external facebook instagramlinkedin pinterest playsearch twitteryoutube


‘Chima Family Heirloom’: one pretty (remarkable) poppy

Its petals are a beautiful warm-red and gracefully ruffled. Its leaves are a lovely emerald green. And its plentiful, ephemeral double blooms attract equally plentiful pollinators due to the easy access of pollen on its long filaments. Yes, it’s little wonder the charming ‘Chima Family Heirloom’ poppy has garnered rave reviews from the gardeners who have grown it since it was introduced by Seed Savers Exchange in 2017.

Flower lovers can thank Valeria Dukelow of Pittsburghand her mother, Sarah Russ Chima, for whom the variety is namedfor this remarkable poppy. Born April 28, 1902, in Copăcel, Romania, Sarah emigrated to the United States while still in her teens and later, as Valeria wrote in her donation letter, “received the poppy seeds by mail from her mother, Maria, who remained in Romania.” Sarah grew the poppies in Ellport, Pennsylvania, in the 1930s during Valeria’s childhood; Valeria first began growing the variety herself in the early 1960s and loved it so much that she grew and saved seed from it (or allowed it to reseed in her garden) at a number of addresses in Pittsburgh before her death in 2018. 

‘Chima Family Heirloom’ poppies bloom in one of Valeria’s gardens.

According to Valeria, the ‘Chima Family Heirloom’ poppy reaches about 2-2½ feet tall and bears  a single 2½-inch diameter red double flower per stem. After blooming for about 10 days, it develops a round, green seed pod that turns a dark brownish color after one to two weeks. When, as she wrote, “one can shake the pod [and] hear the seeds rattle inside,” it’s time to scatter (or collect) the seeds for next year’s growth, and pull out and discard the dried plant.

Five-star flowers

What have other poppy lovers said about the ‘Chima Family Heirloom’ poppy? Read on…

“The best performing [breadseed poppy] in my garden this year: first to bloom, most buds, lushest foliage. The color is a saturated warm red.”

“This beautiful red coral poppy from the Romanian family of my friend Valeria Dukelow … is as beautiful as she was. [It’s a ] a stunning poppy with beautiful fringed edges on the petals.”

Valeria enclosed a handwritten letter with her donation of ‘Chima Family Heirloom’ poppy seeds in 2012.

How to grow poppies

Rule number one about poppies—they do not like to have their roots disturbed. That’s why direct seeding (a ¼-inch deep) is preferable to starting seeds indoors. Sow seeds outdoors in the early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible. (Poppies can also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes.) Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days; thin seedlings to 8-10″ apart. Plants will tolerate poor soil and prefer full sun.