Monday, 14 September 2015


Sunday, 9 August 2015

I have two white Dactylorhiza orchids. This one is a hybrid produced by the late Gerry Munday. It does well and doubles every year, allowing plants to be passed on to others. It is large and striking. I suspect I have shown this plant earlier.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Codonopsis are a genus of plants that usually climb up others. The top image is C. meleagris. An unusual and attractively marked flower. The real down side is that it has a horrible smell when touched. The one below is Codonopsis vinciflora - normally an attractive blue but in this case a perfect clear white and the flower 2 inches across. They both have underground tubers and die back to these in winter. They slowly spread undergound but are not invasive. Really useful climbing up the stems of Meconopsis napaulensis like and even M. grandis types while one waits to collect seed from them. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

All sorts of Trillium fit in well with Meconopsis. I have two really nice dwarf forms of the species Trillium  rivale which form a really nice edging. It is very long lived and gradually spreads to form  good clumps which can be divided. I also have a very nice pink form of this. These two plants do occasionally set seed. 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Many Meconopsis are now well passed their  best in flower but are beginning to produce healthy looking seed pods. These need carefully labelling so that seed for the various exchanges is correctly named. 

The image here has nothing to do with this but once again shows the value of only ever top dressing with leaf mould and not turning the soil over since orchids then develope from seed under ground before flowering after a few years . This nice, very pale group most likely has either the white hybrid Gerry Munday or the white species Dactylorhiza o'kellyi as one parent. 

Friday, 10 July 2015

I have large clumps of various species of Cypripedium in among the Meconopsis. These were always bought as small plants and over the years can form magnificent clumps but it is a slow process. Many of the Dactylorhiza orchids do grow from seed in the garden in association with micorhiza and usually flowers appear after three or four years underground as a single large flower spike. This image is of the native slipper orchid Cypripedium calceolus which was dug up from the wild until only a handful of plants survived. Things have changed now. Orchid seeds  do not carry food reserves but in the case of the lovely species of Cypripediums people have learnt how to grow them in tissue culture or from seeds in culture. They are therefore now widely available though no doubt expensive. 

Sunday, 5 July 2015


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

One of the advantages of writing about Meconopsis in this way is that one makes contact with people. This is a quite exquisite form of Meconopsis betonicifolia (or baileyi if you accept the current split). I planted these seedlings in my daughter in Cumbria's garden where meconopsis thrive. There are 4 plants and all are of this beautiful pastel pale blue. They are throwing side shoots so they should be perennial. These seeds were sent to me by Svetlana from Russia and they are a wonderful addition to my collections. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

In north Caithness I have large planting of various big blue poppies for seed. This is a varition on the tetraploid Lingholm. Blues in Meconopsis can vary from year to year and I suspect temperature is involved. In the north we have had a long cold spring and so far only two pleasantly warm days of summer!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Nothing what so ever to do with Meconopsis! Many years ago one of my daughters was working in New Zealand and as always was asked to bring me back interesting seed. It has taken all these years to grow into a tree and flower. It is the Kowhai tree. This is a native legume Sophora tetaptera - the large leaved kowhai. This genus has the reputation in the United Kingdom of not being fully hardy especially when young. It has thrived in our garden near the sea on the east coast of Scotland and the flowers up to 6 cms. long are most spectacular.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Total heartbreak. This was a double Meconopsis punicea in the garden. Not sure compared to the true species that it is anything like so attractive - I find many double forms of wild flowers in the garden a bit over flamboyant. Plagued by mice earlier now it was the turn of wood pigeons. The garden is already lush and in good growth with at least 10 species of Meconopsis as rosettes or in flower. On Thursday I did my daily rounds and found every flower, every seed pod and every bud on every single Meconopsis punicea had been eaten by wood pigeons (Columba palumbus). Nothing else was touched and there were 4 separate planting of punicea. Now there will be no seed. I did give plants away to 3 botanic gardens last year so hopefully they have not all been molested by this plague species - totally out of control in the U.K. There was poor germination this year of limited seed but I do have about 40 seedlings but it is having nothing to sow for next years plants that it so sad since it is normally biennial. The only positive thing to come out of this is JUST MAYBE they will either develop new flower buds for later in the summer or perhaps just possibly wait and flower next year.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

There is a well known cross between Meconopsis punicea and the mauve M. quintuplinervia. This is my own version of it. Interesting but not sure it really has much merit!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Many Meconopsis produce albinos and this is the white form of M. horridula (probably the form M. prattii). At least a proportion of any seedlings will be white and in the medium term one can select a plant that breeds true crystaline white.


