Do Your Poppies POP?

Visit any nursery at this time of year and the chances are you’ll come across poppies in full bloom. In my own garden the annual varieties and perennial Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica) are still tight buds but the oriental poppies (Papaver orientalis) have been showing off their gaudy colors for a few days now.


Large and luscious  – the oriental poppy loves full sun and dry or well-drained soil

Their ephemeral beauty can be lost, however, without great foliage to show them off. I’ve shared one such vignette with you before; Creating a Picture Frame with Foliage but rather liked this  combination I spotted in my garden yesterday that we could call…

Fire and Ice


A fleeting Garden Moment – without the foliage these poppies would just be flowers.

The vibrant orange  oriental poppy (an unknown variety that was a gift from a friend) gains depth from the rich hues of Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’) behind it while Skylands spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’) glows to one side.


Backed by Orange Rocket barberry the poppies become serious Drama Queens

Tempering this heat, the cooling silver and blue-green foliage of a weeping willowleaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) and Blue Shag pine (Pinus strobus ‘Blue Shag’) create a soothing backdrop.


The reflective silver leaves of the weeping pear

A large, wide boulder adds a sense of solidity to the scene, balancing the vertical lines of the poppy stems.

What other foliage plants would transform  these everyday orange poppies into something special?



Double Play Gold spirea opens orange before transitioning to gold tipped with red.

Many spirea have foliage in shades of gold with orange-red new growth at this time of year e.g. Magic Carpet, Goldflame, Double Play Gold.


Coppertina ninebark glows in the sunshine

Coppertina, Center Glow and Amber Jubilee ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious) all boast warm colors of amber through mahogany in spring.



The new growth on Old Fashioned smoke bush

I love the Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) with its soft blue-green leaves. The new growth and stems are usually rosy pink that only adds to the charm


Silver Brocade wormwood  could be used as a groundcover under the orange poppies.

There are many silver leaved shrubs and perennials that could substitute for the weeping pear from the old fashioned daisy bush (Brachyglottis greyi) and silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum) to wormwood (Artemisia) varieties e.g. Silver Mound   and dusty miller (Senecio cineraria).

How have you paired your poppies with foliage to really make them POP? Leave us a comment below or post a photo to our Facebook page. We’d love to see and hear your ideas!

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6 thoughts on “Do Your Poppies POP?

  1. Jim

    My poppies in CT have not popped as yet. The buds are so large, this week’s heat has to force them open! I knew that was Orange Rocket, I want that. Just bought a new house, I’ll have to find a place for it. I’m glad you mentioned CenterGlow ninebark. Some of the other varieties seem to get more notoriety but I found that i LOVE the orangey glow in the center of the newly emerging leaves to be a showstopper early in the season. Unfortunately I didn’t even think about it but put blood red poppies in front of CenterGlow insead of orange. Oh well, lessons learned.

  2. margist

    What do the Center Glow and Coppertina Ninebarks look like the rest of the season? Do they retain any of the warm color, or go green in the heat of summer? What about fall color? And, are they deer favorites?

    Love your combinations, thank you for sharing1

    1. Jim

      Center Glow for me in CT darkens as the summer heats up. They have Diablo in the genetic makeup so the leaves get much more burgundy. They do not turn green at all. I do not recall fall color that much. They are NOT deer favorites which is extremely important in my yard. It has been left alone as everything around it gets munched on.

    2. Karen Chapman Post author

      Hi Margist, Jim has responded to the question about color below and I agree: both hold their warm color without turning green but typically darken. In fall the color is a blend of red shades – not as outstanding as a maple but still attractive.

      I have to disagree with Jim on deer taste though as these were munched ruthlessly in my garden. The ones that survive are barricaded behind large spirea so I can still see the top few feet but the deer can’t physically reach them.

      Yes deer have fickle taste…

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