Poppies!! You Just Can't Have Too Many

Eschscholzia californica 'Wrinkled Rose'.
I've got bread poppies, California poppies and Shirley poppies in my garden. While some are self-sown, most are newly grown from seed very early in spring.

California poppies, or Eschscholzia californica, are native to and are the state flower of California. The variety I grew this year is called 'Wrinkled Rose', a hybrid that is long-blooming and gorgeously pleated and colored.

This Papaver somniferum is self-sown from previous years.
The botanical name for bread poppy, which is also known as the opium poppy is Papaver somniferum. It's easy to remember which species it belongs to by imagining the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her entourage fell asleep in a field of poppies.

The species name of this poppy, somniferum is from the Latin somnus meaning "sleep" and fero meaning "to bring," and refers to the coma-inducing properties of the plant's extracts.

You can also harvest the seeds from Papaver somniferum to use in baking. This is the flower from which poppy seeds are harvested.

Papaver somniferum with double flowers.
According to the Food Lover's Companion, it takes about 900,000 poppy seeds to equal a pound. Another little-known fact about poppy seeds is their high oil content, which makes them prone to going rancid. For this reason, they should be stored, airtight, in the fridge for up to six months.

Seeds of the opium poppy do not contain appreciable levels of the alkaloids found in opium resin. And according to Christopher Grey-Wilson in his book, Poppies: A Guide to the Poppy Family in the Wild and in Cultivation, the seeds are also used for cooking oil, paint, soap, and to make food for livestock.

This year, although I don't recall planting them, I have some double-flowered bread poppies. These little beauties hold up quite well unless it rains.

 Last year I planted a variety called 'Lauren's Grape', and it seems to have reseeded. The flower is aptly named, as it's the shade of ripe grapes, only a tad brighter.

I hope to have the patience to harvest seeds from some of the pods. I usually wait until they're dried and then pop them open and sprinkle them around to assure their presence in my garden next season.

One of the most varied poppies in my garden is Papaver rhoeas, also known as corn poppy or Shirley poppy.

Two of my favorite Shirley poppy mixes are Angel's Choir (from Thompson & Morgan), and 'Falling in Love'.

Papaver rhoeas in a variety of colors
While I don't know which flowers are from which mix, I get a great group of flowers in a huge variety of colors and color combinations.

I just love them all, for their crinkled petals as they begin to open, the picotee edges that provides a special highlight to an already beautiful flower, and their delicate demeanor. You can cut them as they first open and they'll brighten the indoors in a vase for at least two days. And that actually goes for all of them.


  1. Hello, what variety of Papaver somniferum is the pink in your picture and where do you typically get your seed? It's lovely! Thanks.

    1. This year I purchased from Baker Creek Heirlooms, Select Seeds and Swallowtail Gardens. The pink double P. somniferum was, I think, a sample bonus packet one of these companies sent me. Hope that helps.