The most dazzling kind of poppy is at its peak - tissue paper thin, with black blotches on each petal and a dramatic, black center as hairy as a tarantula - Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) are blatantly, sumptuously gorgeous.
Even the greatest beauties have their flaws. With Oriental poppies it's the coarse foliage that yellows and withers away unattractively. But they have fat, enticing buds, are truly perennial and their flowers are so huge (5-6" across) and saturated with color it's hard to believe they are real, living things you've grown yourself. Outdoors.
They're the stars of the garden during their brief bloom, and well worth the space they take up. Simply cut away the yellowing foliage, and plant a few sunflowers nearby, late season grasses or hardy geraniums to fill in the gap Oriental poppies leave behind them by mid-July. But be sure and leave the showy seed pod standing, for it'll attract nearly as many butterflies and ladybugs as the flowers, and over a longer time.
Oriental poppies are so exotic looking you'd expect them to be high-maintenance, but they only need occasional watering, good drainage, full sun, and to be divided in autumn every couple of years.
All the rain in June tattered my poppies a bit, but at least the cool temperatures kept them blooming longer than usual. Below is the ethereal peachy-pink 'Princess Victoria Louise' and the orange-scarlet temptress 'Brilliant'' blooming away in my Whidbey Island garden yesterday....
No flowers are more gorgeous in a vase - simply singe the thick stem for 30 seconds or so and even these big, blowsy poppies hold up for several days in the house.