Poppies are sought after cut flowers and the more you pick them, the more they bloom! To make the flowers last in a vase, cut before the buds open, when you can just see some colour. Burn the ends of the stems over a candle flame, or plunge them into boiling water for a few seconds before arranging in cold water.
The poppy seeds used in cuisine typically come from opium poppy plants (Papaver somniferum) and are consumed as food in many parts of Central and Eastern Europe; and widely used in Bengali cuisine. The sugared, milled seeds are eaten with pasta or boiled with milk and used as a filling or topping on various kinds of sweet pastry.
In the Garden:
Iceland poppies attract butterflies to the garden and combine beautifully with most winter flowering annuals, making a fantastic backdrop for spring flowering bulbs. Try planting them in drifts, inter-planted with pansies or violas in complimentary or contrasting colours, for a brilliant display. They are wonderful in meadow and cottage gardens and also grow well in containers with other annuals, such as stocks, pansies, violas, calendulas, lobelia etc.
Iceland poppies are perennials which are usually grown as winter flowering annuals in South Africa. They love full sun and well-prepared beds with light well-drained soil to which compost and well-matured kraal manure has been added. They are hardy to frost and grow well throughout the country, except those very dry regions. Water regularly, poppies don’t like to dry out completely, but be careful not to over water them either, especially in the winter rainfall regions. Feed with 3:1:5 when the first buds appear. Iceland poppies will flower all winter and spring if you nip out very first flowers and continually deadhead thereafter; removing the spent flowers by cutting them off at the base of the plant.
The different varieties of Iceland Poppies vary slightly in height from 30 to 45cm. Space them about 15cm apart in the garden. If you are purchasing trays of seedlings from your garden centre, choose small plants, as these transplant best. Seeds are best sown directly into well-prepared garden beds because poppies do not like undue disturbance. Thin the seedlings out when they grow their first true leaves. If you do sow in seedling trays, transplant them into the garden as soon as they are strong enough. Be extremely gentle when transplanting as poppies have a weak tap-root that is easily damaged.
Allow a few plants to set seed and collect once the pods are fully ripe to store for next season.
Seeds will germinate best in soil temperatures between 18 and 22°C. Cover the seeds very lightly with soil and place your seedling trays in a cool, bright place until germination; which can take 7 to 14 days. Iceland poppies will take about 16 weeks to flower from seed.
Pests & Diseases:
Slugs love Poppies, so monitor them closely for signs of slug damage and put down slug bait. Also, watch out for aphids and leaf-miners.
The Iceland poppy is toxic to mammals, though the toxicity is low. The Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility noted that when horses, cattle and sheep ate discarded Iceland poppy plants, they were poisoned.
All poppies are poisonous, but not all contain opium. The alkaloids found in poppies differ with each species; some can affect the central nervous system (e.g., brain). Ingestion of any part of the plant can result in sedation or an excited (e.g., euphoric) state. Clinical signs of poppy or opioid poisoning include: inappetance (not eating), crying, pinpoint pupils (dogs), dilated pupils (cats), or staring off into space.