Here is a fascinating tale of Papaver Somniferum or the Opium Poppy. I collect the seed heads of these unpredictable and ravishing plants when I see them, the best. including the sumptuous double pink ones illustrated, were found around Brixton, where I live. This year they have rewarded me with unexpected brilliant colours and variety… last year all I got was the pale mauve reversion.
The poppy is a strange and potent plant. It’s seeds can lie dormant for many decades, even centuries, but when the earth is moved they put up a display unaccountably, gloriously, unexpectedly. (a perfect example. Flanders Field…) They are also the source of the most potent painkiller and addictive drug known to man.
At Midland Farm, in Herefordshire, a garden designer called Sarah Smith threw a few seeds into the ground when she moved into her new home and started work on her garden. She was amazed and delighted to be rewarded with a crop of poppis of huge variety and richness, certainly far more than she had planted. It transpires that the garden had once been owned by an apothecary who had probably planted the poppies to make laudanum, a popular mixture of opium and alchohol, much favoured by the poets and thinkers of the late 19th century. The seeds had lain dormant until the earth was disturbed by Sarah exposing them to the light which triggered generation.
I read about this is The Garden: www.rhs.org.uk
Before you dash off to scatter your own seeds I should warn that the opium poppy flower lasts about a day, has ugly legs and a will of its own.