Despite its classification as a "weed", the common poppy, or field poppy, a volunteer plant in vegetable gardens, benefits from widespread sympathy.
Already a part of the (French) nursery rhymes of our childhood, the "…gentil coquelicot, Mesdames..." is assured of our benevolence through the spark of gaiety the luminous red flower exudes. Even when the prolific flower becomes a bit intrusive, we hate to destroy it and always manage to preserve a few roofs. Even the impressionist painters often pay tribute to the plant, like Claude Monet with his ladies holding umbrellas and in wide hats amongst the scarlet tips of poppies.
The poppy comes from North Africa and the Middle East. In the beginning it was considered a "harvest" plant, associated with the harvest because it proliferated in grain fields like the Cornflower. They have been pushed out by herbicides and now are found along roadsides, in vacant lots and in gardens.
The poppy belongs to the Papaver family, counting over 60 species of poppies, some of which are highly toxic. When it appears in a vegetable garden, it spreads a large number of small, black round seeds around it, ensuring prolonged presence of the flower. Well, who's complaining?
Its light green foliage is very low cut, the flowers appear from May to August and are light red with four large petals, a bit wrinkled and featuring a black spot at the base. It has a hairy stem that when broken releases a sticky, white latex substance that contains alkaloids used in pharmaceutical products.
Brews made of its dried leaves are used to fight insomnia through their hypnotic powers, and are also beneficial against bronchial disorders and throat irritations. The common poppy is one of the components of the renowned "Four Flower Infusion" along with Mallow, Coltsfoot and Catsfoot.
The common field poppy should not be confused with its close relation, the opium poppy, whose flowers are pale violet and has wide, grey-green leaves. This plant is clearly toxic through its aggressive hypnotic powers and is coveted by those who seek its illicit substances. Although not a common species, sometimes these poppies also appear in our gardens, where we hesitate to eliminate such a superb plant.
Finally poppy seed is used in pastry and bread making. The petals are also the base ingredient of candies and of a poppy based syrup that is a specialty of the city of Nemours.
According to a well established tradition the Luxembourgish allotment gardeners met on Palm Sunday, 9th April 2017, for their annual congress.
308 delegates from 111 associations met in Diekirch. Fernand Etgen, minister for agriculture and Carole Dieschbourg, minister for environmental protection, representatives from the administration and partner organisations, as well as Malou Weirich, secretary general of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux, were present.
After the statutory requirements and the honouring of deserving members, Marc Fischer made an interesting lecture concerning the campaign against food- waste. www.gaartanheem.lu/index.php/free-extensions/praesentation-gegen-lebensmittelverschwendung
Focussing the attention of the population, the authorities and the media on the allotments is a necessity accompanying us since the foundation of our movement.
The day of the garden, the day of the flower and, as it is called in Luxembourg, "Dag vun der oppener Gaardepärtchen" (open day in the garden) gives once a year the allotment gardeners the possibility to especially highlight the many folded values of the allotments. Consequently, this day has also to be sufficiently visible to reach its aim.
That's why following resolution was adopted with unanimity:
Open day in the garden:
• Considering the important function of this traditional event organised by the Luxembourgish allotment federation.
• Considering the increased participation of the allotment gardeners in this "open day in the garden".
• Considering the insufficient visibility of this day both for the public in general and for the foreign visitors of the country.
The congress decides:
• To organise, preceding the event, an information campaign including, if possible, the media.
• To seek for a partnership with national and regional responsible people dealing with tourism.
Father Jules Lemire (1853-1928) was a French social and visionary priest, professor and politician. He founded the French allotment federation in 1896. Together with representatives from Belgium, Germany, Great-Britain, Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland, he also founded on 3rd October 1926 the Office International des Jardins Ouvriers (International Office of Allotment and Garden Holders Leagues) today International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux a.s.b.l.. He was its president until 1928. His activities, especially within the framework of the allotment movement, are very well known in the French-speaking countries and places and roads are named after Father Lemire. However, this is not so in the German-speaking countries.
Following an initiative of the allotment association Feldtmannsburg e.V. in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen a step was taken to change this.
Within the celebrations of the 100th foundation anniversary of the allotment association Feldtmannsburg e.V., a cycling and walking path bypassing the site was named after Father Lemire. This association was created as allotment site of the Red Cross in 1917.
