About ten years ago, a friend brought me a baggie of Opium poppy seeds from his garden in Birmingham, Alabama. “Just throw them on the ground and they’ll grow,” he advised in a slow Southern drawl.
I did, and they grew. But not well. I hadn’t dumped out that baggie in the smartest place. It wasn’t quite bright enough and there were too many other things already growing there. Each year a few seeds would germinate in that moist soil and eventually one or two anemic looking poppies would force out a flower before collapsing from failure to thrive. Efforts to transplant the seedlings to a more favorable location failed every time.
When I moved last year I took a couple of plants with me, including the great daylily ‘Mauna Loa’ which I couldn’t bear to leave behind. I replanted it on a steep, sunny slope with poor soil and hoped it would be tough enough to make it there.
This reveals how exciting my life is, but one of the best moments of the spring was the day I realized that a poppy seed had hitchhiked with the daylily and was growing like a weed. Lettuce-sized leaves started appearing as the plant grew to four feet, followed by at least eight buds. (Although I love flowers, you can see I am not obsessed enough to do more than estimate the number of buds on one plant.)
It’s open now, and it’s beautiful. Sound the horns for the triumphant gardener!
Then yesterday I was driving around looking for a parking spot when I was compelled to stop in the street and get out of the car. Suddenly my pride in that one self-sown flower seemed ridiculous.
Besides poppies of all kinds, this garden was filled with penstemon, bachelors buttons, larkspur, and other self-sowers.
It was a glorious sight to behold, and one impossible to think of begrudging.