Friends who have traveled widely in the Himalayas and indeed even took me to China to see Meconopsis, say that Meconopsis horridula was broken up by Dr. Grey-Wilson into a number of separate species. These are all quite distinct species and grow in defined locations that are very large distances apart. This is therefore a white form of the species M. prattii. Meconopsis horridula itself has a very wide distribution from west Nepal right up through Tibet and  beyond its borders to the north (it is difficult in cultivation in the U.K.). There are a number of subspecies of M. horridula described, as well as the related M. prainiana, pratti. racemosa and zhongdianensis. For any Meconopsis enthusiast there is a most excellent account with comprehensive and brilliantly photographed images in Dr. Grey-Wilson's book THE GENUS MECONOPSIS from page 238. The book was published by Kew Publishing. Royal Botanic Gardens.
 I suspect many gardeners however will refer to these plants as 'Meconopsis horridula'  as do some major seed lists like those of the Scottish Rock Garden Club. All have really horrid spines which can make seed collecting unpleasant. In the wild there are all shades of blue, pale yellow forms, purple/mauve and pink forms as well as albinos and the anthers vary between bright yellow and white/grey. The spines (very variable) on the leaves may have a purple pigment spot at the base (as does M. rudis in the garden). This like M. prattii is widely established in the U.K. Both are easy probably anywhere and like all this group of plants are usually biennial and monocarpic. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Meconopsis simplicifolia. This is a photograph taken in the wild by friends in the Himalayas. It does not really do it justice. It is very variable in the wild and it can have really large pale blue flowers that hang down and always single flowers on basal stalks. Dr Grey Wilson in his book on 'Meconopsis'  has split it into 2 sub species. M. simplicifolia ssp simplicifolia and  M.s. grandiflora. When I cultivated them there was Bailey's form and a host of similar ones. Some were definitely biennial what ever you did but others would at least pretend to be perennial though I always found them difficult and lost them. Probably would be easier in cold northern climates. A good large pale blue form is highly desirable and I would love to have it again. It characteristically has blue filaments to the anthers while M . grandis, with which one could confuse it, has white filaments. 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

There are quite a number of named species under the basic title of Meconopsis horridula. These range from a beautiful strong medium blue like this through a whole range of muddy purple to white. They have been split into separate species.M. horridula is a high altitude species and very difficult. This M. racemosa in a nice strong colour. Usually biennial and easy from seed and will grow in hot dry places in poor soil. It is very spiny and harvesting seed from very prickly dry pods needs care! Meconopsis rudis is much the same and putting these spiny blue plants into the right species is not easy. Grow from which ever seed is offered to you and then select seeds for yourself and to share with others from the best colour and growth of forms. 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Meconopsis quintuplinervia. Perhaps the most delicate of all the Meconopsis - the harebell poppy. There are at least two forms of this in cultivation which are obviously different. Both have the virtue of being very perennial and easily divided and probably as easy as any of this genera to cultivate.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

I have been waiting for my first Meconopsis punicea to flower - buds just opening -  when my eldest daughter in  Wick, Caithness sent me this image of Lingholm already in flower!  Caithness in the very far north of Scotland can have warmer weather than one might imagine  due to the proximity of the  North Atlantic drift passing across the top of the mainland and then coming north - south down the North Sea. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Meconopsis punicea. My absolute favorite Meconopsis. Many years ago when I wrote my book on Meconopsis I was rather horrified that the publisher had used  this species as the jacket cover. I felt this was inappropriate for a book on 'BLUE POPPIES.' Just why this wonderful species has red flowers will almost certainly be related to what originally pollinated it. The bottom image here shows the problem since it is not clear how insects would be guided to pollinate it. Red tubular flowers in some parts of the world are pollinated by humming birds and these are often long tubular flowers that the long tongues of humming birds can reach and other insects pollinators cannot. I do have to add that on really hot days M. punicea does open up a little and bees and the like could pollinate it. It is possible that blue  Meconopsis evolved from red ones.

