The very first Icelandic poppy of the year, a pale lemon yellow fella, unfurled its skirts in the high tunnel this week. It’s sitting on the kitchen window sill looking out at the spring sleet. One of the miracles of flower farming is that, no matter how much I was grumbling and unappreciative after cutting thousands of stems of a flower the previous year, its annual return in response to spring’s call always thrills me. The beauty is new again, year after year.
Icelandic poppies are full of life and personality, and they curve and change and look around, as you see here. They’re labor-intensive – the poppy bed is checked at least twice a day in order to cut the pods just as they are cracking to show a little color, for good vase life. Often wholesalers sell them at this stage, half in and half out of their pods; and many pods never open. When I sold flowers wholesale in Portland I always dipped icelandic poppy stems in boiling water to speed opening, and broke the flowers out of their little pod jails. It was a lot of extra work but florists appreciated knowing exactly what they were getting – every stem had an open flower, and the color and size of the flower was clear. Now I sear the stems just for myself and my own floral designs. I plant maybe 250 Icelandic poppies a season rather than 3-4 times that many, so the pod-breaking is less a chore and more a treasure hunt.
Other flower news here in Lewis County/Southwest Washington: Columbines are sending up flower stalks and lilacs buds are coloring. Ranunculus are in full swing, though an evil mole family has discovered the joys of surfing through soft sandy high tunnel soil right under the ranunculus, seriously endangering the whole crop; I keep battling them, wish me luck! The high tunnel roses are several weeks ahead of the outdoor roses and I’m hopeful we may cut our first buds by Mother’s Day. And our January-planted sweet peas should also be blooming very soon – check your bouquets for these fragrant frills in the next few weeks.
Tulips forced into early bloom were definitely the stars of Woodbine Flowers Easter bouquets and arrangements; parrot tulips are going out with a roar on my kitchen table!