Papaver orientale ‘Drunken Choir Boy’
Huge blooms of white with cheeky wine red blotches
Virtuous white silken crepe cups, but shiny black hearts and wine stain blotches, add a naughty note to Papaver orientale ‘Drunken Choir Boy’.
So I just love the name of this spectacular poppy, almost as much as I love the dramatic flowers in late spring and early summer.
Because the blooms are so huge, each up to 15cm. across, and produced in such abundance, ‘Drunken Choir Boy’ is a “must have” for me.
Cut off the the finished flowering stems, give him a feed as a reward for a great job, and Papaver orientale ‘Drunken Choir Boy’ should reward you in return with more blooms in autumn.
(See details in “Growing” section below for how to grow)
But it is not just all about the flowers
The season of interest extends well beyond spectacular flowers with Papaver orientale.
So you will find the plump buds are a real design feature, and fascinating as the silken petals peep out, and slowly unfurl.
Then architectural seed pods, which are also highly prized by floral artists, follow the stunning flowers.
Finally the foliage clump is neat, symmetrical and low growing. So it is a textural garden asset even when not in flower.
Hardy despite their exotic beauty
Oriental Poppies are surprisingly hardy, despite their exotic looks and huge flowers.
They are not particularly thirsty plants, and manage well on average normal garden watering.
They are also fully frost hardy, and will tolerate a range of soils. So they are not difficult to please.
Good garden companions
Plant Oriental Poppies with autumn blooming stunners like Perovskia, Echinacea or Rudbeckia to take over from them.
Then the one spot provides spectacular flowering over a long season, from spring to autumn end.
Our Poppy’s foliage is conveniently just a neat, low clump in autumn, while the autumn companions strut their stuff with colour.
Hardy, resilient & long lived
If your Oriental Poppies disappear underground in the hottest part of summer – do not panic.
This summer dormancy is perfectly normal in heat. They will be back again with an even bigger and better clump at the start of autumn.
Oriental Poppies are hardy, resilient, and very long lived clumps once established in their spot. So please leave them in your will to your grandchildren.
They can tolerate soils with low fertility.
Though generous fertilizer and compost over summer they will produce even more massive blooms.
Sumptuous cut flowers
Even one Oriental Poppy in a vase is a show stopper. While several will stop you in your tracks.
So cut them either early in the morning, or at evening, just as the buds are about to open.
Then sear the ends of the stems with a match or gas flame before putting straight into cool water. This will give blooms a longer vase life.
Removing the outer green calyx from around the unfurling petals will give even further vase life.
Growing: Papaver orientale ‘Drunken Choir Boy’
– Height with flowers: 60cm. approx.
– Width: 45cm. approx.
– Growth: Stout perennial clump which can go summer dormant in high heat. Foliage is a low growing neat, symmetrical clump of large decorative leaves.
How to grow
– Position: Full Sun to Part Shade. Full Sun in cold districts, but in hotter positions they will also happily enjoy some hours of shade, especially if the shade is well lit. Oriental Poppies are heat tolerant, as they will have a short summer dormancy if it turns very hot. (Important not think they have died and dig them out should they have a little rest over the hottest period – this is perfectly normal. They will return from underground as autumn begins). Because they are native to places with very hot summers, they have adapted to cope with it by going dormant when the heat climbs too high. Because of their native range, they also relish a very cold or frosty winter snap. Blissful news for gardeners who endure heavy frosts!
– Soil: Must have good drainage, as the strong fleshy roots will rot in soggy soil. Can thrive in all soil types from sandy through average garden loam to clay based soils. Clay based soils should be opened up, and sandy or rocky soils should have organic matter added. They grow happily in soils with a pH on either the acid or alkaline lime side of neutral
– Frost: Fully frost hardy, even in hard frosts to well below -10C. They shrug off frosts.
Other important benefits
– Beneficial for wildlife: Bees are as besotted by the huge flowers as we are. They gather so much pollen, they can hardly fly off with their bulging pollen sacks. Interestingly the pollen is black or purple.
Butterflies are also fed by the flowers.
If you leave the decorative seed heads to dry on the plant, the small seed eating birds will thank you for such well stocked larders. Each pod produces countless seeds. Do not worry, Oriental Poppies are in no way invasive.
– Care: Low maintenance. with little work to do other than feeding.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: Fortunately rabbits and deer don’t seem to like their hairy, whiskery leaves. Just as well, as a gardener could turn very nasty if they ate my treasured Oriental Poppies.
– Fragrance: Sadly none, but the blooms are so dazzling, you don’t notice the lack of scent.
– Origin: Native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran where they grow on rocky slopes, hence their love of good drainage.
The name ‘lupin’ – Lupinus Polyphyllus – comes from the Latin word “lupus” translating as “wolfish” .
There was a false old belief that Lupins devour goodness from the soil. The reverse is actually the truth. They store and add nitrogen to the soil.