Poppies: Flowers of Remembrance

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In Australia and other countries of the Commonwealth, we recognise the red poppy as the commemorative flower of remembrance. The flower reminds us of those who lost their lives or suffered in wars and conflicts.

The History of Poppies as Symbols of Remembrance

Wearing a poppy with pride is a tradition that began in the early 1900s, after World War I. During World War I, red poppies were among the first plants to grow on the Western Front in Europe. They bloomed across the wasted battlefields of northern France and Belgium and became a symbol of hope.

poppies in field

Frenchwoman Anna Guérin, who made artificial flowers, first sold poppies in Britain in 1921. She is known as the inventor of the Poppy Day. Guérin raised money in support of veterans and the families of those who had died during World War I. 

single red poppy on blue sky

In 1922 the Royal British Legion started a factory employing many returned soldiers to make poppies. The Royal British Legion sold poppies to raise money to help veterans and their families. Today the sales of poppies are an important fundraiser around the world for charities that support retired servicemen and women, including the RSL. 

Poppies Today

In Australia, we recognise red poppies as the flower of remembrance. Traditionally, they are:

  • Worn on clothing for Anzac Day services
  • Placed beside names on honour boards and rolls
  • Woven into wreaths on special days of commemoration

poppies on a war memorial

How to Grow Poppies in Perth

Poppy seeds need light to grow - it is important not to bury them, just sprinkle them on the surface. They can be planted in temperate regions like Perth any time from Autumn until early Spring. They need the cool weather for germination and growth.

Choose a position in full sun with moist well-drained soil. Water the soil before planting, if it’s not already moist. Then broadcast or sprinkle the very fine, seed over the soil. Don’t bury it by raking soil over the top. Use a watering can or hose with a soft, fine spray to keep the soil moist for up to two weeks for germination.

Keep the area weed free and moist as seedlings become established, thinning them out if desired. They will appreciate watering with compost tea, worm juice or a liquid fertiliser every month.

While the decorative peony poppies are stunning, it’s worth remembering that simple, single flowers like Flanders poppies are much easier for bees and other beneficial insects to access to collect nectar and pollen.

References

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), Red poppies as a symbol of commemoration in Australia, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 22 April 2022

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