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Poppies for Remembrance

Field of Poppies

Thousands of red poppies covering No-Man’s Land is one of the most poignant images from the First World War, great drifts of bright scarlet, daring to grow where nothing else could seemingly survive. The sight of these resilient flowers inspired Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae to write the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ and in November 1921 the Royal British Legion adopted the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Flanders Poppy or Papaver rhoeas also called Common Poppy, Corn Poppy or Corn Rose, grows best in disturbed soil, no wonder it found a home on the battlefields and trench lines. An annual herbaceous plant it can be found in fields, roadsides and grassland across Europe to Africa and tropical Asia.

How to Grow Poppies from Seed

Flanders poppies are easy to grow from seed, they need a sunny patch and are best planted directly into the ground, as once established, they don’t like to be moved. Scatter seeds on a level surface then cover with a thin layer of soil and water well. Keep moist and protect young seedlings from snails.

Pick your poppies once they start flowering as this will encourage more to grow. Left to themselves they can self-seed but if you want to guarantee a show of these beautiful papery flowers every year then collect the seeds, store them in an airtight container and, a month before sewing, pop them into the fridge.

When do Poppies flower?

Wild poppies flower from May to mid/late autumn, perhaps even into November, if the weather is mild.

What can be used as an alternative for poppies?

Red anemones, red carnations and roses all make suitable alternatives if you are unable to source red poppies for Remembrance Day. There are also red mini gerberas with black centres such as Piccolini, Nirvana or Suri.

fresh poppies and seed heads

How to care for fresh poppies and seed heads

Ideal temperature range: 2-5°C, keep out of draughts and direct heat sources.

Poppies exude a milky sap which can be an irritant. Re-cut stems and either stand the flowers in water for 24 hours before arranging to allow the latex to drain or sear the end of the stem with a flame.

Like all hairy stemmed flowers, display in shallow water to prevent stem rot. (The hairs encourage water to ‘climb’ up the stem)

Change water every 2-3 days.

dried seed heads

How to dry poppy heads

Choose seed heads that still show a hint of green. The fresher they are, the more successful they will be to dry.

For best results, air dry. Remove any foliage and tie together in small bunches using elastic bands which will contract as the stems dry.

Stagger the heads so they are not all at one level, this will prevent any flattened or damaged sides.

Hang upside down in an area that is dry, warm and has good ventilation. They should take 2-3 weeks to dry.


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