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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 11 Spring 2010
book cover

Blue heaven:
Encounters with the Blue Poppy

by Bill Terry (Canada: Touchwood Editions, 2009)

For many of us amateur gardeners, the idea of propagating a few seeds starts around April and lasts until late summer when the tomatoes, hollyhocks and lettuces have all been safely transplanted or potted on. Propagation is a satisfying pastime, but strictly limited within the parameters of our own spare time and self-confidence. Not so Bill Terry, whose book Blue Heaven: Encounters with the Blue Poppy takes the reader on an intriguing adventure, starting in the Himalayas and ending with what the author believes is his own personal blue heaven. In between we get a place-and-people journey in search of the origins, perfect growing conditions and preferred habitats of this delicate blue flower.

Terry, who came to Woodbridge, aged nine, in 1945 and left for Canada in 1958, has made the Blue Poppy a very singular forty-year passion. David Hume the philosopher would have approved, in that Terry writes about what he knows – and in this case grows. He has travelled from the foothills of the Himalayas – where he describes how the climber George Leigh Mallory first came across Meconopsis grandis in 1922 on the way down from a failed attempt to reach the summit of Everest – to the City of Edinburgh where the fairly consistent rainfall offers ideal flowering conditions for the Blue Poppy.

In between destinations – Terry himself now lives and grows various varieties of the poppy on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia – Blue Heaven is full of anecdotes, growing tips and people from history who have shared the author’s passion. Fellow enthusiasts include the redoubtable Elsie Reford who left a legacy of some 10,000 July flowering Meconopsis betonicifolia in her gardens along the Mitis River in Canada, and Evelyn Stevens of Scotland who has taken a Darwinian delight in Blue Poppy classification.

Looking over his shoulder and back to Suffolk, “It was my father and mother’s enthusiasm for gardening that fired my interest in plants”, notes the author. Bill Terry has come a long way: after a career in radio which took him all over Canada, he is now devoted to creating what for him is the perfect garden – clearly with the “Bluetiful Bloom” Meconopsis as its centrepiece.