My favourite two — or more — flowers

Janice Wells
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The foliage on these “fluffy poppies” seems the same as Kitty’s. Does anyone know what kind of poppy they are? — Photo courtesy of Shirley Rooney

I don’t know if its possible to have just one favourite flower, and maybe it changes over the years. I used to love rudbeckia, especially the mahogany varieties, and Shasta daisies — in fact, all things daisy shaped. Maybe that was a 70s post-flower child thing because I haven’t given them any room in my current space-challenged garden.

I did try them both, with cone flowers, painted daisies and helianthus in the hard packed city bed out front, but only the helianthus is still going strong.

 I’m keeping oranges and yellows out of the back courtyard garden. Because its so small and enclosed, I find keeping to a combination of shades of blues, pinks, purples and whites to be softer, more restful, and you know I’m all about being restful in the garden.

The one exception are the oriental poppies, which were bought as a pink variety, but are decidedly orange. I may just move them this fall, if I do even half I intend to do.

 Poppies are in fact now one of my very favourite flowers. Poppies and hollyhocks.

Last evening I sat outside reading, partly because it was comfortably warm, and partly because of the pleasure of raising my eyes every few minutes to look at the pink hollyhocks catching the last of the sun’s light.

 Some poppies are not easy to transplant. Last year, Kitty and I were both given some transplants of an unknown variety (not oriental), with the warning that they didn’t transplant easily. One of hers made it and this year she has more from the seed from the survivor. Some of this year’s seeds have my name on them.

 There is a caveat to my love of poppies. You might recall me complaining earlier in the season about the yellow ones taking over my front bed. I have concluded, with a bit of research, that these aren’t the Icelandic poppies (which come in a variety of colours) I thought they were, but California poppies, otherwise known as golden poppy, California sunlight, cup of gold, sunshine on a stem; all lovely sounding, but I also read, a little too late: “Think twice before you spread California poppy seeds.”

I don’t spread them; they need no help from anyone. In fact, now that I think about it, its time I got out there and cut off all the seed heads to at least try to limit next year’s crop. Apparently reds and oranges are possible, but not in my colony.

Maybe I should take another tidbit I read seriously when I get frustrated with being overcome with these cheerful yellow flowers colonizing where I don’t want them, as they are “traditionally used as a sedative and hypnotic where there is over-excitability and sleeplessness.”

Hmmm… I suppose that’s legal. After all, it is herbal and medicinal, and surely some poppies couldn’t give all their poppy cousins a bad name. Nah, its all online so it must be OK, right?

 Red or yellow, there’s no explaining why some types or colours of flowers that aren’t particularly appealing to one gardener will be the very favourite of the gardener next door.

I absolutely love single old-fashioned hollyhocks. I even love the yellow ones, maybe because the only yellows I’ve seen in the older variety are soft, often tending to buffish pale apricot. The newer double pom-pom types don’t command the same adoration from me at all, even though they are magnificent.

If I could have just two types of flowers, maybe I’d pick poppies and hollyhocks. And foxgloves. That’s three and I have nothing blue. Or lavender. Or white. I guess I couldn’t have just two.

This week I’m on the west coast so I’ll miss Farmer’s Field Day, which is today, Aug. 10,

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cool Climate Crop Research Centre, Brookfield Road in St. John’s. It’s a great free event centred around our agricultural industry, with lots of fun stuff for kids, and gorgeous perennial flower, rose and shrub displays and arrangements from the Newfoundland Horticultural Society.

Sounds good!


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.

Organizations: Cool Climate Crop Research Centre, Newfoundland Horticultural Society, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing

Geographic location: California, Brookfield Road

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