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U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meeting a Blue Poppy in Alaska

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It was a total surprise for me to see a Blue Poppy (Meconopsis grandis) during my recent trip to Alaska.
Actually, it was a surprise within a surprise. By accident, we discovered that the Homer Garden Club was holding its garden tour on the very Sunday when we planned to visit that community located on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula. In the very first garden, which deserves a separate post, my jaw dropped at some point, and for several minutes, I was staring at pure-blue cup-shaped blooms innocently looking at me from the tops of tall thin stems.
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The owner of the garden was surprised by my surprise (what a post - full of surprises!). She said that blue poppies bloom in many places in town.
A June article in the Wall Street Journal by Anne Marie Chaker (WSJ, June 2, 2010) included descriptions of these flowers as 'the most heavenly blue flowers', 'notoriously finicky flower', 'botanical holy grain, legendary for its color and the challenges of cultivating it'. It also stated that "gardeners in parts of Maine and Alaska may be lucky enough to grow them, but it can be more challenging, in parts of the U.S. where early summers are hot".
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The well-known, award winning Homer garden designer Brenda Adams, whose garden also was on the tour, told us that there are two main conditions for the succesful growing of blue poppies: cool summers and good drainage.
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After the garden tour, I rushed to the nursery where local people told me they buy blue poppy plants. I was going to get several of them to take on the plane back to Washington state. Well, they were sold-out but don't feel sorry for me - the nursery itself was an absolutely magical place. I had several minutes there before it closed and didn't see all of it. But, what I saw made me say that it was the most amazing nursery I've ever seen.
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Coming home from the trip, I was happy to see some beautiful blooms, including the blue ones, in my own garden. I'll try to add a Blue Poppy to them next year. Himalayan Blue Poppy is said to grow in zone 5-8, and we are in zone 7b.
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Photographs of the blue poppies, except for the second one, were taken in the stunning garden of Brenda Adams (http://www.gardensbybrenda.com/)
Below, there are more pictures of her unforgettable garden.
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P.S. Pardon me for the quality of the pictures - it was raining cats and dogs when we were visiting Brenda Adams' garden. See the circles in the pond surrounded by the statuesque primulas?
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Stunning Verbascum was not less stunning, even in the rain, than the background view. We could only imagine how beautiful the view would look without the rain!
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One of my favorites in that garden, solitary clematis (Clematis integrifolia), with its showy nodding bell-shaped lavender-blue flowers:
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Rustic half-barrels with overflowing annuals create an exciting, cheerful spot in the middle of the lawn:


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Although vividly bright, Brenda's garden is somehow organically connected with surrounding native shrubs and tall grasses punctuated by the white umbels of Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum also known as Indian Celery or Pushki).

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Isn't it a great arrangement? Tall spikes almost repeat the angle of the evergreen trees, in the top right part of the picture:
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The size and the variety of the Aquilegia (Columbine)' flowers were very impressive! As Brenda said, many of them are the result of cross-pollinating.
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Gentiana lutea (Great Yellow Gentian), native to the mountains of central and southern Europe, was blooming for the first time in four years:
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I liked the naturalistic, almost effortless look of the borders:

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Brenda Adams shares her talent through 'Gardens By Design' services (http://www.gardensbybrenda.com/). For me, visiting her private retreat was a delightful and unforgettable experience. I learned about several plants unknown to me, got many ideas and had a chance to talk to a person obviously passionate about plants and Alaska.
I also learned that pictures CAN be taken during rain with the right equipment: an umbrella held by the strong hand of a loyal husband!
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Go to Gail' Clay and Limestone (http://www.clayandlimestone.com/) for Wildflower Wednesday.
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Copyright 2010 TatyanaS

41 comments:

  1. Those blue poppies are stunning. You don't see many blue flowers, which makes them look otherworldy.

    Oh, except for bluebells.

    And doubtless some others.

    But you know what I mean.

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  2. Wow, the blue of those poppies is very eye-catching...and those columbines! What I wouldn't do for columbines like those in my garden! gorgeous!

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  3. I am dazzled, flummoxed and yes, awed, by these blue poppies. I wonder if I should try to grow some? The blue is heavenly.

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  4. What a beautiful garden tour, and I just love the blue poppies.

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  5. Almost effortless! LOL! Tatyana~What a garden~gardeners who have short seasons like an Alaska summer deserve beautiful, luscious gardens. Sigh~I will never have a blue poppy at C&L!

    Glad you joined the celebration! gail

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  6. What amazing gardens you saw. Beautiful in the rain. Thanks to your husband for holding the umbrella.

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  7. Tatyana - lucky you to visit this beautiful place. There is a lot of work going into these gardens. Thanks for sharing this. I am going to check out her blog.

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  8. What a great garden - and I love Mecanopsis.

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  9. What a beautiful garden. Thank you for the tour.

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  10. WOW! You scored - finding that garden tour - how cool!!
    Looks like their climate is real similar to ours - at least their plants are similar.
    Those blue poppies are so gorgeous! Love that rock border in front of that perennial garden. WOW!
    Looks like you had a fantastic time - FUN!
    -Sara.

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  11. wow what wonderful photos Tatyana. I used to grow the blue poppies from seed. I have grown them here in Scotland but the ground where I located them was too wet and they didn't make it through one of our wet winters. The blue is so stunning especially en masse like in your photo.

