Poppy Seedheads

The weather is foul here in North West England. We have had a lovely mild autumn so far and it seems that we are paying for it now. We are feeling the brunt of ex hurricane Kate… the first storm of the season to hit us and the Met Office have named this storm Abigail. We have had torrential rain and gale force winds for the past two days. In places six to eight inches (15-20 cm ) of rain fell in 24 hours. That’s more than a month of rain… a heck of a lot of extra water. Trees have fallen and there is flooding in some low lying areas.

We were warned that this was a high risk area for flooding when we bought our home. Apparently we are at risk from both the sea rising and local rivers overflowing. We thought that it was a risk worth taking. This house sits on top of a hill and we have lovely views. It’s not the highest hill in the county but it is the highest point around here. We are quite safe and dry for now but we don’t know what the local roads will be like in the morning.

So today we have stayed inside to keep out of the wind and rain. The storm will pass and life will carry on. As it’s too wet to spend time in the garden I’ve been experimenting with photography in my greenhouse this afternoon. Luckily I collected some Poppy seed heads earlier this week so they are dry and suitable for photos.


The Opium Poppy Papaver somniferum is popular and easy to grow. They are fascinating to look at close up. When the seed heads first form they are quite plump and a greenish blue colour as shown above. Head gardeners complain that garden visitors tend to pinch a few poppy seed heads at this stage spoiling the look of the plants in their gardens. That is quite futile because the seeds are not ripe when they are green. Gradually the poppy stems turn a pale straw colour and the seed heads dry and turn quite brown and grey and mottled. Tiny openings appear at the top of the pod just like a little pepper shaker. This is when the seeds are ripe. They are tiny, shiny and black and as the wind whips the old poppy stems around the seeds are scattered. Alternatively you can pick them and store the seeds in a paper envelope until next spring.



The poppy seed heads are decaying now yet they are still quite beautiful when you look closely at them. They have a metallic quality I think with tinges of gold and silver visible through the camera lens. It’s hard to believe that such a small seed can produce tall poppies like this in just a few weeks in spring and summer when conditions are right. And if they are not quite right then poppy seeds will lie dormant in the ground until the earth is disturbed again then they will spring into life.

Papaver somniferum

I grow poppies every year. They are inexpensive and extremely easy to grow. But the best thing about them is that they gently seed themselves around giving a very natural feel to my planting schemes.

Are you planning to grow poppies next year? Do you have a favourite poppy?
I would love to know what you think… so please send a comment.

Thanks for reading and see you next time. Gillian 🙂



12 thoughts on “Poppy Seedheads

  1. Great greenhouse photographs Gillian. I do grow poppies and this year I noticed they were prevalent in gardens I visited including Great Dixter and Sarah Ravens garden at Perch Hill. As you say they are great value. I am rather fond of the Californian poppy, such a joyful orange. I do hope things dry out for you soon.

    1. Thanks very much… the greenhouse was very useful yesterday! I love they way poppies mingle in with other plants in borders. They always seem to pop up in just the right spot.

  2. Great photos. My favourite opium poppy is Papaver somniferum ‘ Black Beauty’. It is a double one, dark, silky and sumptuous.

  3. Hi Gillian,
    I am new to your blog. Thank you for your post about poppies. I love the seed heads. The flowers are, of course, also beautiful. I garden in containers in the city of Philadelphia in the US. Maybe I will try some seeds this spring. Or do you think it would be better to scatter them through my pots now? Best wishes, Astrid

    1. Hello Astrid and thanks very much for visiting. Here in the UK we sow poppies in late summer/early autumn or the following spring in April or May. They are quite hardy but November is too late here and I’m guessing that it may be a little late for you too in Philadelphia. You could always scatter a pinch of seed to see what the results are but the safest bet is to sow in spring. Sow them where you want them to flower because poppies don’t like being moved once they have started growing.

    1. Thanks Kate. I know that cold can trigger some dormant seeds to germinate (I always put my larkspur in the freezer for example) but I’m not sure about poppies. They always grow really well for me without stratification. I have heard that in some cases they can lie dormant for years or even decades and it’s only when the soil is disturbed/cultivated that they spring into life.

  4. Great photos – your poppies are so much darker than mine, which are more mauve. I also have red ones, which occasionally cross yielding raspberry, which I love. I never know what I’ll going to get year to year!

    1. They sound beautiful Eliza. That’s the great thing about growing poppies isn’t it? Unpredictable and totally gorgeous. I also grow some very pale pink ones too which have Peony-like centres hence their Latin name Papaver paeoniflorum. I will find some pictures to show you they are gorgeous… totally over the top just like Peonies.

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