When people see these poppies, they say one of two things. They don't look real, or they look like paper. I've often been glad that they are real, because the skill required to make these gorgeous things out of paper is certainly beyond me. Growing them is another story. Mother nature does all the fancywork.
January 14, 2017-in the '15-'16 growing season, I planted Champagne Bubbles and Meadow Pastels poppies. Half of each kind went into the field on Nov 18 and Feb 26. I had seeded indoors 6 weeks prior. Icelandic poppies have a very low germination rate for me, around 20%, so I buy lots more seed than I need plants. The first year I bought seeds from Swallowtail Garden Seeds, the second year from Ivy Garth.
The plants spent the winter uncovered. They were smashed flat by 6" of snow in January and happily bounced back. By the end of February, the plants were bulking up and setting buds. By the last week of March, a few were ready for cutting. Some of the first to bloom were doubles, but this didn't seem to last through the season.
The poppies bloomed all through April and May. The first planting made larger plants, and the second planting began to come into flower several weeks later. Both plantings bloomed a couple of weeks into June, when they began to struggle in the heat. Production dropped off at that point, and we turned over the bed and planted a cover crop.
The best time to cut poppies is just before they pop their little bud coverings, and they go from bud to open flower fast. We were out cutting poppies twice a day to keep them all harvested.
We seared the ends of the stems with a blowtorch, and got three to four days of vase life. When cut in full flower, the vase life is shorter, and the poppies are more difficult to transport. If a customer wants a particular color, though, we have to wait a little and let the flower open enough to see it. If Meadow Pastels were available in individual colors, we could forgo this step.
Because of the relatively short vase life, we only offer poppies to designers, and don't put them in market bouquets. I'll continue to work on improving vase life, and maybe change this in the future.
In the '16-'17 season, I only planted Meadow Pastels. They were better plants with taller stems and softer colors than the Champagne Bubbles. Champagne Bubbles comes in individual colors, of which I would say coral and white may be worth planting for sales to designers. The sherbet colors of Meadow Pastels were very popular with our customers.
Since the second planting flowered later and didn't bloom much longer than the first, I only plan for one fall planting of poppies.