The poppy is one of the most storied of all flowers, best recognised today as the symbol of remembrance for the millions who have died in armed conflict since World War I. It is of course most prevalent around this time of year due to the services held to commemorate the signing of the WWI armistice, signalling an end to hostilities on November 11th, 1918. The significance of the poppy is a result of the bright red blooms that emerged from the same fields that played host to such bloodied, abject and futile warfare - most memorably, these serene flowers were captured in poet John McCrae’s famous ‘In Flanders Fields’. Upon reading the poem for the first time, an American professor called Moina Michael swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary of armistice and the custom spread around the world.

In truth, poppies have been symbols of death and (eternal) sleep for time that stretches back far beyond the armed conflicts of the early twentieth century - in Greek and Roman mythology they were used as tributes to the dead and many tombstones featured the emblem of a poppy to represent an eternal sleep. This is of course doubtless due to that other infamous association of the poppy: it is the source of crude opium. Like so many other scenes in the 1939 film adaptation of the Wizard of Oz that take on fresh shades of meaning upon adult viewing, Dorothy’s warped, paralysing sleep in the garden of enchanted poppies becomes altogether more sinister when you factor in the problem of opium dens in inter-war America…

Even with such strong links to the end of war, the meaning of the remembrance poppy has become muddled over time and there are occasionally uncomfortable examples of the poppy being used to glorify what were truly horrific times. At Floom we choose to focus on the poppy as an emblem of the peace that armistice brought about and the hopes that came with that (however shortlived, and that we still strive for). With this in mind, we draw your attention to the red poppy’s cousin: the white poppy. A symbol for peace that acknowledges the great sadness in all lives lost in wartime - British or otherwise, soldiers or civilians.