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Meconopsis 'Lingholm' (Fertile Blue Group) - Description

Outstanding attributes of this cultivar are its fertility, perennial habit and large, sky-blue flowers which open in early summer (late May - June).

The supplementary page General description of the big perennial blue poppies outlines the main morphological features of the big blue perennial poppies, including M. 'Lingholm'. Where alternative features are mentioned in this page, the ones which apply to M. 'Lingholm' are that it is clump-forming rather than gently rhizomatous, the flowers are a deep sky-blue and do not exhibit marked mauve and purple tones usually seen in George Sherriff Group and, of course, it is fertile, producing viable seeds.

Flowers, fruit-capsules and seeds
The four petals of the deep sky-blue flowers are rather substantial in texture, this perhaps reflecting the tetraploid condition. (See Genetics of M. 'Lingholm'.) They are broadly oval (around 10cm in diameter) and in the best plants overlap one another. Depending on conditions from day to day (we cannot say precisely what these conditions are though), the flowers may either be held outward-facing, or downward facing. The protruding ovary, style and stigma surrounded by numerous golden stamens are a conspicuous feature of the flowers.

Initially pointing downwards, the ovary, style and stigma steadily lift to a vertical stance at maturity by which stage the structure has become the fruit-capsule. The style is rather slender and about 1cm long. It either merges gradually with the stigma in those plants where the latter is smallish and club-shaped, or more abruptly when the stigma is larger and globular. At maturity the fruit-capsule is oblong to oblong-elliptical, 3 to 5cm long and 0.8-0.9cm wide and well-filled in appearance, this reflecting the content of plump viable seeds. It is covered quite densely with prominent long (4mm), bristles. The seeds when ripe are black, rather angular and kidney-shaped, with a pitted surface giving a rough texture and about  1 - 1.5mm x 2 - 3mm in size.

Photograph by Jim Smith

M. 'Lingholm' flowers and fruit-capsules (one capsule sectioned to show ripe, viable seed)

The flowers of M. 'Lingholm' are similar to those of M. 'Slieve Donard' (Infertile Blue Group), the main difference being that the latter is sterile and the petals rather more silky-looking. It seems very likely that M. 'Slieve Donard' may have been the sterile cultivar that gave rise to M. 'Lingholm' through a chance doubling of its chromosome complement. (See Genetics of M. 'Lingholm'.) Evidence is provided by the similarity in the flowers (see pictures below), taken together with the comparable bristly appearance of fruit-capsules (shown above and below). In the case of sterile M. 'Slieve Donard' an absence of properly developing seed in the sectioned fruit-capsule is clearly seen. Further evidence for the view that M. 'Slieve Donard' gave rise to M. 'Lingholm' is provided by the appearance of the emerging new leaf rosettes (pictures lower down).

Photograph by Jim Smith Photograph by Jim Smith Photograph by Jim Smith

M. 'Lingholm'

M. 'Lingholm'

M. 'Slieve Donard' with abortive seed

Emerging new leaves
As emphasised elsewhere, M. 'Lingholm' can be rather variable, this resulting both from the fact that this cultivar is seed-raised and that it has not been rigorously selected for uniformity. There is perhaps more variability in the foliage than in the flowers. Nevertheless the emerging rosettes of young leaves which appear in early spring are very distinctive. They are narrowly and regularly lanceolate with an erect stance appearing as if "reaching for the sky". They thus show similarities to cultivars such as M. 'Slieve Donard' and M. 'Bryan Conway' (Infertile Blue Group), and clearly contrast from others such as M. 'Crewdson Hybrid' (also InfertileBlue Group) and M. 'Jimmy Bayne' (George Sherriff Group) in features such as stance, overall shape, marginal teeth and pigmentation.

Left and centre, M. 'Lingholm and right, similar looking M. 'Slieve Donard'

M. 'Lingholm' shares with M. 'Slieve Donard' a thick pile of prominent long soft hairs, both on the upper and lower surfaces, where they are up to 0.5cm and 1cm long, respectively. The hairs are bicoloured, being dark brown nearer the base with a conspicuous fading to colourless towards the tip, giving a pale fringe to the prominent pile. The hairs are also present, but much less conspicuous in the mature leaves. Occasionally a little of the red-purple pigment which is so dominant in cultivars such as M. 'Jimmy Bayne' may be detected in the leaf-tissues, but for the most part this pigmentation is lacking in these cultivars.

Left: M. 'Lingholm' emerging new leaf rosette.  Centre: Batch of excellent, very uniform seedlings of M. 'Lingholm' (two plants in each pot).  Right:Emerging new leaf rosette of M. 'Crewdson Hybrid' which contrasts with M. 'Lingholm' and M. 'Slieve Donard'.

The leaves in M. 'Lingholm' tend to be slightly concave or boat-shaped, rather than flat. This curvature is apparently associated with a break or kink which often occurs at some point along the mid-rib (e.g. above left). Another unusual feature seen occasionally is a splitting or bifurcation of the leaf-tip, but this is more frequently observed in some of the first true leaves in batches of the characteristically vigorous seedlings.

Mature leaves
The mature basal and cauline leaves are substantial and may often appear rather coarse. (For pictures see several on this page and elsewhere on the site.) They usually somehow lack the refinement in texture and shape seen in the mature leaves of M. 'Slieve Donard'. As with the seedlings, the mature leaves often appear to be shallowly boat-shaped, rather than flat and also slightly asymmetrical.

The appearance of the margins is also a feature to note. When comparing the leaf margins of different plants, and also to some degree within an individual plant, we can see that they range through almost entire, to shallowly and irregularly undulate, to shallowly and evenly serrate or toothed, to more deeply and evenly serrate. Variability exists not only in the depths of the teeth, but also in their shapes. Particular tooth shape tends to be constant in a given individual. Some individuals have more attractive leaves than others, being more uniform in shape and with neater, more regularly distributed teeth.

These pictures illustrate the variation in the shape of mature leaves and the general habit of M. 'Lingholm'. The pressed leaves (petioles removed) are from seven different samples of M. 'Lingholm' and show variation of leaf margin shapes. Some of the plants from which these leaves were taken, may eventually be given different cultivar names

Perenniality
M. 'Lingholm' is undoubtedly a true perennial, but it has become clear that some individual plants are relatively short-lived (just two or three years) and others very long-lived. There exist in gardens, plants which are known to be many decades old. This applies to Roger Nelson's original plants raised in the mid 1960s. (See M. 'Lingholm' - history). But his plants are not the only instances. Several other clonal individuals are known which originated in the early 1970s. Added to this, are also recent plants raised from seed in the late 1990s and early 2000s which appear to be soundly perennial and likely to persist indefinitely.

Without doubt, longevity does depend at least in part on good growing conditions. But even in a garden suitable for Meconopsis, plants may begin to "go back" if left undisturbed for a long time, Such plants can invariably be rescued by lifting, dividing and replanting in freshly prepared soil, or by potting up in a friable compost and kept under shelter until a new root-system fills the pot, after which they can be planted back out into the garden. But there is no need to wait for deterioration before dividing the clumps. This is probably best done anyway, every three or four years. For example, Roger Nelson in Cumbria has repeatedly divided his plants since the early 1960s, although he also regularly raises new plants from seed.