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Meconopsis

Mainly found growing wild along the range of the Himalayan Mountains but also in the mountains of western china and the Tibetan plateaux. There are around 50 known species all native to the above areas except Meconopsis cambrica or Welsh poppy which is native to parts of Britain.

The most popular types seen growing in gardens are blue but they also come in reds yellows and white.

The blue poppies seen today are mainly hybrids a cross between meconopsis grandis and meconopsis betonicifolia in 1937 giving rise to meconopsis x sheldonii. Another good hybrid is meconopsis lingholm grown from a chance seedling in Cumbria in the 1970s.

Meconopsis have a reputation for being difficult to grow but with a little effort they are very beautiful and rewarding plants to cultivate. They need a cool part shaded position in the garden and a soil which is rich in organic matter with plenty of nutrients. Dig in plenty of organic matter leaf mould or well-rotted manure if you have a heavy soil dig in some grit to prevent water logging which will rot plants. After planting mulch the plants with manure or bark chippings taking care not to cover the crowns. Meconopsis thrive best in dappled shade in an open site the aim being to give them enough sun-light but not to be scorched during hot weather. These conditions can be provided by growing in the vicinity of deciduous trees and shrubs which will give them shelter from strong winds which can damage leaves and snap flower stems. Do not plant too close to the base of the trees as the plants may become dry competing with the tree roots.

Large blue poppies can be propagated by division, lift a mature plant and carefully prize apart into a number of pieces. Each piece is then replanted and allowed to re- establish. This is the only way to propagate the sterile hybrids as they do not produce viable seed. Species meconopsis can be raised from seed, I sow mine as soon as I have collected or bought it. Sow onto the surface of a seed compost and cover with a light covering of grit, water well then place in a cold frame or cold greenhouse Germination shouldtake place in late winter to early spring. Grow the seedlings on in cool conditions until ready to plant out.

Plant sales at the Manor House in Whalton take place up at the greenhouse area every Tuesday between 9.30 and 3pm.

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