Deciding upon the name to use on BPotD for some commonly-cultivated garden plants can sometimes be a challenge. If looking to source this Iceland poppy, you would likely be better off searching for some variation of Papaver nudicaule and ‘Champagne Bubbles Pink’ or ‘Champage Bubbles’ (Pink). I usually like to sidestep these names that are confused in the horticultural trade, except for instances when there’s a good story–like today.
A recent subscriber to BPotD, Linda Bush, submitted today’s photograph by email. Not entirely unusual, except she also asked where I grew up. After a quick bit of correspondence, it turns out that Linda was my third-grade teacher. She wrote:
I pulled out my class photos and found you with a big smile on your face in my Grade 3 class…
While on the topic of my youth, I can’t recall if my mother ever grew Iceland poppies, though I do remember Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy (if it needs to be written, grown for ornament and also culinary tradition of poppy seed in baking). Still, I think she must have–it is definitely a splash of colour that can handle the cold continental climate of places like Manitoba (where Linda grew this plant).
One would think with the common name that this poppy is native to Iceland. Nope. And, for those more familiar the scientific names of Iceland poppies, you may be wondering why I didn’t write these as Papaver nudicaule. After reading through Christopher Grey-Wilson’s Poppies: The Poppy Family in the Wild and in Cultivation, I don’t think it’s justifiable. Grey-Wilson, in his account on Papaver nudicaule, leads with:
This name conjures up as much confusion in horticulture as does the related P. alpinum. P. nudicaule is commonly called the Iceland poppy, however, it does not come from Iceland, indeed it is restricted to Asia. But, this species is related to a whole group of closely allied species that form a complicated network of variability, which can leave the poor gardener wholly distracted.
…This latter species [Papaver radicatum] is almost certainly the true Iceland poppy. In cultivation, P. nudicaule has been crossed with its cousins and selected to produce a sturdy race of rather gaudy poppies commonly called Iceland poppies and generally found in catalogues and lists under the name Papaver nudicaule
All of that is to say that what most people refer to as Papaver nudicaule in cultivation is rarely something that resembles the true species.
As for ‘Champagne Bubbles’ specifically, Grey-Wilson lists it as a simple cultivar though the Royal Horticultural Society now assigns it to the Champage Bubbles Group (a combination of related cultivated entities, some of which may be named and some of which may lack a name–often the case with seed mixes that produce different coloured flowers), as ‘Champagne Bubbles Pink‘. Other cultivars in the cultivar group include ‘Champagne Bubbles White’ and ‘Champagne Bubbles Scarlet’.
Issues about the name aside, Grey-Wilson goes on to sing the praises of the Iceland poppies for gardening, recommending them for summer bedding displays with long bloom time. For areas with wet winters, he suggests replanting annually as the tufted leaves are subject to rot (not a problem in areas blanketed by snow!). He also notes that they can be used for cut flowers–with the provisos that flowers are cut just before the petals burst out and that
cut stems ends should be sealed in hot water or burnt to improve the lasting quality of the blooms