pictures of those original blue poppies when they bloomed in 2001. They were doomed, of course, because M. betonicifolia has that monocarpic habit to start with, and these were way too close to a Tree of Heaven. A few sprouted out feebly the following spring, but I could see that they had no future).

If this lot blooms next year, I will definitely take pictures. It remains to be seen how well they tolerate magnolia roots.