Poppies, Iris and Peonies.

Poppies, Iris and Peonies are the star attractions filling the gap between the spring bulbs and the summer perennials. Some of them are so OTT, others, more shy and retiring. The Iris come in all colours, some frilly and flouncy, some quietly unassuming. The peonies are usually white or various shades of red and pink, singles or doubles, some so double with so many flounces and frills, they can hardly hold their heads upright! Poppies that are flowering at the moment are the oriental poppies which demand to be the centre of attention, even though they are so fleeting. Colours vary from almost purple, through pink, red and orange to white.

Patty's Plum

Patty's Plum

One that certainly demands to be the centre of attention is Patty’s Plum, the colour of blackcurrant fool. After I had already planted one in the garden here, many years ago, we went on a short holiday in the Oxford area I think, and purely by chance found a nursery owned by Patricia Marrow, the Pat of Patty’s Plum. Having looked round the  lovely garden attached to the nursery, I then went to have a look at the plants for sale.

Patty's Plum

All the plants were standing on a membrane and had rooted through. When I tried to pick them up to examine them, I was shouted at in no uncertain terms, to leave the plants alone. This happened twice, I never do as I’m told if shouted at, we then decided to leave without buying anything.

Patty's Plum

I eventually gave my plant away to a friend as it reminded me so much of being shouted at!  But , the best way to increase oriental poppies is to take root cuttings, so guess what, she comes back to haunt me every year, each year getting bigger, better, more beautiful and more gorgeous, and to think that this plant has grown from the bits of roots that were left behind!

Oriental poppy

Just as beautiful, such a delicate pale pink, lost its name I’m afraid.

Oriental poppy

This is what we would call Barbara Cartland pink in this country, a romantic  novelist in the 80’s and 90’s who always wore this colour, complete with mascara the same as the centre of the flower! I have a white one somewhere, but haven’t seen any sign of it yet, will have to go searching and I must buy a heart stopping red for a certain place in the border by the field, have to make sure there are no pinks any where near it!

Kent Pride

The Iris year starts for me in the woodland where I have some small Californian Iris and Iris foetidissima, our native iris, these flower in early spring. They are followed by Iris japonica, which has beautiful small white, blue and yellow flowers and a dwarf bearded iris which flowered a good month ago, which is planted on the alpine scree to give it the drainage it enjoys. My first Iris photo is of a bearded iris, Kent Pride, which is in the bee and butterfly border, in the front garden. This border has had an enormous amount of gravel added to the soil, to help with the drainage, and it is also on a slope, so I can grow plants here that would sulk in the rest of the garden.

Iris variegata

This is the variegated version of the wild iris, Iris pseudacorus, which lives in water, bogs or moist soil, no wonder it is happy with me! The leaves revert to green after flowering, but from when the leaves come through the soil in the spring, the plant is contributing its spears to the overall scene.

Bearded Iris

This bearded Iris is absolutely gorgeous and it has a delightful perfume as if it didn’t already have enough plus points! I don’t know it’s name unfortunately, I found it languishing in a pot at a church plant sale. It wasn’t in flower when I bought it and  I was absolutely overjoyed when I saw it flowering a year later, then discovered the perfume as a bonus!


Another bearded Iris with no name! A gentle salmon colour which contrast nicely with all the forget me nots around it. Unfortunately some of my bearded iris haven’t flowered this year, a lovely almost black one and a yellow one, I found that the rhizomes were completely covered by forget me nots, so any sun wouldn’t be able to ripen them, not that we have had much sun, maybe that is the problem!

Dutch Iris

A Dutch Iris, Iris x Hollandica, which came in a mixed lot of bulbs, this one has rather nice markings.


Iris sibirica enjoys our heavy clay soil, there really is an iris for every situation and soil. Sun or shade, well drained or moist, there is an iris which will enjoy it.

Dutch Iris

Another of the mixed Dutch Iris bulbs.

Iris sibirica, white

A white version of Iris sibirica, enjoying all our rain!

English iris

A large clump of English iris, Iris latifolia, which can cope with heavier soil than the Dutch variety, there are a lot of flowers on each stem, so the clump is in flower for a long time.

Butter and Sugar

Iris sibirica Butter and Sugar coping well with all the torrential rain that we have been having for such a long time now. Thank goodness there are plants that don’t mind their feet in such wet soil.

I.laevigata variegata

Actually growing in the pond, in the shallow water at the edge, is Iris laevigata variegata. Even when not flowering, the leaves always look so fresh.


The last of my Dutch Iris, these were ordered separately, don’t remember ordering brown ones but they are growing on me!There are more varieties to come, ending for me with Iris ensata, another for the bog garden with beautiful horizontal flowers, these should be in flower in about a months time.


Peonies really do want to be the star attraction, earlier in the year we have gorgeous single mlokosewitschii, followed by the huge flowers of a tree peony, but at this time of the year it is the flouncy doubles that take centre stage, I think this is Bowl of Beauty.


