My Weekly Special

BRITAIN’S GOT GARDENS

In May and June, the blue poppies at Branklyn are the most enchanting of flowers

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The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis) is one of the glories of late spring and early summer. A metre tall and topped with flowers that are an almost unreal shade of blue: a piercing azure that stops you in your tracks.

To gardeners in the warmer, drier parts of the

UK, it is the hor ticultural holy grail: rarely seen, impossible to grow. But in regions that experience cool, damp summer weather, the blue poppy thrives. There are gardens in wet regions of England where meconopsis grow, but the majority of good blue poppy displays are in Scotland, and one of the best is Branklyn.

Situated on Kinnoull Hill, overlookin­g Per th, this charming two-acre National Trust garden was planted by John and Dorothy Renton in the 1920s. Their ambition was to fill the garden beside their Ar ts and Crafts-style house with unusual plants from all over the world. Around that time, the plant hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward introduced Meconopsis baileyi from Tibet; and later, Frank Ludlow and George Sherriff introduced more blue poppies from expedition­s to Bhutan. These Himalayan gems took pride of place in the Rentons’ garden.

Today, Branklyn is home to a National Collection of meconopsis, comprising eight species and over 50 hybrids, including ‘Dorothy Renton’ and ‘Branklyn’. The vast majority are that magical shade of bright blue, but some have pinkish-purple petals, and a few are white. They’re at their best in late May and June, looking resplenden­t even when the sky is grey.

Should the weather turn warm and dry, the Branklyn gardeners must water the poppies a lot to keep them happy – hailing from the Himalayas, where they grow in cool, wet woods, alpine meadows, and the banks of streams, meconopsis must have cool, damp conditions. They find this in Scotland, where they thrive. If you can visit Branklyn this year, you’ll see them blooming blue amid acers, rhododendr­ons, and azaleas.

● Branklyn is a National Trust for Scotland garden in Perthshire (PH2 7BB). For informatio­n go to nts.org.uk or call 01738 625535.

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