You may be sitting in your house, looking out at the rain or the cold and wondering "What the heck is there to plant in my garden right now?" It's a legitimate question. And here's a legitimate answer: breadseed poppies and sweet peas. It's somehow fitting that two of the most colorful and engaging flowers should arrive in January, just in time to cheer us up. No worries about rushing things, this really is the time to plant these guys. Everybody knows sweet peas but for those who may not be acquainted with Annie's Annuals, as the saying goes "You ain't seen nothing yet." They have over the years produced an intoxicating variety of these sweet-smelling annuals. Look for four new ones this year - two brilliant red varieties (Future Shock and Lynda's Blush), a rich purple variety (Paradox) plus a charming purple-splashed white variety (Nimbus).
Though breadseed poppies have their own fan club - if any plant should have a fan club it's breadseed poppies - there are still a few people apparently living in outer Siberia who haven't heard of them. There's an easy way to remedy that and that's by posting photos of some of the more notable ones. Okay, with permission from the kind folks at Annie's, here are some photos of these P 'N P's, with a few comments where appropriate. For those wanting to check out one or more of these flowers here's the Annie's link www.anniesannuals.com
Lathyrus 'Blue Vein.' One of the more intriguing sweet peas, with varying shades of orange, red and purple, with the veining more obvious than in some sweet peas.
Lathryus 'North Shore.' A lovely mix of blues, purples and lavenders. For some reason this variety reminds me of some of the Bearded irises I've seen. That's high compliment indeed for a sweet pea.
Lathyrus 'Blue Shift.' This unique variety actually changes color, starting off a rich violet-purple, then transitioning into lovely blue tones.
Lathyrus 'Future Shock.' This new variety also changes color, from coral orange to cherry red, finally adding hints of purple in the veining. No shock here, just plenty of eye candy.
Lathyrus 'Gwendoline.' You can't go wrong with the lovely pink-edged white flowers of this fragrant variety. One of the more ruffled varieties to boot.
Perhaps this year's most intriguing new entry, even down to its name (Nimbus). Undulating petals have a picotee edging and prominent purple veining. The word nimbus is defined as "a luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint" and either could apply to this beauty!
There's purple and then there's purple. As a New Yorker might say "We got your purple right here!" Another new offering, Lathyrus 'Paradox' has color (and fragrance) to spare. Not only that, it's a petite charmer, only growing to three feet tall.
Orange sweet peas are uncommon but this Lathyrus 'Prince of Orange' really crushes it (Orange Crush, got it? Okay back to the photos).
No slouches in the blooming department, breadseed poppies come in two basic forms - single and double (there are also a few semi-doubles). Here's one of the doubles (also known as Peony-style), Black Peony. The peony-style poppies have an almost inexhaustible number of petals and well, a style of their own. They can get so heavy, they'll actually bend the branch down a bit.
Papaver 'Danebrog.' Like the touchstone of some major cultural event (fill in yours), everybody remembers the first time they encountered a Danebrog poppy in bloom. One is likely to gape with open mouth and wonder whether the sight is real. Oh, yeah. Fire engine red and pure snow white next to each other and then the fringed petals.
I used to kid a co-worker who was prone to being, ahh, voluble that someone had named a poppy after her. "Really?" she gushed and then I showed her this flower. Indeed it is named Drama Queen and the reason for that becomes obvious at first glance.
There are some pretty amazing breadseed poppies but this Flemish Antique may take the grand prize. Just impossibly gorgeous, with seemingly a million petals and then the speckling. And each flower is slightly different from the other.
The poppy that launched a thousand others. This 'Lauren's Grape' was one of Annie's first breadseed poppies and that rich color has meant it has remained popular to this day.
Look up orange in the Visual Dictionary (not a real thing but it should be) and you'll see a photo of this Orange Chiffon poppy. Just impossibly supra-orange and when back-lit it positively glows. I grow it every year.
Is white a color? Some say no but then they haven't seen this Persian Princess poppy. Whiter than snow and ruffled, it seems to be its own galaxy around which everything turns.
There are many, many breadseed poppies but I'll end with this lovely Raspberry variety. I bet if you asked ten people what type of red it is you'd get ten different answers. It seems to be all reds rolled into one and that's part of its charm.