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In Flanders Fields: perpetuating poppies


It is an honour to have a column published on Anzac Day.

In previous years I have written about gardeners who have perpetuated this day of remembrance by planting flowers that invoke strong memories of the fallen; one being Alf Stone, a returned vet, now deceased, who only planted the Flanders Poppy (Papaver rhoes), which is marked by its dark, red flowers with red centres.

This Anzac Day, I would like to honour Jim Oliver who, this year, passed on.

This wonderful gent and his wife, Shirley, for many years preserved the ‘Springsong’ poppy, which was a legacy from George Dent from New Lambton, where, on Anzac Day, gardeners lined up in their hundreds to buy as many Springsong poppies as they could fit in their garden.

These incredible people tried hard to preserve the tradition of planting poppies on Anzac Day.

Poppies prefer an alkaline soil, which means digging in poultry manure and adding lime during cultivation.

New poppy seedlings do require a little TLC until they become stronger; it helps a week or two after  
planting to lift up the delicate leaves from the soil, carefully turning it over to aerate the plants.

The sprig of rosemary worn on Anzac Day, is popular as it originated on rocky hills of the Mediterranean where many battles were fought.

This hardy plant has been valued for centuries for its perfume, medicinal and culinary uses.

Rosemary is a little easier to grow than poppies; in fact, they are so hardy, they will thrive in poor soil and tolerate coastal winds.

Growing up to 1.2 metres, rosemary has narrow, needle-like leaves that are dark green, bearing clusters of blue flowers.

It makes an ideal low hedge.

This week

  • Corms of gladiolus that have finished flowering can be lifted now.
  • Lawn lovers are still having problems with brown patches inflicted by army grub. Keep applying Seasol, from the green areas, where roots are still viable, through to brown patches to encourage root growth.
  • It is cyclamen time, but still quite warm – freshen these colourful blooms at night by popping them outside in a sheltered spot until next morning.
  • Divide overcrowded agapanthus.

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