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NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Your ques­tions an­swered.

Q PUR­PLE SPUDS I missed out on buy­ing ‘Urenika' seed pota­toes this year. Do any other va­ri­eties have pur­ple flesh and skins? IAN MATTHEWS, AUCK­LAND A ‘Urenika’ pota­toes are a Maori¯ her­itage va­ri­ety that is long, knob­bly and dark pur­ple through and through. They are highly sought-af­ter and seed pota­toes sell out quickly so or­der now for next sea­son. Also look for ‘Pur­ple Heart’, an oval va­ri­ety with smooth pur­ple skin and pur­ple flesh, bred by Plant and Food sci­en­tists who crossed high-vol­ume ‘Moon­light’ with ‘Urenika’ which tends to pro­duce a rel­a­tively low yield. ‘Pur­ple Pas­sion’, with pur­ple skin and yel­low flesh, is also from the Plant and Food breed­ing pro­gramme. Both are grown by Mor­ton Smith-Dawe and should be avail­able at your

gar­den cen­tre next spring. Bar­bara Smith Q THYME GAR­DEN I'd like to grow thyme be­tween crazy paving rather than bat­tle the weeds con­tin­u­ally – an idea I read in your magazine some years ago. Which are the best sorts to grow and where can I find plants? SAL­LIE PEAR­SON, KAPITI COAST There are sev­eral lower A grow­ing spread­ing thymes to choose from. Creep­ing thyme (Awa­puni Nurs­eries) grows as a tight mat so makes an ex­cel­lent ground­cover. It’s edi­ble too. ‘Doone Val­ley’ (some­times avail­able Trade Me) is a var­ie­gated low-grow­ing va­ri­ety with pink flow­ers. Or ‘Emer­ald Car­pet’ (Mauways Nurs­ery) has lovely white flow­ers.

Get on top of the weeds be­fore you plant the thyme. Weeds (espe­cially peren­nial ones or those with long tap roots) that pop up while the thyme is get­ting es­tab­lished are even harder to get rid of be­cause of the risk of up­root­ing the thyme.

Also be aware that thyme flow­ers are very at­trac­tive to bees. If the crazy paving is trod­den on by chil­dren with bare feet you may wish to re­think your plan.

Good luck! Thyme does look very pretty once es­tab­lished. Bar­bara Smith

Q SHORT POP­PIES I grow beau­ti­ful, leafy, fullflow­ered pop­pies with stems only an inch long. The soil may need some­thing or maybe I’m not feed­ing the plants cor­rectly. How can I grow opium and Ori­en­tal pop­pies suc­cess­fully? ILONA BLISS, WHANGAREI Ori­en­tal pop­pies, Pa­paver A

ori­en­tale (above left), are peren­ni­als na­tive to the Cau­ca­sus, north­east­ern Turkey, and north­ern Iran. They have large silken-sheened, fine tis­sue-pa­per flow­ers in shades rang­ing from or­ange, scar­let, red through pink to white. They bloom in the late spring and early sum­mer. Plants pro­duce many flow­ers so the dis­play can be breath­tak­ing even though each one only lasts a few days. By mid­sum­mer, plants die down, go dor­mant and be­come a mite un­sightly. Plant­ing in front of them will screen their dy­ing leaves. Fo­liage reap­pears in au­tumn, but they don’t grow much un­til spring. Ori­en­tal pop­pies need suf­fi­cient chill hours (vi­tal to leaf and flower pro­duc­tion) to be able to sense win­ter ac­cu­rately and rest. If they have not rested suf­fi­ciently, flow­ers may be stunted. They do grow in warmer ar­eas but the lack of cold may af­fect the stem length of the flow­ers. This may be the rea­son that your flow­ers have short stems. Only the North Is­land cen­tral plateau and in­land South Is­land are cold enough for best per­for­mance.

Ori­en­tal pop­pies like a po­si­tion in full sun, can tol­er­ate a lit­tle shade, and like well-drained soil. Lack of sun­light may also af­fect the length of the stem. They need at least six hours of sun­light each day, so check your plants are not too shaded too. The opium poppy (above right),

Pa­paver som­niferum, is also very beau­ti­ful. The colour range is sim­i­lar, and plants tol­er­ate heat bet­ter, though they don’t like hu­mid sum­mers, of­ten suc­cumb­ing to downy mildew. They pro­duce the poppy seed used in cook­ing, their leaves are grey­ish green and they flower in spring. They are also the source of the opium drug. Opium pop­pies can be grown le­git­i­mately in New Zealand as an or­na­men­tal plant, but not for the pur­pose of pro­duc­ing the drug.

Seed­heads of Ori­en­tal pop­pies, which don’t con­tain opium la­tex, are some­times mis­tak­enly stolen by thieves seek­ing drugs, so tuck all pop­pies away from gen­eral view!

Ori­en­tal pop­pies can be grown from seed or from root di­vi­sion. Root di­vi­sion gives you a replica of the orig­i­nal plant but seed may give you vari­a­tions, which of course is an en­tirely fas­ci­nat­ing pas­time to in­dulge in! They are quite eas­ily grown from seed, but as they re­sent root dis­tur­bance, care must be taken when trans­plant­ing them. Plant con­tainer grown plants in au­tumn if your win­ters are warm and spring if your win­ters are cold.

Buy plants from on­line spe­cial­ist nurs­eries such as Parva Plants (par­va­ Owairaka Seeds ( pri­mar­ily stocks un­usual peren­nial plant seeds (and some un­com­mon an­nual seeds) but some­times has plants avail­able. Email [email protected] as there may be smaller plants avail­able that are not listed on­line.

Pa­paver ori­en­tale and Pa­paver som­niferum seed is avail­able from Owairaka Seeds and Kings Seeds. Austin Walls, Owairaka Seeds

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