Blue Heaven: Encounters with the Blue Poppy

I have always been suspicious of lay monographs, especially those with titles that evoke something more akin to cheerleading than botanical erudition. Yet, I did not get the blu-blu-blu blues from Blue Heaven. Bill Terry obviously lives the subject of blue poppies (Meconopsis) thoroughly and delivers a readable and enlightening work on this genus, which is often bypassed by gardeners irrationally fearful of its resistance to cultivation. Here are found both experiential data on germinating Meconopsis seed and finding the correct space to bring it to blossom, along with insight into the taxonomy of the genus. I was particularly fond of its slant toward a historical and literary appreciation of a genus proffering such a magical and surreal floral pigmentation.

Terry has a command of language that sweeps the reader along. I read the entire book in less than two hours in front of a slow-burning fire, but I was warm enough from the text alone. Not since Nicola Shulman’s A Rage For Rock Gardening, the short biography of Reginald Farrar (who also appears in this text), have I felt so charmed and satiated.

The only hesitation I might raise concerns the photographs, the majority of which are sublimely composed and reproduced. As a lecturer, I frequently wrestle with the decision to include an image in a presentation based on pertinence rather than prettiness. The photographs of blue-upon-blue—and sometimes red and yellow—are (mostly) of exceptional quality. Yet, I began to feel overwhelmed by the-next-best-picture-ever of a magical blue flower. Regrettably, the layout team chose to overlay text upon photograph, albeit in only a few instances; the result is that neither the engaging words nor the marvelous image are remotely discernible. Admittedly, this observation may be the result of my own set of ripening retinas and not of significant consequence to the majority of readers.

It is the crafted word and distillate of Terry’s passion, however, in this charming treatise that makes Blue Heaven a true gem to read. I think you will place it upon your shelves as I did, fully expecting to pick it up again and read it all the way through on a winter’s day, when flowers of such sumptuous quality take on a special significance.

Daniel J Hinkley, horticulturist
Indianola, Washington