'Once you've seen meconopsis baileyi, the blue poppy..you have to think it is the supreme blue flower & it has what seems to me a very interesting history...it's difficult to explain in any way that sounds sane...it's the most wonderful flower. It's like the black swan..you just don't know what to say when you see it...'
I came across this quote from Penelope Fitzgerald as I was reading Hermione Lee's biography, and you may recall that I had fallen in love with the Meconopsis 'Lingholm' during a visit to The Garden House last summer. Whilst this is not the blue flower that Novalis had in mind, and of which Penelope Fitzgerald wrote about, because it had yet to be discovered, it clearly remained like a bright star in her imagination. Notes for The Blue Flower reveal a sub-plot subsequently discarded which would feature the explorers who discovered the flower, whilst I also discover that George Mallory also spotted them in 1922 on one of his early but failed Everest expeditions.
I did a lot of reading up on Meconopsis (because this will be my Blue Flower,) most of which put me off even trying to grow them from seed, but who dares wins etc so I ordered some 'Lingholm' seeds off eBay. How stupid is that, no guarantees whatsoever that they will even be the fertile strain, but I sowed them in the propagator in the potting shed back in September... not even like sowing fleas, more like baby fleas, one sneeze and they'd be gone, and hoped for the best.
Now I don't want to count my meconopsis before they flower, there's many a slip 'twixt now and then, but if not daily...well almost daily, I have been nursing and nurturing the seedlings into life, and this is what I have to show for it so far...
The seeds are notoriously fickle about germinating and if they do you then have to cope with 'damping-off' apparently, of which I knew nothing. Damping-off turns out to be any form of about twenty different fungal things which will kill the seedlings in a flash. The secret so far would seem to be getting them out from under cover the second they germinate, pricked out and into an airy but sheltered cold frame and to date I have about twelve plants like this, with more peeking through in the propagator.