Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) actually have origins in Turkey, Iran and the Caucasus, not the Far East as the name seems to imply. According to the "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants," most garden variety Oriental poppies are hybrids made with great scarlet poppy (Papaver bracteatum) and Papaver pseudoorientale. These modern hybrid Oriental poppies do not grow well in mild winter climates, so expect best performance in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 2 through 7.
Red and Orange Varieties
A great number of Oriental poppies display arresting scarlet, red or orange petals when they bloom in early summer. Varieties with red flowers include 'Beauty of Livermere' and 'Brilliant' and mahogany-red flowers occur on 'Indian Chief'. 'G.I. Joe' produces red flowers with extra numbers of petals, making it a "double" flowering form. Orange to orange-scarlet blooming choices are 'China Boy', 'Allegro', 'May Queen' and 'Prince of Orange'. Doubled flowers are produced on 'Doubloon' and 'May Queen'.
For predominantly white flowers, all having some darker black spots on the inner petal bases, choose from 'Black and White', 'Maiden's Blush', 'Perry's White' or 'Barr's White'.
Pink to Salmon Varieties
The pastel shades of Oriental poppy hybrids can be light pink to more salmon or peachy tones that are saturated in intensity. They make pleasant intermediate tones to blend and mix with red, orange and white poppy selections. There are many pink- to salmon-colored poppies to try, including 'Watermelon', 'Helen Elizabeth', 'Victoria Louise', 'Mrs. Perry' or 'Cedric Morris'.
While the poppies usually have a dark-colored center, some varieties may have petals edged in a third color, making them look particularly ornate. 'Carousel' flowers are white with orange petal edges, while 'Carnival' has frilled white petals with orange-red accents. White and scarlet-red petals develop on 'Pinnacle'. Another frilled petal choice is 'Picotee', which makes creased white petals with frilly orange edges. 'Fatima' displays white petals edged in pink.
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