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Vermont Garden Journal: Poppies

AP/Pat Wellenbach

I recently returned from leading a VPR Tour of the Gardens and Food of Italy and was amazed at the wild poppies in full bloom. They were everywhere. In wine yards, olive orchards, vegetable gardens and along the highways. It made me appreciate the toughness of the poppy flower. They're a great annual or biennial flower with bursts of color.  Here's a run down of some types to grow.

The Flanders or red poppy I saw in Italy is a wild weed in Europe. The paper thin petals grow on 1 to 2 foot tall plants. The Shirley poppy is a modern, more refined version of its wild cousin, while the Icelandic poppy has a mix of white, orange, red and yellow flowers that are slightly scented.

The California poppies we grow in our garden are blooming now and will self sow and flower again in late summer. There are cultivated varieties with white and red colored flowers, but I've found they eventually all revert back to orange over time. The bread seed poppy has 3 to 4 foot tall stems with single or fluffy double lavender colored flowers. It's related to the opium poppy but don't worry, you won't get a jolt from this plant.

Poppies grow easily in full sun on well drained soil. In fact the problem with poppies is they self sow readily becoming a weed in the garden. Plant them where they won't spread, or be diligent about thinning in spring so the plants aren't over crowded and taking over.

The Oriental poppies are the exception to this group, being a long lived perennial with pink, orange, white or red flowers. It slowly spreads and has a deep taproot.

Now for this week's tip, thin radishes, beets and carrots once they germinate and have true leaves. Thin to 2 to 3 inches apart and save the thinnings for salads. Carrot tops rock!

Listen Friday, June 14, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, June 16, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about a new pest on small fruits. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

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Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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