Like roses, Papavers or poppies, offer a rich palette of colors. From sexy reds, baby pinks, yummy peaches, to creamy whites and plum purples they can make my mouth drool reminding me of a refreshing sorbet. Perfect on a steamy summer day.
Poppies hail from various parts of the world and include a wide variety of species. There’s the native yellow California poppy that grows wild and is a sight to behold after a much appreciated rainy spring season. The others, as shown here, are Papaver orientale, or Oriental poppies, coming originally from the Caucasus and enjoyed for close to four thousand years. Like many flowers, poppies can be consumed in multiple ways. Gardens are often flush with edibles such as nasturtiums and violets, as well as autumn crocuses whose stamens are meticulously picked for saffron — hence the exorbitant cost.
Once banned in Afghanistan by the Taliban (hmm, no pun intended), Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy, aka the breadseed poppy, is the species of plant from which opiates such as morphine and other pharmaceutical drugs are derived. We can also enjoy poppy seeds on our bagels with cream cheese and lox.
That said, my focus here is purely visual. I’ve chosen to use black and white for these floral portraits, taken in my Berkshire garden to minimize distraction. The multiple shades of gray, bring the flower, with its transparently thin, paper-like petals to its bare essentials: form, structure and texture.
A drooping bud preparing to burst open.
Waxy leaves, reminiscent of kale, are intriguing for their sculptural qualities.
And then we are left with the beautifully shaped seed head, resembling a star fish.
Break it open once it has dried and you’ll discover a bunch of tiny black seeds for future planting. Mine simply self-propagate. Thanks to the wind, they’re popping up in unexpected places including my compost heap where I probably threw some out at the end of the summer season last year.
As a point of interest, according to Wikipedia: “The DEA raided Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate in 1987. It removed the poppy plants that had been planted continually there since Jefferson was alive and using opium from them. Employees of the foundation also destroyed gift shop items like shirts depicting the poppy and packets of the heirloom seed." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaver_somniferum#Opiates