Meconopsis Visual Reference Guide. Includes Photos, Taxonomy And Cultivation Information.
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
All sorts of hardy orchids have always thrived in my garden. This is a group of hybrid Dactylorhiza that just appeared and has clumped up nicely. At this stage they look untidy BUT DO NOT cut them down until the foliage is totally dead and shriveled. In the first place this undoubtedly lets fungal diseases in and perhaps more important there are still nutrients, particularly sugars, that the tubers will take back into storage and use to produce more and bigger plants next year. In gardens where I know people like to cut back and tidy in early autumn, they have lost all their hardy orchids.
A picture I may have already used but it makes a point that may help people new to this amazing genus of plants. Nearly every keen grower of Meconopsis that I know calls this plant M. napaulensis. They can be pink, white or red and many plants with this name can be large and yellow as well! Relatively recently Chris Grey-Wilson decided that M. napaulensis was a small yellow monocarpic (dies after flowering) evergreen plant with a restricted distribution in Nepal. I have taken to putting the name in inverted commas implying it is a common usage name and not a technical taxonomic name. Most seed exchange offer this as M. napaulensis rather than the true wild yellow species.
Nothing to to with Meconopsis I fear. These are varieties of Colchicum speciosum and three Crocus species that are autumn flowering and give good colour between the evergreen rosettes of Meconopsis. Colchicums and autumn flowering crocus species are easy here in the dry sandy soil.
There are three basic species of blue poppy. M. betonicifolia (now split by some authorities into two - with this species being reserved for plants found in Yunnan and M. baileyi resurrected for the form from S.E. Tibet). Then there is M. grandis which occurs in several quite distinct regions of the Himalayas and these forms differ consistently. Finally there is M. simplicifolia. and this occurs in two forms, the best of which with beautiful flowers is monocarpic and thus dies after flowering and the other form can be perennial. Both types almost always have flowering stems growing from a rosette with no stem leaves. Many years ago a cross between M. grandis and M. betonicifolia - which is sterile - produced a tetraploid form ( i.e. 2 sets of chromosome from each parent) and this is fertile. This image is of this hybrid called Lingholm after a garden in the Lake District of England. It sets masses of fertile seed and has allowed lovely blue poppies to be grown in many parts of the world. There are dozens of named forms of blue poppies which have differences - some very subtle - BUT for someone who wants lots of big beautiful blue poppies in there garden THIS is the one to get. Most amateur seed exchanges have this large seed and they are relatively easy to grow.
My daughter's Dundee garden at it's best. It is now time to shut it down for the winter. The tall pink flowering Meconopsis napaulensis hybrid has now set seed right down to the bottom flowering spikes and this has been harvested, dried, cleaned and packeted to send of the various amateur seed exchanges such as the Alpine Garden Society and the Meconopsis group. Unflowered rosettes of this hybrid and other evergreen monocarpic species need the dead leaves removing and the dead foliage of the perennial blue poppies needs carefully removing. I never turn the soil over in these beds since it is so easy to damage plants already dormant and the buds for next year but I like to top dress with 2 inches (5 to 6 cms.) of really well rotted and sieved leaf mould ideally or composted bark or some such if that is not available. In a severe winter this does stop frost penetrating so deeply.