You can find more information on this topic in the commemorative booklet issued at the occasion of the centennial of the association Feldtmannsburg e.V. You can find more information concerning Father Lemire in Hyphens no 58, 59, 60.
road sign in Luxembourg-Belair
Abbé-Lemire-Weg in Berlin: Scan of page 47 in the commemorative brochure: Allotment association Feldmannsburg e.V. 1917-2017
In the beginning pesticides looked to be like a blessing from heaven. They had the ability to kill unwanted, dangerous and irritating insects. And with simple devices they could be sprayed on or being blown to places, plants, objects or bodies where this seemed to be useful.
After the Second World War DDT did a magnificent job and soon it became very popular. In every grocery store it was available so not only professional agriculture, but nearly every household used it for getting rid of unwanted insects.
After some time it became clear that there were unwanted side effects. It not only effectively killed damage giving insects but useful insects as well. And even worse its remains were spread in nature and finally it became stored in the bodies of animals, doing its killing or damaging work more effectively than anybody had envisioned.
The manufacturer came twice with first a second and thereafter with a third generation product: deldrin and aldrin. These should not have the unwanted side effects of DDT. In reality they were even worse.
With her book "Silent Spring" Rachel Carson showed the world the devastating effects of the large scale use of these products.
Some forerunners banned their use, but the industry continued bringing new products to the market, always suggesting that safe use was possible. The world has seen the effects on humans of the lavishly use of "Agent Orange" in the Vietnam War. Several components of this product have been used by local governments and agriculture, even when they were not allowed by the Food and Drugs administration in the USA.
This sad story continues. Every time again the industry introduces new products, claiming their use is safe and does not have unwanted side effects.
There are strong indications that a widely available herbicide can give damage to our bodies. Other wide spread products not only seem to kill useful honeybees but also as useful wild bees, wasps and flies.
So these are all reasons to participate in the week against pesticides and make people aware of the danger in order to diminish the use of and in many cases introduce a ban on the use of these far from innocent pesticides. You don't need to wait until National or European governmental organisations finally take responsibility.
You can take responsibility yourself. Save the honeybees, prevent chemicals from hidden long term killing and poisoning of living, interesting, beautiful and valuable creatures.
Therefore not only participate in the week of pesticides, but make an end to their unwanted application. Use organic fertilizers such as compost, apply crop rotation, use companion plants etc
Information on http://www.semaine-sans-pesticides.com
What a line up, what a day. Leeds & District Allotment Gardeners Federation (LDAGF) in conjunction with Leeds City Council Nursery had pulled out all the stops at this event. The primary aim was to encourage more self-management but in addition to offer information and help for the managers of existing associations, with added interest through talks on growing and composting. There were also stands from other growing and funding organisations and lots of information from our own National Allotment Society. The event was open to all allotments in Leeds and Districts.
The day started with an introduction by Paul Lattimer, LDAGF, chairman.
Then Paul Ackroyd the nursery manager gave an interesting talk explaining that the huge nursery complex was moving lock, stock and barrel to a new site to make way for a new road and housing development. He went on to explain that the new greenhouses were that hi-tec they could be operated remotely. This was followed by the first two workshop sessions which were run by some very prominent people. Delegates were to choose three of the four workshops being offered.
1. Role and responsibilities of Trustee's by our own Liz Bunting, National Allotment Society.
2. Getting the best from your allotment by David Allison, National Vegetable Society.
3. The need for Insurance by Paul Lattimer, Leeds & District Allotment Gardeners Federation.
4. Composting by John Cossham, Master Composter.
A superb lunch was organised by Judy Turley and Gill Walsh, LDAGF, Secretary and Treasurer respectively with drinks served by Lynn Rogers, LCC Allotment Officer.
A further workshop session was held after lunch.
There followed a short talk by Dr Jill Edmondson, Sheffield University explaining the details of an interesting and exciting research project MyHarvest. (There will be more about this project later).
There was even more to follow in this action packed day, Graham Porter, Chartered Institute of Horticulture, broadcaster and author gave an interesting talk on 'The past, present and future of food production'.
The afternoon finally finished with a summary by Cllr Stewart Golton, LDAGF, vice-chairman who thanked every-one for coming and making it such a great success.
Wow! What a day! What an event!
Comments from delegates 'can't wait for the next one'.