A swathe of poppies - in the end!

Growing poppies at Rosemoor to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War has proved a battle in itself

As part of the Society’s commemoration of the start of the First World War, each RHS garden has planted an area of poppies. At Rosemoor we decided upon a site at the entrance to Lady Anne’s garden that lies on a slope to enable an impactful view as visitors ascend from the underpass.

Here I am (right) planting out poppy plugs with Natalie (student) and Bruce (volunteer)The bed was cleared and cultivated to give a sufficient seedbed for poppy seeds to germinate in. With the wet conditions over the winter the area did resemble a battleground after the initial preparations, but we viewed this in a positive light seeing as it was these type of ground conditions in which poppies germinated and flourished in France after the war.

We ordered a kilo of poppy seed (Papaver rhoeas) and decided to hedge our bets by sowing half in autumn and the rest in spring. I duly mixed the seed with sand to help achieve an even distribution and broadcast sowed them in early November.

After a long wet winter it was becoming more and more apparent that germination rate was patchy at best. However, I did not view this as a drama, as clever old me had saved half the seed for sowing in spring for this exact scenario. So come early March I repeated the sowing process again focusing mainly on the by now obviously bare area right across the middle of the site, and extending to about 70% of its entirety!

As we all know it has been one of the mildest springs on record and in Devon this meant wet too. By late April defeat had to be conceded, whether it had been the lack of frosts to trigger germination or the constant deluge relocating the vast majority of the seeds on to the tarmac below; the game was up and I could no longer persuade the Curator all was well!

Reasonable as ever, Mr Webster offered to throw me bone and purchase a few plugs. Fourteen hundred plug seedlings later we now have a fully planted swathe of poppies at Rosemoor.

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