The Flanders poppy.
The Flanders poppy. Contributed

Perfect time to plant a bloom of respect

THERE are two plants that have particular importance on Anzac Day: rosemary, and the red poppy, commonly known as the Flanders poppy.

Rosemary is said to help to improve memory, and has long been used as a symbol of fidelity and remembrance in literature and in folklore.

When Anzac troops landed at Gallipoli, rosemary was growing in profusion on the peninsula, and so it has become an important part of Anzac commemorations.

The Flanders poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is also closely associated with Anzac Day and also Remembrance Day in November.

Poppy seeds can lie dormant in the soil for a long time, germinating when the soil is disturbed and the weather warms.

This is what happened in the fields of Belgium and France in the spring of the years 1914-1918.

The vivid red of the poppy was said to come from the blood of fallen soldiers soaking into the soil, and the sight of the red poppies was the inspiration for Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the poem In Flanders Fields.

Red poppies were also growing on the Gallipoli peninsula when Anzac troops landed there in April, 1915.

After the war ended, the Flanders poppy was adopted as the emblem for organisations working to support returned soldiers and their families, as well as the families of soldiers who lost their lives.

Even without the deeply important symbolism, the Flanders poppy is really beautiful and definitely worth growing.

It is really easy to grow from seed. Plant seeds now, around Anzac Day, and they will be in bloom in spring, around Remembrance Day.

Sow seed directly into garden beds or pots after enriching the soil with well-rotted organic matter, or filling pots with premium potting mix.

Cover the seed with a thin layer of seed-raising mix, and keep moist. Seedlings should emerge in 10-14 days.

Thin as necessary, keeping plants about 20cm apart. (This may sound wasteful, but a single packet has about 2000 seeds, so you have plenty.)

Protect the young seedlings from snails and slugs.

You will get bigger, better, more numerous flowers if you feed the plants with a liquid fertiliser every few weeks as they grow, and remove spent flowers to encourage more to form.

They look very pretty in a vase, so pick the just-opening buds with long stems and enjoy them in the house. Picking flowers encourages the plant to produce even more, so don't hold back.

Got a gardening question? Email maree@edenatbyron.com.au



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