Every year - at exactly this time - I write a post about poppies.
Every year - at exactly this time - I am overwhelmed by their beauty.
We live in a house that isn't exactly as I would like it to be - when we bought it, it was a typical 1980s farmers bungalow - built as an economical tied house with straight blocky lines, aluminium windows and hardboard doors. We are gradually changing it but it often feels, with our painted chipboard floors and complete lack of storage space, as if we are still a long way away.
The relevance of this to the poppies is this. I think the magic of having cut flowers in a house, and what separates them out from houseplants, is that they change from day to day. The doyennes of this are poppies and tulips and to my mind this makes them the very best of cut flowers.
The top photo is of our living room - with a crock of poppies taken straight from the shop and plonked in the middle of the coffee table. Every time I go into the room it is the poppies I see, more have come out into full flower, some are just ready to burst, darker yellow amongst the bright mass of the open flowers. This somehow stops me noticing or minding so much the piles of junk that are scattered in corners, the discarded sweet wrapper on the settee. If the flowers didn't change so much they wouldn't be so distracting.
Poppies are also one of the most difficult flowers to sell. Most people's experience of poppies in a vase is picking some open red corn poppies on a walk and having them wilt and shed before they are even home. I often end up giving them away the first time and then people come back to buy more.
How to pick poppies - this works with all varieties bar opium poppies, the ones with the giant seedhead.
1. Put the kettle on
2. Pick in bud when you can see the coloured petals shining through, like the ones right at the left of this photo.
3. Put straight into a bucket of water.
4. Take into the house, cut to the length you want the finished flowers, pour 1" of just boiled water into a mug and put the stem ends into it. Count to 5.
5. Put straight into a vase of water and put somewhere cool for an hour.
6. Arrange. If you have to recut the stems sear them again.
They should last a week if you put the vase out of direct sunlight and away from strong draughts