It was the third of June but rather than a sleepy, dusty, Delta day we had just woke up to a clear New England morning. Coffee cups in hand, we sat in rockers on the patio and watched in anticipation for the first poppy to hatch.
It was as if a baby bird was pushing its way out of its shell. Our eyes were glued to the fuzzy ball at the top of the stem, and as if in slow motion, and surely would be missed in the brief second if one was not watching intently, a piece of it would pop and expose a slit of orange.
This one lone poppy had survived being transplanted from the Stonegate Road garden along with two other poppy plants purchased a good 25 years ago from the Food Mart Grocery store located in what is now the Wal-Mart plaza. In time, as it is with color that once flourished in my gardens — the Jacob’s Ladder, the Brown-Eyed Susans, yellow yarrow, and lately I fear, the Cone Flowers, so too has the Food Mart disappeared from our Southington landscape.
The sweet lone poppy held firm and such a beautiful poppy she is that rises to splendor year after year popping our gardens’ first summer color along with the blue bearded irises and wild violet columbine. The flower bloomed with such elegance, its crinkled petals as delicate as crepe paper and I gaze at the delicate wonder of it all and think, why anyone question the existence of a God. There were days I could not pass by the poppy without looking inside its petals, opened, teasing me as if to say, come, here, take a closer look at what I am as it is more than meets the eye.
There is the seed pod. Resembling a short, dark thistle, the kind that clung to our pants as kids and were so bothersome. I won’t say I wasn’t tempted to snap one off and accumulate the seeds and harvest plant after poppy plant. I was successful in the past deadheading zinnias and planting the seeds the following spring. But the poppies?
That old TV commercial, was it about fake butter or real butter, claimed, “Don’t mess with Mother Nature” and over my gardening years I have learned to adhere to that advice.
Having two gardens 500 miles from each other as we do, gardens that blossom nearly a month apart is used to our advantage. I’m sure other gardeners who spend months between gardens are faced with the same issues. In our yard we focus on the months we are home, the spring and early summer blossoms. The daffodils, that at one time gave us April blossoms but have either become very lazy these past years, and while they do push their greens through the soil, stop short at any extra work involving the production of yellow flowers. They are in for an awakening this fall when I return from Maine and douse the ground above them with bone meal. That should jump start their batteries next spring.
The wild columbine and woodland poppies are like a gift from heaven as is the friend who presented them years ago. Like the Lily of the Valley, the wild geraniums, the sweet woodruff, the lemon drops (I refer to them by their uptown name, Evening Primrose, sounds so upscale). These are my darlings and they do what is so dear to my heart — they spread.
Some gardeners stay away from spreaders and it is understandable as they can be bothersome. Over the years they tend to choke out other perennials and raise havoc with disciplined gardens, which an observer to my gardens would be hard-pressed to recognize as such.
The excitement we felt on the third of June regarding the poppies and witnessing as they shed their buds was because once they do, they blossom quite quickly. We were fortunate, sunny days gave us more than a few to dote on their show but alas their worst critics, wind and rain decided to shut down the act. Three days and they were gone.
We have quite a few poppy plants at our camp in Maine. Planted nearly 30 years ago by the previous owner, Delma Russell. She was a fine gardener and painstakingly gathered wild lupine seeds and sowed them along the property. Lupine isn’t fond of being transplanted and while I’ve tried to bring a few of the plants to Connecticut, the Maine wilds are having none of it.
Time to head north and after passing Bangor, commercialism on I-95 North heralds the blues, and violets and pinks of wild lupine that spread across the landscape. For hours, through to Route 1 at Houlton and the miles past Littletown and Mars Hill, Presque Isle and into Caribou. Along Route 161 they spread through New Sweden and Stockholm and then, turning into our camp road we quickly meet at Mooseview with mile-high grass that cannot hide the beauty that resides within.
The best part — Delma’s poppies are in bloom. Lucky us to get to have a second summer look.