A few years ago I bought a passport to the annual Open Gardens Toronto. I found myself in a shady Annex garden with a double wide lot (wow, does it get better than that?) The gardener had a great selection but one plant and its story captured my imagination. There were a few of us garden tourists gawking at the plants when the homeowner started talking about her wood poppies. She had a small drift of these woodland beauties and announced that it was quite probable that she had more wood poppies growing in her backyard than were growing wild in all of Ontario. Its sad predicament was enough to convince me to grow the wood poppy but there's more than a sob story to recommend it. The deep yellow bloom, not fully opened in the picture above, looks really stunning in dappled shade and full shade. Although short-lived, the blooms are plentiful. Peak blooming time is right now, early spring, but flowers appear sporadically throughout the summer.
The flower buds provide quite a bit of interest because they are covered in fine white hairs. They appear on on stems about a foot high. The foliage is impressive featuring large lobed leaves. Wood Poppy is described as a plant of moist deciduous forests which makes its performance in my garden somewhat of a surprise. It is growing in the driest and most soil-poor section of my garden: right under a mature fir tree with a soil depth of maybe two or three centimeters. It gets a few hours of early morning sun and is then plunged into deep shade for the remainder of the day. Apparently, these growing conditions are perfect for my wood poppies. They are thriving.
In just a few years my small plants have grown into impressive clumps. They are beginning to form a dense ground cover. The wood poppy is famous for self-seeding. I have found seedlings doing very well in some very tough spots including a sidewalk crack. I'm hopeful that my wood poppies will continue to multiply eventually surrounding the base of the fir tree which has been a barren wasteland for years.
I'm glad I visited that Annex garden. The gardener shared a wood poppy seedling with me and provided some inspiration. I was intrigued enough to seek out and purchase a few more plants. Maybe one day I'll be able to claim Ontario's largest wood poppy population.