Tag Archives: meconopsis betonicifolia

Flowering this week – meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppy

A little weather beaten after the rains, but a small gardening triumph in our conditions - the blue poppy

The blue poppy must be one of the simplest and bluest of any flower anywhere. It is such a shame that it is so difficult to keep alive in our conditions because you can never have too many simple blue flowers in a garden. The meconopsis has as few as four petals (and they look like slightly crumpled tissue paper) surrounding a boss of golden stamens and the central ovary, but the blue can be a startling electric blue. A clump of meconopsis is a sight to behold.

The blue poppies hail from the Himalayas and surrounding areas which gives a hint to their preferred growing conditions – alpine meadows. Without a winter chill here and with high winter rainfall, it is more likely that they will rot out below ground and they simply never get the signal that tells them winter has gone (they are probably still waiting for it to arrive here) and to break dormancy. So most gardeners struggle to keep them going and they tend to be one season wonders (annuals) and never seed down. The fact that we now have clumps of them well established in a cold border in our park area and that those clumps are getting bigger and return each year (so are perennial) is testimony to some years of persistence on Mark’s part. He has been selecting stronger growing clumps and good blue tones over time, hand pollinating to increase seed set, raising seed in the nursery and generally taking great care of these blue babies to get them to naturalise. Of course if you come from a colder, somewhat drier area, you may wonder what all the fuss is about because they can be relatively easy to grow there but they are very rare indeed in warmer climates.

For the record, these plants have been hand pollinated so frequently that Mark has lost track of the genetic proportions but they are basically downstream sheldonii back crosses which means that they have varying proportions of betonicifolia (both blue and white forms) and grandis.