Many of you received double pink poppy seeds as a favor during an event held several years ago by the Ann Arbor Branch of the WNFGA. Now these same seeds will be finding a new home as part of a display garden within the Louisa King Dogwood Garden in the National Arboretum. Andrew Fangmeyer, a researcher for the NA, plans to create a garden using Mrs. Kings color designs and plant selections.
What a wonderful way to honor Mrs. King!
Louisa King, WNF&GA’s first national president, was an internationally known author and speaker and a master of garden color and design. Her gardens at Orchard House in Alma, Michigan, the site of many popular flower shows and garden events, provided the inspiration and knowledge she shared in her many books.
In The Well-Considered Garden (1915), she wrote:
“There follows … a time when one of the loveliest of all double poppies lights up the little place with color. ..It is double, extremely full, perhaps three feet in height, and of a delicious rosy-pink, exactly the pink of the best mallows … Many packets of the seed of my poppy are always in readiness … if there are ten gardeners with vision to see … the rose-pink beauty of this flower, let them ask for a bit of the seed, for it is theirs for the asking!”
At an appearance in Detroit in 1926, Mrs. King made that offer to her audience, and Clara Bryant Ford was among those who accepted. When the two women first met, Mrs. King recalled, “I saw a spark in her eye … a kindred spirit.” Their new friendship blossomed, and Mrs. King was instrumental in bringing Mrs. Ford into Farm & Garden.
The story of the pink poppy seeds was little more than a pleasant anecdote in the Chronicle until Claudia Scioly noted it while preparing to ‘portray’ Mrs. King for the 2011 Ann Arbor Branch Founders Day meeting. In Spring 2013, as we prepared to host the Michigan Division Centennial Founders Day “Poppy Seeds & Pioneers” luncheon in January 2014, Claudia obtained a supply of double pink poppy seeds which Ann Arbor member Marcella Trautmann grew that summer in her own garden. Marcella harvested a large jar of the minuscule seeds, which were used to create Founders Day luncheon favors featuring a bookmark with Mrs. King’s quote and growing instructions.
The favors were a great success, and Louisa’s pink poppy is now “lighting up” gardens all around the region.
Interested in learning more about Louisa King?
Visit the King archive at Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library.