Blue poppies to bloom soon

By Courtney Klemm

With spring arriving, flowers will begin to bloom in yards across Illinois. However, there is one species that can only be seen in the comforts of a greenhouse.

The blue poppy, which grows natively only in the Himalayas, will be on display at the University Plant Biology Greenhouse, 1201 S. Dorner Drive, for the 2nd annual Himalayan Blue Poppy Show. The show will be held Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3.

“I started the show because I’ve always loved them and wanted to grow them,” said Debbie Black, greenhouse manager for the Plant Biology Greenhouses. “They are very beautiful and really draw your eye.”

Black decided to start the show last year because of budget cuts. This show, as well as one at the holidays and one on Mom’s Day Weekend, helps as a fundraiser for the plant conservatory.

“We try to work on fundraising for the conservatory so we don’t have to shut it down,” Black said. “Every little bit helps. It’s nice to do something different in the conservatory, too.”

Black said the blue poppies need a cold, moist environment and very acidic soil in order to keep their blue color.

Black bought the poppies from a facility in Alaska in October 2004. She planted and set them up in a cooler where they were stored until Christmas. The poppies have grown in a cold room for about 10 weeks and are scheduled to be completely open by this weekend.

Pat Lynch, greenhouse assistant, said the greenhouse staff is very excited for the event.

“We’ve been running around like chickens with our heads cut off the past couple weeks,” he said.

Black said she is unsure if she is going to coordinate the show next year due to the difficulty and amount of work it takes to grow Himalayan blue poppies. But she hopes to have a big turnout this weekend.

“Last year, we had 180 people come,” Black said. “We’re hoping for the same, if not more, people. It might be the last year people get to see them.”

Kelly Allsup, greenhouse assistant, said people are naturally drawn to the poppy.

“They are quite unique flowers and so exquisite,” she said. “The blue is so vivid. Blue is hard to come by in flowers.”

Black said poppies are typically pink, white and, occasionally, yellow.

“It’s not everyday you get to see a blue poppy,” she said. “That’s what makes this so exciting.”