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The Papery-Petaled Poppy And How To Grow Many Varieties

A red poppy
Peter Engisch
A bright red poppy in a wildflower garden earlier this spring.

When you think of this certain flower, you might recall a scene when Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" begins to feel very sleepy or perhaps you learned to recite this poem of remembrance.

The delicate, papery-petaled Flanders or Iceland poppies are in bloom right now and Charlie Nardozzi has tips for their care.

It is good to note that these ornamental varieties of the Breadseed or opium poppy grown in America don't contain the same narcotic opium content as their Southeastern Europe and Western Asian counterparts. It is still technically illegal to grow Breadseed poppies here, though it is not enforced.

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These flowers grow quickly from seed to about 2 or 3 feet tall and come in a multitude of shades, from pink, mauve, lavender and red with frilly petals. If you love them, you can let them self-sow and keep growing. If you don't want them to spread, just dead-head them and use them as cut flowers.

Q: I have an older large American Beech in my suburban front yard. Lots of Beech suckers grow around the periphery of the tree. The tree is older, losing a few branches each year, but still handsome. Please recommend how to manage the beech suckers. - Graell, in West Hartford, Conn.

The American beech tree suckers will definitely compete with the mother tree for nutrients, so you need to ask yourself a question: Is your beech tree is on its way out soon? If yes, then go ahead and leave a few suckers, as they can act as a future replacement for the original beech tree. If the mother tree is going strong and will be around another decade or so, go ahead and cut those suckers out. 

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Q: Every May, I have a lovely display of tulips in my front yard but by now the dying leaves and stems don't look very attractive. I know that I should let the leaves die naturally to feed the bulbs for next year but when can I remove them? The rest of my plantings don't do a very good job of hiding the brown foliage. - Eileen, in Underhill

Any time the leaves of your tulips turn yellow, it is totally fine to cut them back to the ground this time of year. Other spring-blooming perennials, like daffodils and bleeding hearts, can all use a good pruning of their leaves just to tidy up the area. Doing so won't harm the flowers or bulbs at all and they will come back in full color and bloom next spring!

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Q: How should I care for my wild blueberries? Years ago I transplanted some in a friend’s garden. We took a big block of blueberry and native soil, moss, etc., and put it into one of his garden beds. Over just a year or two, his bushes produced berries more the size of domestic blueberries. Can I amend, cultivate, aerate? - Mark, in Craftsbury

Blueberries love well-drained, acidic and aerated organic soil. For right now, just keep the bush in the soil conditions that it loves and thrives in. Water the blueberries well in this moderate drought and you'll have blueberries for a good, long time! Looking toward next season, just mulch them well and in the fall in order to keep them happy and fruiting, and add some pelletted sulfur into the ground. 

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A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with tweet us @vprnet.

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Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered, Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday.
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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