Wednesday, May 30, 2007


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


Tracy said...

What a fantastic tip - i cannot believe that i can have the joy of cut poppies in the house for a whole week - thank you Jane - you are a fountain of knowledge!
I also cannot believe how lucky you are to actually be able to catch sight of a woodpecker let alone take a photo. For years where we walk the girls you can hear the blighter at work but i have never seen him!
One day ....
Tracy x

Suffolkmum said...

Brilliant tip, thank you so much, I adore Porries but never cut them for the reasons you describe. My god-daughter was named Poppy because her parents met at a summer party where a whole field of poppies was shimmering before them!

Gigibird said...

When we moved we went from a house with period features everywhere to a chalet bungalow that had been ‘got at’ in the late 60's. I sympathise living with characterless rooms but although it’s a cliché it is a blank canvas.
I think it's more of a creative challenge to transform a 'box'plus it a wonderful foil to show off your talents:)

Cait O'Connor said...

Well thanks for the tip. I am madly in love with poppies but never ever picked them as I thought they wouldn't last. We have woodpeckers here and they have young at the moment so are around a lot. If you feed birds all years round you will soon get all sorts visiting.

The Country Craft Angel said...

I need to get some poppies into my garden, by co-incidence I drove past a cottage this morning who had a whole bed full of them and I was taken aback by how glorious they looked.

We live on the top of a hill with vast views of the countryside and I only wish to plant native flowers-keeping the planting natural like poppies/cornflowers/prairie type flowers. I think anything else won't be true to the barn.

really interesting blog

warm wishes

Alice said...

I would have a lot more poppies to brighten the house if the slugs had not had a midnight feast. I just have to enjoy my friendly Poppy who is black, hairy and partial to Bonios but sadly will not sit still in the middle of the dining room table

sally's chateau said...

Poppies are one of my favourites too. The fields are filled with them at the moment as is the wilder side of our garden. thank you for such a brilliant tip.

Jane said...

I always loved those kind of flowery names like poppy and rowan but as the girls' surname is Glen they would have sounded like modern housing estates.

I used to work for someone who named his dog "Daisy" just to foil his (then pregnant) wife who had picked the name out if the baby was a girl (it was a boy).

Alice - your poppy might stay still if you seared her tail, but then again it might make things worse!


Faith said...

Thats very interesting tip. We have quite a lot of different self seeded poppies here. I also love seeing them at the side of the road.

lampworkbeader said...

Thanks for the tip. Most of my orientals have all got blown to pieces in the last couple of days. Does your method work for orientals too.

Marie said...

Hi Jane

The poppies are really lovely. Thanks for such an interesting post.

Marie x

Ragged Roses said...

Thanks for the tip about the poppies, ours are blooming beautifully in the garden but never manage to last indoors!

Jane said...

Lampworker - it does work with orientals - and if there is at all blustery weather I think that indoors is the nicest way to enjoy them without them turning to party rags in the garden.
The orientals have tougher cases round the bud though and sometimes need a bit of a hand to get them to split inside - you don't need to open the whole bud case, just carefully break the seal between the two halves. this instruction is much simpler if you have a poppy in front of you!

weirdbunny said...

Brilliant ! I picked some big red ones the other afeternoon and they were all wilted and falling apart by the time it was bed .

weirdbunny said...

Our bungalow is late 50's early 60's - we should have a competions, whose property was built the worse character wise !!

Pondside said...

Thank you, thank you for the wonderful poppy tip! I am heading out now to cut some and give it a try!