The top image is of a plant in the garden of Carol and Hugh who live just up the road. The buds on this plant are twice the size of any plant of this species I have ever seen. I cannot wait to see it flower! I might add that Carol is very green fingered and she has produced big surpluses of this species which we have been able to give back to various gardens open to the public such as Branklyn in Perth. The main website gives information on growing this plant on from seed.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Meconopsis prainiana and also M. prattii. These are the spiny blue poppies related to Meconopsis horridula. Across the whole Himalayan range there must be great variation. They can be perfect azure blue through light blue in one direction and into muddy shades of purple in the other. There are white forms in cultivation too and even suggestions of yellow forms. What is in the seed exchanges is pretty variable and may not always turn out to be a good clear colour form. They are easy from seed and grow on quickly and usually they will flower as a biennial but can take an extra year especially in thin dry soils. With more than one plant they should set plenty of seed even in a poor year. Harvesting the seeds might best be done with gloves since the spines are strong and almost unpleasant to the touch. This plant again should grow anywhere in the U.K., even in hot dry climates, as long as the seedlings are grown with care in more moist controlled situations. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Meconopsis paniculata in wild. This is an image by David and Margaret Thorne. I have taken images today in the garden but cannot load them! What follows is again just for gardeners! This species is one of the rosette forming ones that look lovely in winter and then send up a flowering spike after 2 or 3 years and die. With more than one plant they will set huge amounts of seed. It was always thought of as a yellow flowered species but recently pink and red forms have been described. It was recognised as a specific species by a very subtle feature of the leaf hairs. I suspect again much of what is in the seed exchanges is muddled. If offered seed just accept it will form a nice winter rosette and then a final tall flowering spike. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

'Meconopsis napaulensis'. This is all really rather a muddle since unless they have been recently collected from the wild they can be very complex hybrids. What follows is strictly for gardeners and not taxonomists! The true species in the wild is variable but always seems to be yellow flowered. In cultivation from seed lists and  nurserymen what you will get is almost certainly a hybrid which may involve a number of species including M. paniculata (which recently has been found in the wild as red and pink forms) as well as pink coloured species like M. staintonii. If you go to a seed list like that of the Scottish Rock Garden Club they list a whole range of coloured hybrids. They are easy to germinate and grow on, - even in dry parts. They have lovely rosettes in winter with varying coloured hairs and they eventually after 2 or 3 years send up a tall spike with many racemes of flowers. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Meconopsis integrifolia. This again is variable across it's Himalayan range but is yet another of the great spectacular species in this wonderful genera. It is a species included in Josef Halda's latest seed list, some of which were collected in China (his address is given in a recent posting on this website - Mon 23 rd. February). It was known as Farrer's Lampshade Poppy. It will die after flowering, which may take several years, but before that it dies back to a tight bud in winter, sometimes almost below soil level. It thrives on a really rich soil and the better the feeding, the larger and more plentiful the flowers on a spike. Once in growth a few degrees of frost can harm it and damage flower buds. To set seed, which is vital, several plants are  needed to cross pollinate.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Forgive a really gruesome picture but it comes with a serious warning. We have had a relatively mild winter in southern Scotland and many mice have survived. It was too late before I realized that mice had eaten every single seedling of M. punicea as well as eaten all the buds of all the Hellebores in the garden. They have also taken  any other large seeds in my heated seed frame in a greenhouse. I set traps which kill them instantly and without pain. I might add that they have an amazing ability to remove both chocolate spread and cheese from the traps without triggering them . One can purchase traps where they are caught alive and can be released away from precious garden plants. This was one days catch!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

I meant to add this to the previous picture of M. horridula. This is a two year old plant in a pot that I am planting out in the garden. It has a small carrot sized tap root and at this time of year it is easy to brake the tops off and although they will reshoot it rather spoils the flower spike  and delays flowering.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Meconopsis horridula

This is a very difficult group taxonomically, which is very varied. It has been split into a number of new species By Dr. Grey Wilson. It will mainly be listed in seed exchanges as M. horridula. They are  all characterized by long narrow leaves covered in strong dense spines and can be unpleasant to handle. There are wonderful high altitude forms of perfect light blue which are difficult to grow, as well as many coarser types, lower down, where the foliage is dark green. Flowers can vary in colour from perfect blue, dark navy blue, purple blues as well as near pink and white. Not difficult to grow even in dry areas. It is often biennial and dies back underground over winter. The biggest plants will grow in rich soil and can have carrot sized roots at flowering time. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Meconopsis grandis There are 3 sub species defined for this genus and they are discussed on the main website. The above images were taken in Caithness where all the blue poppies grow exceptionally well and multiply and can be divided. This image does have a tall plant of M. grandis KEKE BUT the rest are the tetraploid hybrid Lingholm. This is easily obtained with masses in the seed exchanges and sometimes available commercially. It is tolerant of heat and dry and if you want a big blue poppy this is the one to try first. M. grandis forms are also available from seed exchanges and not particularly difficult in good rich growing conditions, for choice, in partial shade

