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I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Iceland Poppy

Well, actually he would NEVER have stood being called Pop!

This poppy popped out on August Dad's birthday.  If he was still alive he would have been 102.  Dad always had an affinity with poppies.

As a mere youth he came to Oz as a an immigrant from industrial England.  In return for his passage he had to agree to work in the country.  And that is Australian country not the lush fields of green England.  So it all came as a huge shock to him to be left by the service car at an intersection, in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere,  It was actually Mansfield.  Eventually someone came along in a horse and cart to pick him up and take him to the homestead.  The first thing the bloke said was, "Are you the bloody Pommy I am supposed to pick up?'  A very cold welcome to a boy from a city all alone in a new world.

In what became the pattern of his working life he was employed as one thing, a station hand,  but ended up becoming something else - the gardener.   He didn't have any gardening knowledge or experience but proved to be an quick learner.

He worked with the wonderful Edna Walling to create the garden.  From time to time this garden is open as part of the Open Garden Scheme and Mum, a sister and I visited it once.  It felt strange to see the garden he had worked in and the trees he had planted.  The owners were very interested in his story as they had been busy unearthing the bones of, and restoring, the Walling landscape.

Oh, I forgot, this post is supposed to be about poppies!  One afternoon Dad was putting blood and bone and probably manure on the flower beds.  The lady of the house, who was hosting afternoon tea for the ladies,  came down to complain about the awful smell.  Dad apologised (he was always a dear, polite man but also honest) and pointed out that she probably wouldn't be complaining when her poppies won a prize at the local show.  And of course they DID win because the blooms were huge and he was right, she didn't complain.

Dad always grew poppies in his own garden too.  He took enormous pride in bringing them into the house, just as the buds began to split.  They would sit on the kitchen table, drop their hairy calyx and unfurl their papery petals.  It always amazed me that you could sit and watch this need for time lapse photography either.  When the blooms were fully open, out would come the ruler and Dad would measure the diameter of the flower and if it was less than five inches he would be disappointed.

Unfortunately, even with the blood and bone I applied mine are pitiful specimens compared with Dad's whoppers.  But poppies will always be very special to me and I will continue to plant them.  Maybe one day I will be rewarded with something to rival one of his.

An Invitation:
I know many in my family have their own Dad/Granddad stories around gardening and there are others who may have their own 'Dad the Gardener' anecdotes.  There maybe just some poppy stories.  Please use the comment function on this blog to share these.  I would love it!


  1. I too have a fascination for popping poppy buds which I think stems from my childhood!

  2. Oooo! I never pop poppies they are too much fun to watch but I can't resist fushia buds.

  3. Ooooooo! I never pop poppies either, I watch popping poppy buds. lol

  4. What about the ritual of burning the ends of the poppy stalks by placing them in the coals of the one fire stove in the kitchen?
    Is this still the practice, I wonder? VL

  5. Oh, yes VL thank you for remembering that! Sealing the ends made the poppies last longer in the vase. In latter years Dad used a burning match, but, you are right, originally they we burnt in the kitchen stove.


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