True blue star steals the show

The eye-catching Himalayan blue poppy has no problem standing out from the crowd in May

Meconopsis lingholm

The month of May is colourful. Each plant jostling shoulders with the next, straining to get noticed and admired by the gardening public. Meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppies have no problem attracting attention. Meconopsis is one of the RHS Harlow Carr’s signature plants and ‘Lingholm’ is one of the most reliable and best of the blue poppies.

Meconopsis 'Lingholm' (Fertile Blue Group) is known for its large sky-blue flowers with protruding gold stamens. Its one-metre tall flowers, point downwards when young and lift to vertical upon maturity. The boat-shaped leaves, stems, buds and seed capsules are draped in long, light brown to translucent hairs.

Meconopsis lingholmMeconopsis, though incredibly enchanting, are traditionally temperamental and hard to grow. This is part of their elusive charm. These plants require cool, moist, dappled shade, and fertile but freely draining acid soil. They dislike heat and need a cold winter to ensure a dormant period. If you live in the north of England consider yourself lucky, for your chances of succeeding with these plants are greatly improved.

Meconopsis 'Lingholm' differs from other Meconopsis groups in that they are clump-forming rather than rhizomatous so make quite a tidy plant. The flowers are pure sky-blue, having no mauve or purple tones often seen in other groups. It is also self-fertile, producing viable seeds. Self-fertility is a great advantage, because when you plant a group of them, some may live and some may die, but the plants that produce viable seed will ensure the next year's display.

Impressive displays of Meconopsis 'Lingholm' can be seen in the garden, snaking along either side of the streamside. This plant is a good choice for a gardener who would like a challenge, and the rewards more than make up for the effort. Despite its reputation these plants require very little maintenance, simply cutting down to the base in late autumn.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.