    Normally in the UK we don't let them flower in their first year and snip of any buds that form so that it can build up a good root system for the years to come - I'm not sure if thats whats done in the USA aswell but thought I should pass on that little tip to you. :) Rosie

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  12. Tatyana your pics certainly do justice to this indescribable blue. I would like these poppues in a totally green border without any other colour to distract. Thank you for the tour

    Laura x

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  13. I'd give anything to have some of these poppy seeds! They are awesome! My brother lives in Kenai ... so glad you had a lovely time. The florals are all fabulous!!

    Have a great day!
    TTFN ~ Marydon

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  14. What a spectacular garden, thank you so much for the tour! I could cry (literally) over the poppies. I planted 2 this year and they are sitting, staring at me. Not suffering, but not growing and certianly not showing any inclination to bloom. I am blue with envy! ;)

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  15. What a bonus for a day. There gorgeous would rival any anywhere wouldn't they. Gorgeous. I think the himilayan poppy is stunning but I hear it is hard to grow. Good for them.

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  16. Such beautiful gardens. I am so glad you share them with us all!

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  17. That blue poppy is amazing! I've seen them once, and until I saw them, the pictures always looked like silk flowers to me. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Such a rare and beautiful flower....I do hope you are able to find some for you garden...that way we get to enjoy them in your posts.

    Your photos of the gardens are so beautiful and I love the containers full of some of my favorite Violas :-)

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  19. Glad to see someone's blue poppies are blooming this year. Mine are sulking (a bit too much shade, I think) but maybe this rain we've been having will perk them up. Or wash them away, one of the two;)

    Fritz Creek is a hidden gem of a nursery here. We really don't have big destination nurseries except for that one. Everyone sells out of blue poppies every year, even the nurseries that buy/grow in bulk. I guess gardeners are never tired of that true light blue.

    I was bummed to miss that Homer tour, esp. after seeing your pics!

    Christine in Alaska

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  20. Wow... a sight to behold...love those blue poppies.

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  21. My jaw would still be hanging open. What a magical place, her gardens....

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  22. What a beautiful garden! And the blue poppies are lovely. Since they need cool summers, I'm afraid I'd have no luck in growing them here. Hope you have success with them in your garden, Tatyana!

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  23. You ROCK! By showing me all these beautiful gardens. And your photography is awesome, rain or shine. I too have learned alot from your posts. Blue Poppies, how fun, I'm in zone 7 maybe I'll try some or one. I especially love the rows and rows of gardens. I need alot of work :)

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  24. I have been strolling through your vacation pictures today. I am ready to pack my bags and head to Alaska! Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful place....

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  25. Such a beautiful garden, in such a beautiful place.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  26. What spectacular gardens and setting! Gorgeous... I cannot see where you see the "effortless" though. ;>)) What an accomplishment! Your photos are great Tatyana ... and to think it was raining! WEll Done! I hope you can grow those beautiful blue poppies. ;>)

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  27. Gorgeous!!!!
    Did you get my email telling you that you WON my June's flower photo contest??? Congratulations!!! I will be sending you the widget for your blog soon....great job!

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  28. Wow! What an amazing garden. Love the blue poppy.

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  29. aloha,

    i loved the tour, what a huge garden and amazing to see the variety...that blue poppy is incredible..wish they loved the hot humid hawaaiian climate...very nice tour of this garden...lucky you!

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  30. Blue poppies exist only in my dreams. How gorgeous! Despite the rain, your photos are lovely, and Brenda Adam's garden is amazing.

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  31. What an exquisite garden ! I imagine the brief growing season makes it all the more precious. My first in-person viewing of Mencopsis was at Fergusons Fragrant Nursery near St Paul Oregon, a bit south of Portland..was I excited ! All efforts to grow it here have met with failure.

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  32. Lovely flowers, beautiful landscape, excellent photos. Thanks for sharing. Wish I could see them in person.

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  33. I 've never tried to grow blue poppies but then I have clay soil and my garden is in zone3. They are very pretty. Sorry to hear about your neigbour killing your fireweed.

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  34. What a beautiful place. Amazing what than can thrive in your climate.

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  35. When I look at your title "Meeting a Blue Poppy in Alaska" I thought you were joking. But no, you are not joking, there is blue poppy, it's amazing and so beautiful.

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  36. ALLIUM SPHAEROCEPHALON is the name of the Allium in my garden...is that the name of yours???

    I love blue poppies...so enchanting!

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  37. It is said Alaska gardeners have the opportunity to grow a greater variety of blue flowers than any other US state. That may be the trade-off for our growing season of only 90 days! Yes, I have Mecanopsis 'Lingholm' (Himalayan poppy) in my garden too. 8-)

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  38. I am so amazed how colors are so vivid in the northern parts of our gardening zones. I am so used plant colors fading in this area zone 6a and southward fading this time of year. After visiting Chicago when I lived in Texas and living in Colorado/Wyoming for a few years, it is amazing how a few degrees in temperature can change things! Awesome photography. Greggo

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  39. What wonderful pictures. The rain adds to the "realness" of the scenes. I hope the umbrella holder had an umbrella too.

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