Monday, 1 July 2013

Have you ever wanted to stroll into the Wild Blue Yonder?

wild blue yonder of blue poppies at Branklyn Garden Perth Scotland
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to stroll into the wild blue yonder? Well here in Perthshire we have our very own wild blue yonder.  In early summer fellow gardeners and photographers from all over the world come to see what is probably one of the most coveted plants in the Northern Hemishphere . . . the Meconopsis.  

Branklyn Garden in Perth holds the National Collection of Meconopsis and in May and June the borders are full of different shades of those elusive and connoisseur blue poppies. 

What's in a name?

John and Dorothy Renton created the woodland garden at Branklyn in the 1920's and as the garden grew they became keen plant collectors growing most of their plants from seed sourced from Tibet, China and Bhutan.   

During the 1930's the Scottish plant explorer George Sherriff gave them meconopsis seeds  from his travels with Frank Ludlow in the Bhutan border region of North East India. 
Blue poppies growing in front of  Renton's home at Branklyn Garden
Blue poppies growing in front of  the Renton's home at Branklyn Garden
Those seeds were successfully germinated and nursed by Dorothy Renton and then the best ones planted in the garden.   
Genus: Meconopsis in the Papaveraceae family
Genus: Meconopsis in the Papaveraceae family
They also gave some of the seed to Jack Drake who owned Drake's Nursery at Aviemore in the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains.   After World War II only 6 of plants raised by Jack from that seed had survived.  From those Jack selected the best  to propagate from and by the late 1940's the first blue meconopsis poppies were commercially available in the UK.
meconopsis blue poppies growing at Branklyn Garden Perth, Scotland in June
In the wild blue yonder
Dorothy may never have been as famous as Gertrude Jekyll but she was also a renowned and award winning plantswoman of her generation.  
She left us a wonderful legacy of plants to enjoy from her garden at Branklyn which the National Trust of Scotland have nurtured and added to ever since they were bequeathed the garden in the late 1960's.  
blue Meconopsis poppies growing alongside Acers and Primulas
Meconopsis growing alongside acers and primulas
Today the Perthshire garden contains five different Meconopsis species along with 25 cultivars in various colours and range in sizes from 30 cm to 2 m tall.  

I've deliberately left the naming of meconopsis at Branklyn to the experts  except for these  two photographs as this meconopsis was named after the late Dorothy Renton and has been given an award of merit by the RHS.
Meconopsis 'Dorothy Renton'
Meconopsis 'Dorothy Renton'
Meconopsis 'Dorothy Renton' at Branklyn Garden, Perth
Meconopsis 'Dorothy Renton'

Scotland, Ireland, Northern England  have the ideal conditions for these poppies to grow as our summers are cool, cloudy and wet and we have reasonably cold winters.  Northern Canada and Alaska can also grow these plants as long as they are well irrigated during hot dry spells during the summer months.
meconopsis growing alongside hostas
Meconopsis growing alongside hostas
meconopsis down by the pond at Branklyn garden
Meconopsis growing down by the pond in amongst the astillbe, iris, lilies and the Himalayan lily - Cardiocrinium 
The shades of blue vary across the genus
various shades of blue Meconopsis
You'll also notice that there are many shades and hues of blue as the flowers mature on the stem as well as due to the acidity of the soil.  Some meconopsis enthusiasts are of the opinion that the air temperature around the time the buds are forming can also influence their shade of blue from year to year.  
Meconopsis have a range of flowering times
Meconopsis growing alongside lilies
I hope you enjoyed having a little glimpse of the Perthshire wild blue yonder and I'll share some more blues as well as Branklyn's pink, yellow and white cultivars in a few more days - the link is here: How to Grow Meconopsis Poppies.  

There's also slideshow that you might be interested in viewing of the meconopsis species growing in their Himalayan habitat by Toshiro Yoshida including some in bloom while still covered in snow. 

Thanks for stopping by today and I would love to hear from you especially if you've tried to grow these in your own garden or have seen these poppies elsewhere in the world.  Please feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section.

Interested in this topic?  You might enjoy another article called:

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Rosie is a passionate wildlife gardener in Scotland, a Perthshire / Tayside flower and garden photographer and writer.  She enjoys soaking up nature in her own garden and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that buzzes, creeps, crawls or flutters. She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography.

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Very interesting post! I had never heard or seen such poppies before, the colour is amazing. They must be even more beautiful in real life. Thanks for sharing a little history too, it's always interesting.

Oh my... what can one say... as I told a fellow blogger who grows these amazing plants (in Scotland)... to many of us, this is the holy grail of gardening... something we will never achieve and must admire from afar...
such unparalleled beauty... Larry


These are exquisite flowers. Thank you for the research into their history. Thank you John Drake. Thank you Dorothy Renton. Thank you Rosie for these fine photographs; especially the super close-up shot.

You are simply amazing!



They certainly are Gra especially when you see how tall they actually are.

@Larry :) I should have guessed that it was Alistair you were referring to as I've just popped up to his Aberdeen blog.

@Richard Havenga Oh you're very welcome Richard. I used to grow these from seed but need to introduce them to the leavesnbloom garden.

Wow those Meconopsis are exceptional because of the different hues they show in one group. Are those variations dependent on the maturity of the flowers? They are very temperate country dwellers, so nothing will be seen in our hot tropics.

I have never had the pleasure of seeing or hearing of these blooms, Rosie. Thank you for the introduction. The white variety in the slide show look very similar to Anemone Windflower growing in my gardens. Take a peek at them here:


Thanks for visiting Andrea. Each plant as far as I'm aware can be a different hue of blue each year but you're right about the maturity of the flower. I'm sure the variation in many of these photos is down to the maturity of the bloom.

@Carolyn ♥

Oh Carolyn I'll pop over now. I've got those white ones in my garden too and they love to naturalize.

@Carolyn ♥

oops Carolyn those are Japanese ones. I have a small one of those but so far it hasn't flowered yet. They flower in September here.

Rosie, Blue Meconopsis shown at its very best. I would like to say that you have inspired me to expand the area where I am growing ours. However it would mean clearing an area of other treasured plants which I am not so keen to do. I do want to have more of them , so I guess I will be sneaking them in here and there as is my fashion.

I love these poppies although they are harder to grow up here since we are on the borderline of their hardiness. You photos are lovely.