What can I say, really ott, far too many petals, so of no use at all to the bees and butterflies, just like an ice cream sundae! At least , when it rains, the petals aren’t shattered to the ground like the singles and therefore last longer. I would say that 95% of the time any plant that I buy is of benefit to bees, birds or butterflies, but occasionally I buy just for me!

Top Brass

I have to admit that this is my favourite at the moment, not only is it so beautiful to look at, but it has the most gorgeous perfume, have to go and sniff it each day it is flowering, its name – Top Brass.

Frothy Pink

Another frothy pink one, I think I have too many pink peonies, must buy some dark red ones for the border by the field. That border is late to start flowering so if I introduce some peonies and poppies we will have some earlier flowers in that area.

As star performers, poppies, iris and peonies compete with each other for the chance to shine in a border. Colour clashes have to be avoided, red poppies need to be kept away from pink peonies, but most iris blend with their  planting partners. They really are wonderful plants to bridge the gap in the early summer planting before the roses  and summer perennials start flowering, enjoy them while you can as they don’t last long!

P.S. Do you remember the post I wrote recently about a wren’s nest being built on our swinging seat? click here. Mrs Wren has taken up residence and therefore no more sitting here to have our morning coffee, couldn’t anyway with all the rain we have been having! We will have to avoid that area for a while, that’s my excuse for all the weeds that will now grow!!





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28 Responses to Poppies, Iris and Peonies.

  1. Pauline I like the poppy story if those plants had grown down into the membrane they were probably pot bound so not worth buying anyway, she sounds dreadfully rude and doesn’t deserve to have such a beutiful poppy named after her, I usually don’t mind flowers that re-grow from root but not when weeds do!! I like all the poppies except Barbara Cartland pink but you would guess that after my recent post,
    I love all the irises they are all beautiful, I saw the variegated wild iris on Beth Chattos website and have thought of ordering it looks lovely in your garden, I love irises, the last one you show that is brown has purple and yellow in it, purple and yellow come from the opposite side of the colour wheel if the colours are mixed you get brown (or occasionally grey) so it looks like the colour pigments in the flower are mixing, I think my favourite of those you show is the perfumed blue and white bearded iris what a wonderful find, Frances
    ps peonies rarely do it for me,

    • Pauline says:

      I’m not sure if the person in question was Patricia Marrow, she was very elderly, even older than me! with white hair and I assumed it was her, if so, not the way to keep customers happy!
      The blue and white perfumed iris is a real stunner, couldn’t believe the perfume I discovered when weeding round it, makes weeding such a pleasure.
      Think I love peonies simply because they are so outrageous and so unlike anything else in the garden here, my bit of madness!

  2. alison says:

    I so enjoyed this blog and am as captivated by the plants and flowers as I am by your photography, which is astonishing. I would love to know what camera you use as I am very interested in plant photography – oh and a spot of gardening!

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks for your lovely comments Alison, about my photography. I just have a little point and press digital Olympus camera with built in macro lens. I’m really happy with the results except the built in telephoto, which isn’t very good at all. Glad you enjoy gardening as well as photography, thanks for stopping by, hope to hear from you again.

  3. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    Lovely photos! And boy do you have plenty of Irises and it looks like we have many of the same dutch Irises and yup I had the same situation – bought as a mix of bulbs so no idea what their names are! 😀

    Love the story about Patty’s Plum! It’s almost making me regret buying one now! 🙂
    So far my poppies have generally been a no-show. The Opium poppies especially. After germinating early in the season and getting my hopes up, they’s all but died now and I’m left with very few. I just cannot win sometimes – last year most of them died due to the drought over spring!!

    • Pauline says:

      The colour of Patty’s Plum Liz,seems so much better this year, I think because it hasn’t had any sun on it!! Where I have sprinkled seed of Opium poppies in the garden, they haven’t done anything, but where I have spread compost in the veggie garden, they are everywhere and about to burst into flower any moment!! Nature has the last laugh!

  4. That Patty’s Plum is gorgeous despite the yelling. Iris ensata is blooming here right now a couple of weeks early. Although the weather has been cool for a good month everything contnues to bloom early.

    • Pauline says:

      Carolyn, Patty’s Plum is a gorgeous colour this year, the bonus I think of having the weather cold and wet, I don’t think she likes the sun! We are finding that flowers are lasting a lot longer than they normally do, so there is a plus side!

  5. Your peonies are looking fabulous. I have a weakness for pink peonies with an abundance of petals, the more pretty petals the better. Well, better until the heavy rain starts to bow their heads. But then you can always cut them and enjoy them indoors.

    Your salmon coloured iris looks terrific against the blue of the forget me nots, a nice contrast. I like the ruffling and colours on your blue and white bearded iris.

    • Pauline says:

      I’m with you Northern Shade where peonies are concerned, the more outrageously frilly they are, the better! Also, all the colours of the Iris family means that they look good with everything else growing with them, such a versatile plant.

  6. Everything looks so nice! I am not sure I could pick a favorite… you are right about them all wanting to be star performers.

    I have also reduced my large clumps of bearded irises by letting their neighbors in fringe upon their rights. They do not like my succession planting/close planting style and really should be rescued before they are extinct from my beds.

    What a story about that nursery! Oh my. I would have walked off for sure.

