Monday, December 10, 2018

Flowers in Early American Gardens - Corn Poppy

Poppies are shown in full bloom in a field near Sommepy-Tahure, France.

Thomas Jefferson planted "Papaver Rhoeas flor. plen. double poppy" at Monticello in 1807. This is a horticultural variety of the common European field poppy, which was immortalized in Flanders during World War I. The Corn Poppy is a hardy, self-seeding annual that bears single, red flowers in early summer. Jefferson noted corn poppies growing in 1767 at Shadwell, and he planted a double-flowering form of the flower in a Monticello oval flower bed in 1807.
Corn poppies bloomed in the between trench lines during WWI and have come to symbolize the bloodshed of soldiers who perished in those horrific battles.

How poppies, strong and fragile, became a symbol of WWI devastation
By Adrian Higgins November 11  Washington Post

"The corn poppy is a pesky weed, a sweet, delicate garden flower and, for the past century, the emblem of the human cost of war.

"The custom of wearing paper poppies to remember that cost has waned in the United States but remains strong in Britain, the scene of national ceremonies Sunday to mark the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. (World leaders also gathered in Paris.) More than 40 million paper poppies are distributed by the Royal British Legion each year, and all the country’s leaders, including Queen Elizabeth, wear them.

"Between 1914 and 1918, the armies of Europe faced off for war in the machine age. Along the Western Front, the fixed nature of entrenched warfare led to mass destruction on every level. At their most intense, artillery batteries could lay down 10 shells per second...The shelling unearthed untold millions of dormant, buried poppy seeds, which began to germinate, grow and bloom.

"After one of his comrades was killed, the Canadian field surgeon John McCrae penned the enduring poem linking the corn poppy to the slaughter of industrialized warfare. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row...”

"The paradox of the corn poppy is that it is a wildflower — farmers view it as a weed — that is individually delicate and fleeting but capable of appearance in vast colonies. It is both strong and fragile, like all life.

"Gardeners love poppies for their ability to bring pure, natural beauty to a cultivated setting. It is a plant that goes through a months-long dance. First, the seedlings develop into a ground-hugging rosette of gray-green leaves. When the weather warms up, the rosette rises up and expands, and from its center emerges a wire-like stem dressed in silver hairs. At the top, a little elongated bud nods in its gooseneck until the bud coverings are cast off and the blossom arches up to the sun. The petals are thin and crinkled, like silk, and soon fall away to reveal a button-like seedpod that a month or so later will contain hundreds of tiny ripe seeds, each smaller than a pinhead..."

For more information & the possible availability for purchase
Contact The Tho Jefferson Center for Historic Plants or The Shop at Monticello