Poppies to be planted in preparation for 100th anniversary of start of WWI

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Monday, October 21 2013

A group of Gabriolans are working to ensure that next year (2014) in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, Gabriola Island will have poppies growing throughout the island.

Janet Stobbs is one of the islanders gathering support and putting plans together for the project. Dr. Paul Champion is also helping out.

The plan is to have a group of Gabriolans plant the poppies in early 2014 so they are established.

According to Paul, “Seeds from the original Flanders (Shirley) poppy are strong and although these are annuals they reseed abundantly. They can be sown anytime in a reasonably cultivated patch of soil from fall through the ensuing year.

“The perennial Oriental poppy plants and breadseed poppy are planted in fall or spring. All are deer resistant and need somewhat less water than other flowers. I have asked the flower dealers to sell the red variety and to get seed packets in this fall. Slightly sandy, good soil works best.”

He and Janet are working on an application to be put forward to Heritage Canada to see if there are funds available to help cover the costs. Paul is speaking with local nurseries to ensure the seeds will be available for members of the public to purchase.

As Paul pointed out, “2014 is the Centennial anniversary of the beginning of the Great War in which thousands of Canadians and a relatively large number of men from the sparsely populated Gabriola Island gave their lives or health for us all. 

“It was also the war during which the Canadian physician and poet John McCrae produced his internationally honoured poem, “In Flanders Fields.” 

“Upon this poem evolved the wearing of a red poppy each November 11as we all are requested to do for the fallen.”

Those wishing to get involved in the project are encouraged to contact either Janet or Paul.

This is not the first mass flower planting done on Gabriola.

In 1997, hundreds of boxes of daffodil bulbs were given to Gabriola and during the autumn of that year volunteers from the community planted the bulbs along the public roads. 

Those daffodils continue to bloom every April, recognized as the flower and month of Cancer Awareness by the Canadian Cancer Society.