    • Pauline says:

      Julie, I think I am going to have to make space around my bearded iris, they have got so hemmed in by other plants, must let the sun get at them! All three plants have had their moment of glory, they are coming to the end of their flowering now, but what an amazing few weeks it has been!

  7. Christina says:

    Pauline, what a lovely collection of Irises you have. Mine are now all finished but I still want to add some more as they give such structure to the planting and their colours are amazing. I know some bearded Iris flower again in autumn so I should look for some of these. I covert your salmon-roage one, just what I need! Christina

    • Pauline says:

      I really am seriously addicted to iris Christina ! They are so versatile, growing in every situation that we have here, I don’t think there is another plant that does that. Will have to look out for some that re-bloom, that would be super, iris in late summer!

  8. Alberto says:

    Hi Pauline! Yesterday I read your beautiful post and that patty’s plume poppy stayed in my mind for all the rest of the day. Later I went to a nursery and looked at all their oriental poppies. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything as pretty and charming as your poppies. It’s a shame that Patty was so rude to you but she certainly bred a good poppy! You can rename it maybe… Something like Bitchy’s plume?
    Glad to hear that wren’s nest didn’t stay empty for long…

    • Pauline says:

      Alberto, you always manage to make me laugh! According to various articles that I have read, Mrs Patricia Marrow, didn’t like the poppy when it first appeared in her garden so she consigned it to the compost heap. It was rescued by visiting nurserymen, Nori and Sandra Pope, Canadians, who ran their nursery at Hadspen House in Somerset, at the time. They propagated it and put it into circulation for us all to buy and called it after her!

  9. farm sheds says:

    Definitely a peonies girl! Who wouldn’t fall for this blooms. Thanks for the share.

  10. debsgarden says:

    What a wealth of gorgeous blooms! The lady sounds very rude, but I am glad Patty’s Plum returned; I think it may be my favorite! I also really like the Top Brass peony, as well as the brown dutch iris, though with all its wonderful shades I’m not sure I would call it brown!

    • Pauline says:

      Deb, I admit the iris does have lovely shades in it, maybe I should have said bronze! Most of these flowers are now over for another year, but I look forward to their season of sheer frothiness for a few weeks and enjoy them while I can.

  11. wellywoman says:

    What gorgeous photos, Pauline. Poppies are one of my favourites. I never used to like Irises but I’m growing to love them now and I’m slowing introducing them into the garden. As for peonies, well I love the flowers but I’m always disappointed at how quickly the flowers can go over in the rain. We used to live somewhere that had peonies and all it took was one downpour and that was it, gone. Are there varieties that are more robust?

    • Pauline says:

      So glad WW that you are coming to like the Iris family, they are such a diverse family, some will suit any situation that is offered to them. I feel for the bees sake, that I should have single peonies, but these do shatter in the rain. So far I have found that the doubles last longer because of course they can’t be pollinated and also they cope with the weather better than the singles.

  12. stone says:

    Sorry 2 hear the story of being shouted at. Reminds me of the time I visited the Mossy Creek Barnyard Festival.
    I was checking out 1 uv the gourds, and the person running the booth was determined that I wasn’t handling it correctly (it was s’posed to sound like a fountain r something).
    I commented twice (2 my friend), that the woman at the booth… didn’t think I was doing it correctly, and the woman ‘corrected’ me both times insisting that I wasn’t doing it correctly.
    I’m not sure that right and wrong necessarily apply to everything.
    Beautiful purple poppies, I wish I could grow Orientals.

    • Pauline says:

      Stone, I think some people should go on a customer relations course! Don’t they realise it’s bad for business to treat their customers in such a cavalier manner? What a shame you aren’t able to grow oriental poppies, I presume because you are too hot in the summer? Never mind, I’m sure there are loads of plants that you can grow which would just sulk on my wet soil!

  13. catmint says:

    I think poppies are my new favourite favourite flower. Anyway, after drooling over the poppy photos, I’m afraid the irises and peonies looked like pale imitations of paradise.

    • Pauline says:

      Poppies are so gorgeous aren’t they Catmint, but then I think that Iris and Peonies are too ! We all have our favourites and for me it depends what time of year it is, just shows how fickle I am!!

  14. Helle (Helen) says:

    Funny that you say the Bowl of Beauty peony is too frilly to be of any use to bees et al, as it is one of 5 flowers specially selected for their use to bees, bumblebees etc. that one can buy from Sarah Raven. But I agree, it does look very “cluttered”. Lovely all those poppies, my opium poppies are doing rather well at present, the oriental ones and the peonies were unfortunately rained to smithereens.

    If I may, I’d like to send you a mail one of the coming days with my meconopsis questions.


    • Pauline says:

      Helen, I’m amazed that bees can find their way through all those petals, but will bow to Sarah Raven’s superior knowledge in that department! The opium poppy seed that I sprinkled all came to nothing, but where I have put compost in the veggie garden, now has a nice covering of poppies!
      I will certainly try to answer any questions about meconopsis, still learning myself as I go along!
      You can contact me at pauline@leadupthegardenpath.com

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