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Meconopsis gracilipes. This is a herbarium specimen photographed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Herbarium. It is effectively a Meconopsis Dhwojii without the purple pigment at the base of the spines though it is actually rather more delicate. It is still available occasionally in seed exchanges and normally is happy in the open garden unprotected in winter. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Josef  Halda is a plant collector from Czechoslovakia.
 His ADDRESS is Josef J Halda PO BOX 110, 501 01, Hradec Kralovce, Czech Republic. 
He sends out an annual seed list from plants flowering in the wild. This year's list includes 7 really wonderful Meconopsis as well as a lovely collection of Primula species from high altitude from the same area, much in China. They are mostly about 5 Euros. I have often used his seed before and he does us a great service and the germination is always good. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Meconopsis grandis. The real big blue poppy. There are 3 subspecies defined by Grey-Wilson in his new monograph as well as their relationship with other 'Blue Poppies' as it it is widespread across the Himalayas. This will need a genetic analysis. HOWEVER for people who just want nice big perennial blue poppies in their garden there is a simple, reliable and relatively easily obtained solution. There is a lovely hybrid between M. grandis and M. betonicifolia called M. x sheldonii. As a hybrid it was infertile and thus could not be grown from seed only propagated vegetatively. In a garden in the Borders some-one noted what looked like a fertile seed pod on one plant. This gave gave rise to the plant called LINGHOLM. Later I found one in my garden and called it  KINGSBARNS HYBRID. We now know these are both tetraploid with 2 sets of each chromosome and this means at cell division the proceedure is successful and fertile seed is set. Kingsbarns Hybrid is a shorter plant and the flowers can have reddish tones, even in acid soil while Lingholm is normally taller and a good blue. IF YOU WANT TO GROW BIG BLUE POPPIES IN YOUR GARDEN EVEN IN AREA WHERE MECONOPSIS ARE DIFFICULT just grow           LINGHOLM

Seeds of Lingholm are occasionally offered by commerce but the Alpine Garden Society, Scottish Rock Garden Club and the Meconopsis Group all have seeds available annually and produce a list. With certain restrictions, an allocation of seeds can be sent abroad. 
Above Lingholm in Caithness. Below Kingsbarns Hybrid.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

  1.    Meconopsis gracilipes. This is really a Meconopsis dhwojii without the purple pigment blotches at the base of the spines and it is slightly more delicate than that species. It was not offered in either the ALPINE GARDEN SOCIETY seed list or that of the Scottish Rock Garden Club this year but it is still in cultivation. This is not difficult to grow from from seed but to collect viable seed of scarce species I would hand pollinate. This is an image that was sent to me.
Below is a herbarium specimen I photographed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Herbarium at Edinburgh helped by Alan Elliott

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

There are many Meconopsis that have evergreen rosettes that gradually enlarge over two to four years and then throw a flowering spike which blooms from the top down. The winter rosettes are possibly the best feature. We shall come to Meconopsis gracilipes later. This is very similar and equally attractive as a rosette but does not have the purple pigment at the base of the spines. Once again you need at least two plants to produce seed and as this will hybridise with other rosette species it needs keeping separate. The hybrids are often sterile so you lose the species. Not difficult but maybe in wet areas a glass pane will keep it safe from crown rot. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Meconopsis delavayi. This is a really beautiful perennial species. It is not easy but is safely in cultivation and seed is occasionally offered in seed exchanges. I grow this in a small bed which gets little direct sun light. Both these images have been given to me. The top is a garden plant and the bottom an image from the wild. It is deciduous but has deep strong tap roots and these have been used successfully to produce new plants from root cuttings. In theory this plant comes from limestone areas but I do not think soil pH either side of  neutral is significant.

