My favorites are opium poppies. This is not because I have any entrepreneurial ambitions. Nothing doing, it’s merely that I like to grow them and they are so wonderfully showy.
I used to grow them in large numbers in Vermont. I grew so many that I used to wonder if the local police would get snippy, but I suppose that one little garden in Vermont does not an Opium Lord make, and it seemed unlikely that the state troopers could tell poppies from peonies anyway. So I grew my poppies with abandon, enough to delight a wicked witch or befuddle an itinerant lion.
Although I’ve heard that when opium poppies are being harvested, children are not allowed into the fields because of the narcotic fumes, I never noticed any around mine. This was not because I did not go nosing around them, because of course I did. If you wanted a plant that cast a drowsy spell around it at noonday, my own observation was that lilacs in full bloom, if they were fifteen feet high, could throw an impressively hypnotic scent down. It was enough to slow me to a crawl during my sessions around the bush with the push mower in a manner that the poppies never did.
But I digress.
Poppies have two great distinctions as flowers (if you can forgive them for being scentless), a surprising intensity of color, and the most wonderful texture of petal, close to silk, that can be imagined. They are packed like parachutes inside hairy buds and these burst very quickly. You can have spotted a bud opening on one end of the garden, go away for a minute to dump some clippings and when you are back, the silk is entirely unfurled and you wonder how it did all that for the minute and a half that you were out of eye-shot. But that is typical poppy behavior.
Since I had acknowledged a yen for poppies, I had to click on Thompson & Morgan*. They always seem to have more varieties of things you can grow from seed than almost anyone else, and this year they have a menagerie of Opium Poppies that are as varied – and in some cases daft – as you can imagine.
There are fringed maroon ones (Blackcurrant Fizz ), there are bright pink ones, also untidily fringed (Pink Fizz looks like Bill the Cat from Bloom County, only pink), there are classic reds (Seriously Scarlet), and an impressively zaftig, flesh-colored one called Flemish Antique (though they should have gone ahead and called it Rubenesque). There is even a pale green number called Applegreen which I am having a hard time resisting. (I love oddball colors in flowers.)
Given my druthers, I would buy them all and fill the neighborhood with the resulting fumes, but as I have no wish for the DEA to descend, maybe I’ll just get Applegreen and the drunkenly buzz cut Pink Fizz.
A perfume based upon the opium poppy already exists, namely Opium, but that is not evocative of real opium poppies. The seeds have a delightful pepperiness to them, and so any perfume created would have to include pepper, and carnation, and maybe just a touch of rhubarb. It would be a feisty little number, and a nose tickler and a fantasy scent which would reflect what poppies always are - teasing, brilliant, and evanescent.
P.S. Everyone here no doubt already knows the trick to a poppy bouquet in the house? You singe the stems right after picking with a match. This buys you two days before all the petals drop.
*Park Seed also has a pretty good selection, including the aforementioned Antique Flemish.