This beautiful and hardy woody-based perennial both fascinates and frustrates me enormously. It is absolutely stunning when in flower in late spring and summer, a real must have for the larger dry garden. The ends of the stems cover themselves in 15 cm white poppy flowers with delicate crepe-textured petals surrounding a large central boss of golden yellow stamens. Like many other members of the poppy family, the leaves of Romneya are an attractive and desirable glaucous blue-green.
So what is so frustrating about this plant? First of all it can be quite difficult to establish a plant in your garden. In my experience your best success will be had with a well-established large potted plant. Fine you may say, sell me one. At this point I will tear my hair as a well-established potted plant implies an ability to propagate Romneya, and the plant is a big tease. Having nursed a plant through the establishment phase, Romneya often responds by romping right through your garden, sending up new shoots (suckers) from the ends of long underground stems. To the casual visitor, logic would dictate that I dig up these ‘plants’ but I have largely given up this exercise. My few successes have been with very large clumps that need at least a 30 cm wide pot to accommodate them – not very commercially viable. The issue is that the suckers are arising from an underground stem. It may look like a root but it is not. It is only the bigger clumps arising from these suckers that have started to produce true roots.
Okay – then how about seeds. Romneya produces copious amounts in slender capsules and it is easy to collect. My germination success rate so far…. zero. I recently read, however, that Romneya seed will germinate reasonably well if it is sown freshly and treated with smoke water. My brief excitement on reading this was quelled when I read further. The young seedlings are almost impossible to transplant, so perhaps I won’t even go there anymore.
Which brings us to cuttings. Currently we are having a degree of success propagating Romneya from cuttings. At this time of year (mid-winter), the old flowering stems on my plant start to produce new shoots all along their length. We have been harvesting these shoots as heeled cuttings when they are 10 to 20 cm long. The longer ones are cut in half and then both portions are used. The cuttings are dipped in a hormone gel, placed into individual 50 mm tubes filled with an open propagating mix, and the trays of tubes placed onto a heat bed. The result? The last 10 trays of cuttings (420 plants) look like they will yield about 50 plants but its early days yet, it may be fewer. Time to do another 10 trays, but then comes Romneya’s last laugh; we will be working in wet and very cold conditions throughout the process.
Perhaps I should just stick to my Salvias.
Best regards, Margy Clema