No not puppies - the cute and cuddly daughters and sons of bitches (although those are sometimes not too bad either). I am talking about poppies - the pretty flowers people plant in their gardens, so they can add some color to their life in more ways than one.

I planted all of the poppies around the house three, even four years ago. Some, like the California Poppies (Eschscholzia Californica), came from the Denver Botanical Gardens wild seed packet that my sister and her husband so thoughtfully bestowed upon all of their wedding guests. California poppies were actually the first ones to come up and they were nice enough to reseed for a couple of years. This year it doesn't look like they are coming back - must have been shaded out by the dense growth of taller self-seeding plants (Blackeyed Susans, Bachelor Buttons, Delphiniums and Daisies) that they were next to. That's too bad, 'cause I really enjoyed their delicate orange colors - a gentle reminder of my years in California and especially the San Francisco Bay area.

The aptly chosen California state flower grows wildly along many of northern California roads and its image adorns state's scenic root signs. In my mind, California Poppies will forever evoke memories of one large and especially beautiful patch along I-280, near the De Anza Blvd. exit. I was driving past it shortly after 9/11, feeling lite and cheery, having just made up my mind to move back home to Colorado. But I digress...

The other poppies that came up quickly were the Shirley Poppies (Papaver Rhoeas). Their many pastel colors - lite and pretty added much welcomed decor to a piece of land that was previously covered by a big slab of concrete. I didn't amend soil, didn't fertilize. All it took was taking out that slab, turning the soil over a couple of times with a shovel, sprinkling of the seeds, some watering and voila - I had California Poppies, Shirley Poppies and all the rest. It was almost too simple! At the time, I really only planted wildflowers that do well around here. Even the Shirley Poppies are nothing more than a cultivar of red Field Poppy (aka Corn Poppy, Flanders Poppy and Red Poppy) selected for color differences. Nevertheless, I was encouraged.

Getting to the next step, however, was a bit more difficult. The goal was to get the perennial Oriental Poppies (Papaver Orientale) not just to grow from seed and bloom (they barely produced flowers last year), but to thrive. That mission, I am proud to say, has just been accomplished. As evidence, I offer you the attached picture taken this morning of two flowers in this year's first batch of blooming Oriental Poppies. They opened up this morning after last night's heavy rains. (Very unusual weather, for this time of the year, we are having here, around the Eastern Plains.)

For next year, I will just have to rev it up one more notch and sprinkle the ground with some of them poppy seeds sitting in the cupboard. If Opium Poppies (Papaver Somniferum) emerge as the result of this experiment, there really will be no end to my joy. Y'all do know what I mean, don't ya?

Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)

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