Welcome to week two of our column entitled ‘Pretty Petals’. Each week we will introduce you to a flower that we are working with here in the studio as well as flowers that we absolutely adore. Please join us every Thursday for some floral eye-candy where you will learn about a variety of very special blooms. This week we are chatting about poppies.
Very few flowers are as rich in symbolism as the poppy. This stunning bloom is recognized the world over for many reasons. The poppy of wartime remembrance is by far the most popular symbol – poppies grow invasively in the many parts of Europe, including Flanders, the location of the famous Canadian poem In Flanders Fields. Poppies have also long been used as a symbol of sleep – sleep because of the opium extracted from them. This symbolism was strongly played out in the classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, where the characters must avoid the poppy fields for fear that they will fall asleep forever. The ancient Greek and Romans used poppies as offerings to the dead – a poppy that appears on a headstone symbolizes eternal rest.
Interestingly, the negative connotations attached to the symbolism of the poppy have not affected the love of this flower, particularly here in Canada. It is a widely grown, self -seeding perennial that can be found in many gardens across the nation. It is one of the first flowers to bloom in the late spring /early summer, and the flowers are outstanding. The 4 to 6 petals miraculously unfurl from a crumpled bud, into a beautiful cup shaped bloom, finishing with petals lying perfectly perpendicular to the stem. Depending on the variety, the flower can range in size from 5 centimetres, to the diameter of a dinner plate – they are available in every colour imaginable. The stem of a poppy can reach as tall as one metre.
Living Fresh fell in love with the poppy this year for several reasons. Firstly: the colours. They are magnificent. In Canada, our floral industry imports poppies from Holland from January to early spring; they are sold in bunches of assorted colours. We love the element of surprise that accompanies purchasing a bunch of poppies. Each package contains at least six different colours – offering pastel hues right up to strong bold shades. Until the fuzzy, protective sheath comes undone, the colour in unknown.
Secondly: the stems. They are crooked and wonky. They naturally create an asymmetrical , contemporary line in a vase. The poppy is a wonderful flower for an amateur floral designer because they will look stunning no matter how they are placed in a vessel. One thing that is important to note, however, is that a poppy has a fragile, hollow stem. Poppies cannot be designed in floral foam if you want them to last beyond a day and a half. When placed in a vase with water, it is advisable to fill the vase with only a few inches of water because the stems can rot/drown if a vase is filled right to the top.
Thirdly: the size. The poppies that we have been working with from Holland this year are big. They are a focal flower and provide a dramatic statement to every arrangement that they are in. They provide great value to a floral design. The average retail price of a poppy is approximately $5 – $7 a stem.
Finally: longevity. With regular water changes and trimming the stems before placing the flowers back in the water, a poppy can last up to two weeks in a vase!
And now to answer the question you’ve all been wondering about. Do all poppies have opium? Only a certain kind of poppy produces opium and these poppies only grow in warm, dry climates – particularly Southeast Asia. Afghanistan produces about 90% of the world’s opium poppies. Its worldwide production is monitored by international agencies. The opiate disappears from the seeds twenty days after the flower has opened.
With the season upon us, poppies will soon be abundant. Take some time to walk through your local neigbourhoods and parks and enjoy these outstanding plants before they lay to rest for another season!