THE red poppy has long since been the symbol of remembrance of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Every November people wear their poppy with pride in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday.

But this year it is even more poignant, being the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.

For readers to be able to pay their own tribute to those brave soldiers who fell, the Oxford Mail has 5,000 packets of seeds to give away.

All you need to do is take this voucher to participating stores to claim a free packet of seeds. Organisations, clubs, schools, groups are being urged to take part and help create a sea of red across Oxfordshire.

Oxford Mail promotions manager Jo Coady said: “We would love as many groups, clubs and individuals to get involved in this Oxford Mail campaign to turn Oxfordshire red.

“Commemorating the start of the First World War is so important because so many people tragically lost their lives in the conflict. The poppy is, and always has been, a symbol of remembrance.”

Blackbird Leys mum Emma Bolam has already planted some poppies with her five-year-old son Alex.

She said: “We’ve put together a little wild-flower garden out of an old sandbox. It should look lovely when they’re all in colour.”

Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth is backing the campaign. He said: “This is a great idea to support the Poppy Appeal and to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of all those who fought – and the many thousands who lost their lives – in the First World War.”

Pupils at Headington Prep School are donning their gardening gloves to create a burst of colour and remember the fallen.

Science teacher Joanna Simmonds said: “Our girls are already keen on getting their hands dirty and planting things and watching them grow, so we are really excited about receiving the poppy seeds.”

Poppies are also being planted in churchyards and church schools across the diocese, as part of an educational project to mark the outbreak of the First World War, in partnership with the Royal British Legion.

  • Look in your Oxford Mail for a voucher to claim your free poppy seeds

What’s the significance of poppies?

The flower has been used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war.

Inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” whose opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders.

They were first used to commemorate American soldiers who died in that war the Great War before being adopted by military veterans’ groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Today, they remain widely displayed by people in the UK and the Commonwealth to commemorate their servicemen and women who have been killed in all conflicts since 1914.

It has been adopted by the Royal British Legion as the symbol for the Poppy Appeal and is worn in the days leading up to Remembrance Sunday every November.

Sheena’s tips on how to grow them

Oxford Mail gardening columnist Sheena Patterson, of Oxford Garden Design, said: “The flowers will create a bright splash of colour in a sunny corner and are tough, easy to grow and will thrive in any well-drained soil.

“Sow your poppy seeds thinly into finely raked, moist soil and water gently using a fine spray nozzle to prevent washing away the fine seeds. Keep the soil lightly moist until the seeds germinate, which should take approximately 10 to 15 days.

“If you let the flowers go to seed, they will self-seed and grow wild, or you can cut a seed head just before it ripens and pop it in a paper bag and hang it up in a dry place. This should provide plenty of flowers for the following year.”