Oriental Poppies, Ornamental Onions & Organic Tomatoes

The magic of Oriental Poppies, drought tolerant Ornamental Onions and the benefits of garden recycling.

Most keen gardeners have heard of Bob Flowerdew. Bob is widely regarded as the best organic gardener in the U.K. Bob is the author of many excellent organic gardening books, and has encouraged many gardeners to tend their plots without the use of commercial non-organic pesticides and fertilisers. I am sure that Bob would not mind if I suggested that he also gardens without great expense, he has certainly influenced my gardening habits when it comes to recycling and thinking about what I can use from my rubbish bin the day before the bin men come.

Environmentally Friendly Tomatoes

My tomatoes this year have been grown the Bob Flowerdew way! Following germination, the seedlings were potted on into old toilet roll tubes, which were stood on a tray preventing the compost from escaping and allowing for basal watering. A few days ago, I moved the tomatoes outside to their final planting position; a pair of old tyres! (pictured). We had some new tyres on the family car recently and I asked the tyre dealer if I could have the old ones for my garden. He looked at me a bit strangely, but was only too happy for me to do my bit to reduce the pile of spent tyres at the side of his premises. My tomatoes now look very happy in their special and rather unusual containers.

Ornamental Onions

I had no idea, before I became a keen gardener that onions could be so interesting! May is the time of year for most of the ornamental onions to come into flower. In this age of drought orders and hosepipe bans, us gardeners need to be looking for plants like the ornamental onions to add some drought resistant interest to our gardens

Ornamental onions (Allium species and cultivars) need very little attention once you have planted them. Plant the bulbs about 3 times their own depth in late summer or early autumn and you will be rewarded with these interesting flowers in late Spring. Alliums thrive in poor soil and in hot, sunny sites. The flowers are usually clustered in a spherical ball on the top of tall flower stalks. Allium christophii is a well known favourite, having the biggest flower clusters, 50 or so star shaped, pale purple flowers clustered in a globe that is 10 inches in diameter. Allium 'Purple Sensation' also has 50 or so star shaped flowers but they are dark violet in colour. For a different flower colour and a shorter plant, try Allium moly, which has bright, golden yellow flowers and is only about 20cm tall. You can see details and a photo of another species; Allium rosenbachianum in the bulb section of the plantadvice plant database, click on the PlantAdvice tab. So, go on do your bit for water conservation and plant some ornamental onions.

Oriental Poppies

Extravagant, spectacular, luxurious. No, I'm not thinking of a top of the range sports car or a very expensive wedding. For me, these three adjectives perfectly describe probably my favourite group of plants at this time of year; oriental poppies. I love this time of year, I can go to work in the morning and return in the evening to find another oriental poppy has popped out of it's furry, green bud. For me at this time of year, there is nothing to match oriental poppies.

Most of the cultivars available are variations of Papaver orientale, which is native to The Caucasus, North East Turkey and Northern Iran. Papaver orientale has orange-red flowers.

You can see a photo of Papaver orientale 'Beauty of Livermere' in the perennial section of the plantadvice plant database, click on the 'plant advice' tab. Papaver orientale 'Beauty of Livermere' has bowl shaped, deep scarlet flowers some 20cm in diameter. Some of my other favourite varieties include 'Mrs Perry' which has salmon pink flowers, 'Perry's White' has purple centred pure white flowers.

The oriental poppies in the PlantAdvice garden grow very happily in a very exposed but sunny front garden. It always amazes me how the tissue-paper thin petals stand up to the often brutal gale force winds in this location.

Oriental poppies have hairy, light green, fern-like leaves. If you cut back the foliage straight after flowering, new leaves will be produced, and possibly a second flush of flowers.

So, if you are looking for some wonderful deep colours to add to your borders at this time of year, I can thoroughly recommend oriental poppies.

Other jobs I have been doing in the last couple of weeks:

  • Pruning Spiraea species and cultivars that have just finished flowering.
  • Rubbing off aphid from the young shoots of roses and other plants.
  • Digging out spring bedding and preparing beds for summer bedding.
  • Moving greenhouse prepared containers and hanging baskets outdoors for the summer.
  • Spot weeding lawns.
  • Locking in the much-needed rain with a mulch.

Filed under General.

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