During the three short years of existence of this blog and its 520+ entries, I can't believe that I haven't written about or shown you a single photo of one of my favorite garden plants. At least, I think I haven't, because one sometimes loses track of 500 blog entries and searchable text can only carry me on its back just so far.
This beautiful salmon-pink pompom is present in my garden as a legacy, a descendant of seed given to my father by the father of a childhood friend of mine, who grew them in a large garden en masse for their "wow" effect every year. I'm not positive of the exact species, but I suspect that this is a plant sometimes described as Papaver laciniatum, a highly double and deeply lobed variant of the bread poppy. Notice how carefully I'm dancing around the likely accurate species name? All I know for sure is that here and there in my garden, when the cold, wet soil is disturbed enough in early spring to allow this annual to take hold and grow, I get these gorgeous flowers back as a gift in mid-summer. They pop up at random spots for me, often near desirable plants where I slow down my weeding enough to identify what living thing I'm uprooting. They self-seed effortlessly, and all I have to do is to avoid hoeing them out when they are mere babies.
The plant itself has a nice blue-green shade and healthy foliage, rarely shows insect damage or fungus, and doesn't care if rain comes often or doesn't come at all. The leaves are lobed enough to be a mite prickly, although I can pull the plant bare-handed when I need to. I don't pull them bare-handed though, because if you do, your hand gets covered in the sticky, white sap of the plant. As they begin to flower, first you see these swelling, drooping buds, which later stand up proudly on their short day of open life. After the petals fall, the seed head magically becomes a shaker that opens when the seeds dry so that a few seeds are flung by each gust of wind or nudge of a passing animal. What a perfect plant to place in Kansas; a drought-tolerant self-sowing annual weed that is distributed farther each time the wind gusts get stronger! Even better, they bloom at the height of heat and summer, as other flowers are fading and before the ornamental grasses claim the garden for their own.
I only regret that I am terrible at sowing them to come up where I want them. I've tried mass plantings, but I sow them too thickly and they don't thrive, or I sow them too late and then they don't grow, or it is not wet enough for them to get established. I also suspect that they may need a period of cold stratification to make them start to grow. Someday, I'll figure out the formula and then I'll have a "wow" factor in my garden too. Until then, I'm thankful for this passalong plant and the Kansas winds that spread it far.