Monday, 19 January 2015

This is going to be slightly contraversial. There are two very similar species. Meconopsis baileyii and M. betonicifolia. Dr Chris Grey-Wilson, who has written the latest monograph on the Genus Meconopsis  recognises these as two separate species based, as I remember, on nine distinct characteristics. There are also sub species, one of which - M. baileyii ssp. pratensis - is very distinct and breeds true. M. baileyii occurs in S.E. Tibet and across to NE India. M. betonicifolia occurs in S.W. China - down in NW Yunnan. My theory, and I doubt anyone has taken any notice of of it (!), is that we know both these species were very valuable for obtaining oil for cooking and other purposes. The site in NW Yunnan where it now grows was on the trade route out of the Himalayas into China and I do seriously wonder if it was not introduced there and cultivated as a farm crop some thousands of years ago. Having got that off my chest we can return to cultivation problems!

               Plants grown from recently collected seed from the defined areas can be grown under the correct names. For us gardeners they are very difficult to tell apart and many of the characteristics do have overlap or need a taxonomists eye. They are not difficult and seed which is readily available from some commercial sources but also plentifully  from all three seeds exchanges mentioned above. If you really do want to grow the two species and make your own comparisons then you must be certain of your seed sources since they can be  very muddled in cultivation. The seed  is sown in the standard way. They germinate well and usually prick on and grow on without trouble. It is better, with a successful germination and lots of plants to put out, to dis-bud a small number and these  will go on and form nice large perennial clumps for further years which can be divided when dormant as they die back to resting buds. As almost always with Meconopsis you need at least two plants to cross pollinate for a seed set. The Yunnan plants are reportedly stoloniferous. This character when they are happy would allow the easy propagation of plants.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Meconopsis aculeata

The first species of a series I will recommend for beginners. This is a Himalayan plant quite well established in cultivation. It is related to the Meconopsis horridula complex. It is characterised by flowers usually of a variation on purple/mauve but there are white forms and these are probably still available in seed exchanges. These plants typically germinate fairly easily from seed and then need growing on in a good rich compost. I tend with all Meconopsis to sow seed in pots and then prick on into a tray and plant out as soon as possible and trying hard not to disturb the roots. Planted in good rich soil the will grow on quickly with a rosette up to about 6 inches at best. They are not fussy about soil  acidity or alkalinity though I suppose it might just affect the colour. In late autumn they become dormant and retreat under ground to a resting bud on a rather long narrow root  - a bit like a carrot. These then re-shoot in early spring and through a flowering spike up to about 1 foot high and flower from top down. Seed pods then form (but you must have more than 1 plant since Meconopsis almost invariably need cross pollination). Seed then can be harvested from the rather prickly seed pods in late November or December once the seed pods have slit open, Store dry and cool and resow the following spring. Photo credits. David and Margaret Thorne 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


I intend over the next two months to do a weekly note on species ( 1 per week) that are relatively easy in most parts of the United Kingdom. Most Meconopsis grow well in the wetter parts of the U.K. but even here in East Fife within sight and sound of the sea I have no particular difficulties except keeping a degree of humidity in very hot dry summer spells and even then I simply use a sprinkler to damp the surface  morning and evening for a few minutes. The soil here is sandy and alkaline but over many years I have top dressed( NOT dug) in compost made by collecting up leaves (only) and letting them rot. At a year old this is sieved and applied to the surface for about 8 cms. deep and will be weed free. Earth worms of course will stir this into the soil. Like this self sown seedlings, especially of orchids can develop and flower.         

 There are professional suppliers of seed of  some species of Meconopsis BUT by far the best source are the seed exchanges of the Scottish Rock Garden Club, the Alpine Garden Society and the Edinburgh based Meconopsis Group. They all run seed exchanges and species of Meconopsis difficult or impossible to obtain from professional sources are regularly offered.
         Finally there are three basic categories of Meconopsis. 1. Monocarpic evergreen (lovely rosettes over winter) take several years to flower usually with a very tall flowering spike with hundreds of flowers - colours from white through pinks and red to  shades of blue. 2. Monocarpic deciduous. Go to a dormant bud in winter and then re -emerge in late spring - may take several years to reach flowering size and then die. M. aculeata is one of these. 3. Polycarpic plants that usually go through  winter  with a reduced rosette or even no winter leaf but if happy flower every year. Some like the wonderful red Meconopsis punicea do usually not survive flowering but can occasionally and there may be some strains that do. FINALLY Meconopsis almost always need cross pollinating with a second plant so multiple plantings are essential for the long term collection of seed. The only exception I know is M. superba which has set seed for me from a single plant but cross pollination  would be best. In FUTURE I will try to be brief with each species!!
The first species is Meconopsis aculeata.