By Mark Lyke
After growing meconopsis in Alaska for years, I could not figure out why there was such a fuss about growing the Blue Poppy at Lakewold Gardens. I heard horror stories about investments gone badly from gardeners in the Portland area. I asked lots of questions of my fellow gardeners to discover that the trouble begins when the weather warms up. A 60-degree summer day in Anchorage is considered great, whereas 90 plus can kill your poppies if there is not water in the soil and shade from the direct sun on hot afternoons. This plant has been considered difficult, but let’s be honest — they thrive in other places. Places where it is cool and moist, like Scotland, Ireland coastal British Columbia, Alaska and the north of Norway.
Once you have selected a nice large, healthy plant from Lakewold’s Garden Shop, chose a location in partial shade that is out of the hot afternoon sun and protected from strong winds. Prep your soil with a mix of compost, manure and fine bark. This will provide the needed drainage. Dig a nice big hole, roughly two to three times the size of the original plant’s pot, mix in your prepped mixture with the removed soil, and place the mixture around your new blue poppy as it comes to rest in its new location. You can add a slow release fertilizer or add fertilizer with your watering regimen during that first year to help your perennial plant to establish a good root system. Some people like to pick off the first year blooms to enable all the plant’s energy to be used to develop strength during these early days.
I love to plant the Himalayan Maidenhair Fern around the poppies as a companion plant. You will probably have to protect your plant from the slugs. For some reason, those fuzzy poppy leaves are attractive to our slug population. Hopefully your site will be perfect for self-sowing of the seeds that can develop from the parent plant. It can take a few years for the seedlings to flower, but when they do, your neighbors will want to know what that bright blue flower is, growing in your garden! And of course, your success with The Blue Poppy will be the envy of many other gardeners.
- Family: Papaveraceae
- Hardiness: Zone 3
- Mature Size: Two to three feet
- Exposure: Morning sun and afternoon shade
- Bloom Time: Usually May and June
- Moisture: They like wet drained soil
- Deer Resistant: No problem
Available at Lakewold’s Garden Shop, 12317 Gravelly Lake Drive SW, Lakewood, WA 98499.
Open hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm.