A history of the remembrance poppy, and how to grow your own
With Remembrance Day this weekend, now is the time for reflection. Many of us choose to wear the poppy as a symbol of this reflection to remember the sacrifice that others have made. The money from these poppies goes towards a great cause, with all proceeds supporting serving and veteran British soldiers.Last year over 800,000 ceramic poppies were ‘planted’ outside the Tower of London as part of World War One’s centenary, which helped revive this emblem and remind people of its importance. To help understand more about it and how you can show your support we’ve looked at its history and how you can grow your own.
History of the poppy
The poppy has long been representative of the horrors of war as during the First World War it was noted as the only plant that would still grow in ravaged battlefields. It inspired the poet John McCrae to write the now famous war poem In Flanders Fields:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Taken from ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae
McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic to adopt the symbol and produce millions of silk representations of these hardy flowers. They were brought to the UK in 1921 and adopted by the British Legion the same year. The organisation sells millions of them every year, to this day.
What type of poppy is the remembrance poppy?
The traditional poppy used as a sign of remembrance is the red cornfield poppy. The flower is found throughout Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia.
How do I grow my own?
Poppies generally grow best in a cool environment. They’re very hardy and resistant to harsh weather such as frost though in cooler climates like the UK they should be still be sown in springtime. You should be able to pick up poppy seeds from your local garden centre and can expect to see the plants flowering between June and August. If you want more poppies to grow year after year, wait until the petals have dropped off and only the flower head remains. Either snip off the head and collect the brown seeds inside, or bend the plant and shake out the seeds,
Poppies are grown naturally across the UK and pop up everywhere from to motorway laybys to countryside gardens. If you want to plant poppies in your own garden then you should take the following steps:
– Take your poppy seeds and mix them with sand to make spreading them evenly easier
– Identify where you want them to grow(this should be somewhere with good levels of sunlight, but that can ideally offer shade when the sun is at its highest)
– Spread them across your selected area
– Cover them with only a thin layer of soil as poppy seeds germinate best when they have some exposure to sunlight
– When the plants are about 1 inch tall trim them back so your flowering plants will stand about 6-10 inches apart
Although we’re all used to seeing poppies in their natural environment blanketing fields, they can also be grown indoors. You can plant them in pots near windows or even in your garden shed. To grow your poppies indoors, take the following steps:
– Fill a pot no smaller than 2 ½ inches with a pre-prepared germinating mix and moisten
– Mix your seeds with sand and spread evenly around the pot
– Cover the pot with a plastic sheet to keep the moisture in
– The seeds will start to germinate in 2 weeks, once they do, remove the plastic sheet from your pot
– Place your pots in a window or somewhere with plenty of sunlight
– Water from the bottom by placing in a bowl or sink with ½ an inch of water until the top soil shows signs of moisture
As Remembrance Sunday arrives remember to buy a poppy from The British Legion to support those who have served in the armed forces and remember those who died in service. If you want to show your support year round, then planting a batch of the iconic red cornfield poppies is a simple, yet respectful way of doing so.