- Timber Press, Incorporated
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- 6.47(w) x 9.53(h) x 0.94(d)
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The Forest Poppy - Hylomecon. This little forest-dweller is one of the first poppies to come into flower in the spring. It is an excellent woodland garden plant, but succeeds in any moist, semi-shaded spot in the garden.
As currently understood, the genus Hylomecon contains just a single species, H. japonicum, although the Flora USSR distinguishes the Asiatic mainland plant as a separate species (H. vernalis) from the Japanese one. In reality, H. japonicum is quite variable in both flower and leaf characters and it would be difficult to uphold two distinct species.
Hylomecon comes close to both Chelidonium and Stylophorum, differing from both in its unbranched stems. It also differs from Chelidonium in having solitary rather than umbellate flowers and in the presence of bracts. In Stylophorum the flowers are generally clustered and bear bracts as well as bracteoles. In growth Hylomecon is also distinct, forming a slow-spreading clump by means of short rhizomes just beneath the soil surface. In both Chelidonium and Stylophorum growth radiates upwards from a basal rosette of leaves.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most charming and colorful poppies for the woodland garden. The species is fully hardy. The flowers generally appear in May and June and, although somewhat fleeting, are produced in quantity on a vigorous plant. The species is sometimes accused of being invasive, but I have never found it to be so and, in any case, plants are fairly shallow-rooted and excess growth can be easily removed.Hylomecon thrives best in a humus-rich soil and certainly responds totop-dressing of leaf-mould or compost. In drier sunny positions it will linger on, but will rarely thrive or flower well, preferring the dappled shade of trees and shrubs. It is also an excellent little plant for the peat border, though here it may perhaps become invasive.
Plants can be easily propagated from seed, which can be sown outdoors in April. However, division of the parent plant provids a more ready means of increase; divisions can be made in the early spring just before growth commences or, indeed, immediately after flowering. It is as well to mark plants, as they have often disappeared below ground by late summer.
It is pleasant associated with other woodland members of the poppy family such as Eomecon chionantha, Sanguinaria canadensis, Meconopsis chelidonifolia, Cathcartia villosa or Stylophorum diphyllum. Together, these will provide interesting flowers and foliage from spring to late summer.
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