Remembering our Veterans with Poppies

Happy Election Day!  As you watch the results of tonight’s election unfold, take a minute or two to remember all of those amongst us who have worn our nation’s uniforms.  These men and women serve (or served) honorably regardless of who was in the whitehouse.  Take time to say “Thanks” to those whose sacrifice gave you the opportunity and ability to live and vote in the land of the free.  May God bless these men and women and may he continue to bless the the United States of America!

Air Intelligence Agency Logo

***This is a slighly modified re-post of an article I did in May.

I am very proud to be a veteran of the United States Air Force (Air Intelligence Agency).  The Air Force paid for my education and taught me the skills that I still use to make a living today.  It also taught me that duty, honor and country are a whole lot more than just three words.  In short, the military is largely responsible for turning me into the man I am today.

In addition to shaping my character, the Air Force let me see the world.  I literally went around the world in my ten years of service.  I saw wonderful and amazing things and I met incredible people.  But of all the things I saw, the thing I most remember and treasure is the November I spent in London.

What we call Veteran’s Day, the British call Remembrance Day.  When it comes to appreciating and celebrating their veterans, the British beat us hands down.  Veteran’s Day is huge to them because war is so personal for them.  Not only did they sacrifice their loved ones to the cause, the world wars literally destroyed their country.  Because of this, each November, the British host a series of events that elegantly and appropriately recognize the service of those that were willing to give the last full measure to the defense of freedom.

Crosses with poppies on “graves” in front of Westminster Abbey. Their is a grave on the lawn for every unit that served in the defense of Britian in the two world wars. Photo from

One thing that stuck with me while attending the various Remembrance Day celebrations were the poppies.  They were everywhere.  On lapels, in wreaths and on tiny crosses that were placed on “graves” outside Westminster Abbey that represented the dead from every military unit (including foreign) that served in the defense of Britain.  The poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance Day for several reasons.  However, most agree that the poppy was selected primarily because of a poem written by Lt Col John McCrae.  Colonel McCrae was a Canadian doctor that wrote “In Flanders Fields” after losing his close friend and student during the Battle of the Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders.  His poem is a poignant reminder of the pain and sacrifice that man brings on himself each and every time he takes up arms against his brother.  In case you have never seen it before, here is his beautiful work:

Growing Poppies


This poppy is very similar to those that grow in Flander’s Fields. I took this picture in front of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers big blu barn

Even though I love growing all of my plants, none of them fill me with so much emotion as do my poppies.  Each Spring they remind me of the millions of soldiers, seaman and airmen that have died in defense of their countries.  They also take me back to a magical few weeks spent in London with my British cousins.   The poppies I grow are deep red singles with black throats and bright yellow centers.  However, if red or single is not your style, I promise there is a color and style out there for you.  Poppies are like roses; they come in every color but blue.

Here is a shot of the bright red variety I grow. Thanks to Carol Ann Sayles of Boggy Creek Farms for sharing them with me

Poppies are so easy to grow.  If you don’t have any, simply order or buy seeds from your favorite source.  They are so adaptable that even if you order from a reseller on the East coast, there is very good chance they will do well for you in Texas.  However, in my opinion, the best way to get your poppies is from a local gardener.  I got the poppies featured here from Carol Ann Sayles at Boggy Creek Farms in Austin.   I also have some red doubles from my buddy Greg Grant.  Since poppies are such great reseeders, everyone that grows them always has plenty of seeds to share. 

A lovely double pink variety grown by my friend and MOH contributor Patty Leander

Since poppies reseed so freely, once you get them established you will always have them.  For best results, plant your poppy seeds in Septmeber, October or early November.  Since poppy seeds are tiny, I put them out in a broadcast manner.  Instead of trying to plant in rows I simply scatter them in the area that I want them in.  Before I scatter them, I run a rake over the area I am going to place them.  Then, once the seeds are down, I run the rake the other way.  Then I water in and wait.  If you want poppies next spring, you need to get them in the ground soon.

My poppies start to bloom in early March and they continue blooming well into April.  By mid-April the flowers have gone and the “heads” that are filled with all of those tiny little seeds are beginning to dry.  The heads that are left after the flower fades are actually what’s left of the plant’s pistil.  As the pistil dries, little holes open up around the top where the stamen were once attached.  These little holes turn each head into a little “salt shaker” that dispenses the seeds whenever the wind blows or the plant falls over.

A great shot of dry poppy head. Notice the little holes in the top that allow the plant to “shake” its seeds all over your garden

If you want to gather and save seeds, simply cut these heads as soon as the holes open.  Shake the seeds into a bag and store for later use.  I have been doing this for several years and I have now been able to spread poppies all over my property.

 While many flowers are used as symbols for something, poppies represent the things I value most; sacrifice and service.  Poppies are easy, reliable, carefree and oh so beautiful.  Plant some now and you will be rewarded with a spring time show of beautiful flowers for years to come!

All of these seeds came from this head

9 thoughts on “Remembering our Veterans with Poppies

  1. Jay,
    I have always wanted to have poppies in my beds but have never gotten around to buying seeds and planting them. Do I still have time to plant them in Indiana so they will come up in the Spring? Very few people in our area have them so I will probably have to get the seeds by mail order. The weather here is still fairly nice, high 50’s daytime high 30’s at night. Hopefully I still have time to get them here and planted for Spring! Let me know what you think.

    • You are in that maybe window right now. If you can get them in now and you don’t have a hard winter, you have a good chance with them. How is that grand baby doing?

      • I am afraid I am too late for the poppies this year. We have had a very heavy frost the last 2mornings and the temps are around 25 at night.

        Dawson is great! Best thing hat ever happened to Greg and I. He is so funny and such a good baby. He has been sleeping 10hours a night since he was about 2weeks old! Don’t know what Greg and I will do when they move out! Hope all is well with you an yours!

        • I am certain that Dawson is absolutely awesome. Sally and i can’t wait to get our own grand baby to spoil! Maybe we will get to met Mr. Dawson soon.

          BTW, if you really want poppies I am sure you can get some transplants in the spring.

  2. Jay, everything you write seems to resonate with me and I thank you for this timely and uplifting post at the end of a contentious and divisive election season. As my brother just said to me this morning, no matter who wins tonight, this great country will go on. As you said, Election Day reminds us of the sacrifice of so many and the privelege and freedom that is ours to vote.

    • Thanks Patty. I love this country and I truly believe “it is too good to fail”. I have noticed that it doesn’t matter who is in the oval office, or what the media tells us, there are still millions of people around the world who would bear great sacrifice to be here.

  3. I will never see poppies in the same way again! Remembering our Veterans with Poppies has given me a new respect for these little beauties.

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the article. You are one of the fewer and fewer mothers in our country who know what a sacrifice it is to send your son off in a time of war. Veterans aren’t the only ones that deserve praise. The families that support them are just a worthy of recognition. Thank you and your son both for your love, support and service to our great country.

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