I would never have thought that a cup of coffee and a chat about gardens would culminate in sleepless nights worrying about poppies.
Back in February, following that cup of coffee, we became involved in the Royal British Legion Centenary Poppy Campaign. The campaign aimed to “cover the UK with poppies during the centenary period in commemoration of all those who lost their lives in the First World War”.
The design brief was to incorporate an area of poppies into the Civic Gardens at Tenbury Wells the flowering of which would, this year, coincide with the Tenbury Wells 1914 Committee Commemorative events between August 2nd and 4th.
The design, based on a river, started part way down the garden widening as it meandered around Mulberry trees before cutting across the garden to form a delta on the opposite side. The hope was it would bring to mind the ever increasing number of young men who had volunteered and given their lives in the service of King and Country during the first world war.
I’d like to say it all went without a hitch but the problem with plants is they have absolutely no consideration for your plans whatsoever. In fact the worst thing you can do with a plant is expect it to perform on cue, ask anybody involved in show gardens and we were asking thousands of poppies to flower in situ and on time.
It all started well. Tenbury answered the call for volunteers and there was fabulous turnout with those volunteering ranging from pre-school to pensioners. Scouts, Cadets, Tenbury councilors, staff from the local TSB and members of The Hereford Horticultural Hub all came along and lend a hand.
The ground was prepared, the seed sown and so we waited.
It soon became apparent that something had gone awry and was causing vast areas of poppy seedlings to expire, more seed was sown. Again germination occurred shortly followed by a sudden demise.
At this stage it wouldn’t be overstating things to say I was more than a little anxious. Poppies are a fickle flower, they hate root disturbance so I sought advice from The Cottage Herbery who have grown corn poppies for Chelsea. Several hundred seedlings were taken out in the hopes of growing them on to fill spaces. It’s not something I would recommend in the normal course of events.
So by the middle of May I had 340 poppy seedlings being cosseted it pots at home with nightly slug patrols taking place, 180 freshly sown poppies pricked out into plugs and Kim from the Cottage Herbery growing more poppies as a backup.
At the end of June the remaining poppies in pots and plugs were planted out and the job of cosseting was handed over to the groundsman. Fingers were crossed, encouraging words were spoken and nightmares of marauding herds of poppy eating wilder beasts were had.
I’m not sure any plants, outside of showing have ever had as much time and effort lavished upon them. Was it worth it……
……I think so.
Many thanks to all involved in this project but in particular Dawn from Tenbury Council, Dave who took care of the river and Kim from the Cottage Herbery.