Poppies are one of my favorite flowers. I am not sure why, but I have a fascination with poppies. I collect antique Hall china in the orange poppy pattern and have my kitchen decorated in poppies. Of course, I also plant poppies in my garden.
There are many different types of poppies. One source lists 39 different species alone. Most people grow either the perennial Oriental poppy or one of the many annual-type poppies.
The Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) is the largest and most eye-catching of the poppies. It grows 18-36 inches tall and blooms in early summer. The single flowers are orange, scarlet, pink, or white blooms with dark centers. There are many different varieties available including 'Pizzicato' that produces up to 20 huge flowers per plant and the dwarf scarlet one called "Dwarf Allegro'.
The foliage of Oriental poppy dies after flowering and leaves open spaces in the garden for the rest of the season. Use other plants around the poppy to conceal the dying foliage or vacant space. I've had good success using Baby's Breath (Gypsophila paniculata) and Hibiscus. Remember that poppies do best if left undisturbed. The Oriental poppy can be started by dividing old clumps or by sowing seed. Plants will not bloom until the 2nd year.
The annual-type poppies are usually grown as annuals here, although are actually short-lived perennials. Regardless, we usually reseed or replant these each year. These poppies have a much longer bloom time than Oriental poppies. The foliage does not die back and we get flowers each year. Here are some good examples.
The Shirley poppy is a nice double poppy (Papaver rhoeas). The 'Angels Choir' variety is 18 to 24 inches tall with old-rose colors of pinks, whites, and reds. The 'Mother of Pearl' plants are covered in 3-inch blooms in delicate shades of soft blue, lilac, pink, white, lavender, and peach.
Finally, consider adding the California Poppy to your collection. Although in the poppy family, this is not a true poppy. The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) will flower all summer at a height of 12 to 15 inches. The ¾ to 2 ½ inch flowers are usually deep orange to pale yellow. Other colors available are bronze, scarlet, rose, or white. The 'Thai Silk Mixed' variety includes all the colors. The California Poppy will bloom in 45 to 60 days from seed and plants often self-sow themselves to perform as a perennial.
If you love poppies too, consider adding a "Wizard of Oz" garden to your yard, complete with a yellow brick road, characters, and, of course, poppies to make them sleep. Actually the poppy name was derived from popig, which was an Anglo-Saxon term for sleep, since the seeds from certain species were used to make a drink to induce sleepiness.