The Horticultural Symbol Of The Armistice And Veterans Day
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly. . .
So begins the poem In Flanders Field by Canadian Physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, in May of 1915 upon witnessing the battles in Ypres salient, France. One of the most recognized symbols of Veterans Day is the corn poppy, or red poppy Papaver rhoeas. It grows on the battlefields of Europe, blooming from March-July. Soldiers returning home from World War I reported the awesome sight of the battlefields bereft of any life, covered from end to end with delicate red poppies. In their hearts and minds, the red poppy symbolized the blood shed and the sacrifice made by the soldiers buried beneath the surface. After the war, there was little organized care for veterans, so groups began making red paper poppies and selling them on Armistice Day, November 11, to raise money to care for wounded veterans. The red poppy has remained one of the most frequently used symbols of solidarity for veterans, especially in the British Commonwealth.
On Veterans Day, Armistice Day, a horticultural tribute to Veterans. Thank you, to all of those who have served their countries.
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Growing Poppies in your Organic Garden
The poppy mentioned in the poem In Flanders Fields is the corn poppy. The common name comes from the fact that the poppies grow wild as weeds in grain fields. They are a beautiful sight and can be broadcast and will grow almost anywhere that the conditions are right. These poppies are annual wildflowers that grow best when sown on top of the soil. (Some have suggested that the churning of the soil on the battlefields exposed many of the native wildflower weeds to light, allowing them to finally sprout and grow.) In southern North America, they can be sown outside in the fall. In the North, they can be sown directly in the spring. They do not transplant well.
Some vital stats from Texas A&M Horticulture:
- Average planting success with this species: 80%
- Height: 2-2 1/2 feet
- Germination: 10-30 days
- Optimum soil temperature for germination: 60-70F
- Sowing depth: Surface Sow
- Blooming period: March-July
- Average seeds per pound: 3,200,000
- Seeding rate: 2 lbs. per acre
- Suggested use: Flower gardens, roadsides, meadows, mixtures, cut flowers.
If you want your annual poppies to re-seed, you cannot mulch over them. You might consider letting the plants go to seed and then collecting the seed. You can also just order a new bag of seeds each year to plant.
Other Poppies for your Organic Garden
Oriental Poppies, Papaver orientale are the large perennial poppies that do well in gardens. They bloom in the early spring, and their foliage then goes dormant throughout the summer. They like well-drained soil, and will rot if planted in wet soils.
California Poppies, also called Golden Poppies, Eschscholzia californica, are also wildflowers. They are invasive in some areas, which makes it important for organic gardeners, especially, to determine whether the plants are a good idea in their area. In California, where they are native, they are perennials. In colder areas, they are annuals.
The red poppy is the symbol of Armistice Day. It, and other species in the poppy family are beautiful additions to any garden.