Gardening: My Grandmother’s Gift of Poppies

Pass-along plants and seeds can have more meaning than you ever thought possible. So share those extras from your garden and you may create lasting memories for yourself and those you love.


Annual pink poppy

My grandmother’s Iowa garden was always thriving—she was blessed with eight green fingers as well as two green thumbs. As a kid, my favorite flowers were her annual poppies. I loved the velvety softness of the blooms against my cheek. So, when my husband and I bought our own home, one of the first things I asked Grandma for were seeds from her poppies. She dutifully sent me envelopes of seeds at summer’s end. In the early spring, I scattered the seeds and watched for signs of germination. I was delighted to see blue-gray thistle-like seedlings emerge. Then, I watched in horror as they shriveled up ad died just a few weeks later. It had never occurred to me that an annual wouldn’t grow in my Zone 8 Dallas garden.


Poppy seedlings

Grandma sent more seeds and suggested I sow them in the fall. Again, my seedlings sprouted but succumbed to the heat. She sent more, with directions to put the seeds in the freezer for a few weeks. I was rewarded with one lonely bloom.

We continued to try, but that bed of poppies eluded me. Defeated, I put Grandma’s last envelope of poppy seeds in my freezer and left them there—she passed away that winter at age 91. Each time I cleaned the freezer, I’d come across those seeds and put that envelope covered in her unique handwriting right back in.


Pond build

Two years later, I took a job that brought us back to Iowa. Six months after the movers packed up our house in Dallas, we bought our new home, and as I unpacked boxes I was surprised to find that last envelope of seeds stashed among kitchen utensils. They’d been in the freezer for years and spent months in a hot storage warehouse. That fall and without any hope, I scattered Grandma’s last seeds in a bed that surrounded a dying maple tree.


Pond build dirt hole

The following spring my husband cut down the tree to make room for a koi pond. One day as he was enlarging the hole for his pond, I noticed a small gray-green seedling in the dirt. “Stop!” I insisted. I wasn’t going to let one more clod of dirt fly until I gave that plant every chance to flourish. If you look closely, you can see that I even put a metal cage around them to protect them (from what I’m not sure).


Red and pink poppies

Another seedling emerged, then another, and another, until poppy plants surrounded his crater.  They bloomed in intense shades of pink and red—it was glorious.


Poppies by the pond

After they flowered, I gathered all the poppy seeds I could for the next year and allowed work on the pond to continue. I felt like Grandma had blessed my new garden and welcomed me home.


Annual double poppies

I’ve had poppies in my garden every one of the fourteen years since that time—they still even pop up between the pavers around the pond.

Elsie gardening

And I shared the seeds with my daughter when she bought her home and started a garden. I’m happy to say that they’re flourishing there, too, and Grandma’s happy legacy  grows and lives on.

See how to save seeds here.


© Caruth Studio

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  1. How beautiful is your story of the poppies and mom, she’d be so Proud!

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