Tulsa World, Oklahoma
June 8 2013
Russell Studebaker: Fireball poppy is rare, desirable cultivar
By RUSSELL STUDEBAKER In Our Gardens on Jun 8, 2013, at 2:26 AM
Updated on 6/08/13 at 5:43 AM
Starting from Mexico in 1541, the Spanish conquistador Francisco
Coronado searched in vain for the fabled cities of gold in the plains
of Texas and Kansas. A few centuries later, and not far from Wichita,
I discovered a plant that is almost as rare as Coronado’s gold, at
least in the nursery trade.
One spring in the ’70s while traveling through the little town of
Winfield, Kan., I saw a traffic island where magnificent double orange
poppies grew. Those poppies were as desirable to me as the gold
Wanting to expand the species range, I “borrowed” a small piece. And
through the years, I rarely saw this poppy in gardens, except in the
Victorian cottage gardens in Eureka Springs, Ark. It grew differently
than the Oriental poppies as it was prone to increase by underground
Emulating Coronado’s extensive quest, I determined to learn its name.
So I made color copies of the plant in flower and wrote its
description. Like a rap sheet for a wanted person, I mailed these to
several horticultural experts who might know. All answered that they
were unfamiliar with the plant.
But finally the true identity came with a letter from the late Fred
McGourty, owner of Hillside Gardens, a perennial nursery in Norfolk,
Conn., and the former editor of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
He wrote that, “there were not many cultivars of poppies with double
flowers and this one appeared to match the Armenian poppy, Papiver
lateritum “Flore Pleno,” and it was a (pass-along) plant in rural
Then in Christopher Grey-Wilson’s definitive book, “Poppies,” he
reports that the Armenian poppy is native to the mountains of Turkish
Armenia (Lazistan) where it inhabits rocky places, cliff crevices and
screes at high altitudes. Perhaps that is why it seems to thrive so
well in the rocky soils and high altitude of the Ozarks.
He says that “it appears that the status of the cultivar Flore Pleno,
also known as Fireball, is unclear, but thinking would have it in a
form of the Armenian poppy or at least to have that species in its
parentage. But in literature, it is often classed as a form of the
Oriental poppy, and though that is clearly wrong.”
This perennial poppy only grows 8 to 12 inches tall with its double
orange flowers almost 3 inches in diameter. It seldom stays where it
is planted and wanders, popping up elsewhere in the garden.
Gray-Wilson says that there are two forms of Fireball in cultivation,
one with larger flowers and more robust than the other. With the
flower’s color, it is probably best used with gray or silver foliage
plants and is a plant for the front of the border.
Those that I have seen in Arkansas seem to grow in more clumps than
mine. This poppy is long lived in the garden, despite its roving
nature, and desires a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or part
shade. And like Oriental poppies, they go completely dormant in the
summer and do not want any water and don’t emerge again until cooler
weather in fall or early spring. Propagation is by division or
separation of the runners in spring.
Sources: From gardeners who grow it, and mail: High Country Gardens,
Santa Fe, N.M.; 1-800-925-9387; tulsaworld.com/highcountry
Now I am 99.9 percent sure that with the description and photo that
this nursery portrays of this plant it is the Armenian poppy Fireball.
High Country lists it as “heirloom hybrid” poppy as Papaver
intermedium (Double orange hybrid Oriental poppy).
There are wonderful old plants to rediscover in communities and
cottage gardens that are well worth learning their name and their
Garden event: The Cacti & Succulent Society of Tulsa will hold a show
and sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Tulsa Garden
Center, 2435 S. Peoria Ave.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress