poppy seeds

Sorting through my files this morning I found an envelope containing poppy seeds I had taken from flowers in Marion Brenner’s garden in Berkeley, California. My friend the illustrious potter Frances Palmer and I visited her last year, and she generously gave us a few pods. I had forgotten all about them, and got a rude surprise when I opened the envelope and these tiny dots flew out. And I mean tiny. They make the poppy seeds on your bagel look fat.

I asked Ed Bowen, genius horticulturalist, nurseryman, and my erstwhile employer (more about that some other day) what to do. Mind you, it is freezing out, and sleeting too. He gave me a bag of granny-grit, which we borrow from the chickens and use to loosen up our clay soil, and advised me to sprinkle the seeds on top of a patch of grit so I would know where I had planted them down the road. The grit would also help keep them from blowing away. And they like the cold for germinating. Thus fortified, I went home determined to do some winter gardening.

Well, it was too cold and wet to tromp to the garage for tools, and all I needed was a fork (no one will ever know that I raided the cutlery) to rake the grit a bit, and my reading glasses, to see what I was doing (that’s becoming more of a requirement for everything in the garden, I have to admit, having pruned one too many live branches off a rose for lack of vision.) Out I trudged.

I simply cannot believe that anything as glorious as the snappy red California poppy will come of these seeds, but then again, I’m the sort of person (at least I hope there are others like me) who thinks defrosting food is nothing short of miraculous. Everything looks so cold and dismal and, well, vegetal, in that way of day-old salad. But while I was out there, I noticed for the first time the tips of daffodils poking their way out of the ground, and near those, the points of daylilies cutting through the cold earth too. I said hello, and ran back inside to the warmth of my kitchen. If I get one poppy, I’ll be thrilled. I had no other plans for that bare spot anyway.

1 comment:

eastons said...

I adore poppies, and just sprinkled a bunch of that near-microscopic seed along the margins of my gravel driveway - I'm in a bit warmer zone than you, on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle.

I used to turn to your essays first in House & Garden, and look forward to your new book. I'm a garden columnist for the Seattle Times - take a look at my "Plant Talk" blog at www.valeaston.com. If you enjoy it, I'd be delighted if you'd list it as a favorite.

Your journey and your message resonate with me, maybe because we're about the same age. My new book "The New Low Maintenance Garden" is all about how to make a garden that uses no more of the earth's resources or our own time and energy than is reasonable...my own new little garden is smaller, simpler, and brings me far more joy than my old overcomplicated one...

Val Easton