By Stephanie Cavanaugh
Poppies, poppies, so attractive to the eye, so soothing to smell . . . cackles the Wicked Witch of the West.
This is the year I am determined to have poppies. A field of poppies mingled with the periwinkle and ivy that more or less cover the front garden. Dotted here and there with potted roses and azaleas, the forsythia and daffodils would be a sight so bewitching that one would want to lie down in their midst and sleeeep. Sleep.
Sadly, I always forget to sow seeds early enough to fight the massive foliage from the elms that line the block, and the young but rapidly growing red-leaf maple that creates a strong border between our house and the neighbor’s.
This year I won’t miss out. Poppy seed can be strewn now and can root about in the soil, taking advantage of this brief period of full sun to grow strong and burst forth with blossoms come late spring.
At least this is what I’m assured will happen. A little snow would help, just a measly inch or so—toss the seeds on top and don’t cover them (sunlight is needed for germination). If your climate is dry, keep the seeds moist with a fine spray from the hose until they come up. When the plants are about three inches tall, thin out any crowded clumps.
You can buy poppies online. Amazon (surprise!) has plenty of possibilities, whether a packet of 100,000 traditional red “remembrance” poppies for $8.68 or varieties in colors such as watermelon, orange, white, and pink.
You can also try spreading poppy seeds from a jar or loose from some grocery stores. From what I’ve read, these flowers are, for some reason, white. Check the packing label if you can for the freshest seeds.
Smart tip from a reader online: Use a saltshaker to spread the seed. Poppy seeds are the size of nits, and unless you’re an anal type, unlike me, they’re a pain to spread. The last time I tried to sow the seeds—too late in the season, of course, to get sufficient sun—they clumped up in my fingers and dropped in lumps, instead of flying about in the wide arc I had envisioned. A saltshaker forces the little grains apart.
Can puppy seeds get you stoned? Ah yes, the important question. Per West Texas A&M, depending on your tolerance, you would need to consume 1 to 130 pounds of poppy seed to get a nice high. They say: If you had a particularly potent batch of poppy seeds, and if you were particularly sensitive to morphine, and if you really liked poppy-seed cake to the point of eating pounds of it, then unintentionally ingesting medicinal levels of morphine is entirely possible. But for the rest of us, a sprinkling of poppy seeds on our bagels may give us just barely enough morphine to fail a drug test, but not enough to do much else.”
Yes, eating a poppy-seed bagel can cause you to fail a blood test, and you won’t even get high. You have been warned.
Wildflower seeds can also be spread now and through February, also blooms such as columbine, foxglove, hollyhock, butterfly bush, forget-me-not, lavender, alyssum, lupines, bachelor button, coreopsis, delphinium, and larkspur. If you are not me and have planted these in the past, they may be self-seeding. Lucky you.
Burpee has a wildflower seed mix designed to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, a mix that includes poppies. They’re packed 50,000 seeds to a bag, which they say will cover 1,000 square feet—which is about eight times more seed than I need for my space. $8.97 on Amazon.
Sounds like a decent bet. Surely something will come up.
To be on the safe side, I’ll parcel out the sowing. Some now—snow is forecast for this weekend in Washington DC—and toss out more as the weeks pass.
Happy New Year!