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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2001

Magic Meconopsis
By Brendan Little

I was reminded today of how beautiful (and photogenic) the blooms of Meconopsis x sheldonii ‘Slieve Donard’ actually are. This is an annual reminder, which never fails to stir the gardening emotions, and from where I sit I can see the nodding heads of the brilliant blue blooms of what must be one of the most beautiful plants in cultivation. The story goes that Mrs. Marjorie Dickie of Omagh gave some of the plants to the long lamented Slieve Donard Nursery in Co Down, who then put it on the market.

Meconopsis x shieldonii ‘Slieve Donard’ is a perennial meconopsis therefore it does not die after flowering. Being a hybrid it does not produce viable seed and therefore it must be propagated vegetatively by division. Opions vary as to the best time to carry out this work but I have found that immediately after flowering or early September works best for me. ‘Slieve Donard’ must have an acid (lime free), peaty soil that does not dry out, my plants thrive in a cool shady damp (not wet) position in the shadow of a north-facing wall. I should also add that I have also grown them in full sun with much success. If you do not have an acid soil they will be quite happy in a raised peat bed, so do not despair. Like some primula species I know, Meconopsis x shieldonii ‘Slieve Donard’ likes to be moved to fresh soil every three to four years.

meconopsis_betonicifolia We grow meconopsis for their flowers, which have a gentle butterfly like quality, and when in bud the petals are of a distinct purple colour opening to the most striking of all garden blues.
The stamens are pure gold in colour which helps them stand out from the blue petals, another welcome bonus are the small hairy seed pods which are produced after flowering, the hairy foliage is also a point of interest.

Try ‘Slieve Donard’ with some yellow flowered primula such as Primula helodoxa and Primula florindae. Whatever combination you choose I know you will not suffer the ‘blues’ when these meconopsis are in flower!

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