California Poppies


“Volunteer poppies in my vegetable garden: Spring 2016” 

The sheer, delicate vibrant beauty of golden sunrise orange poppies (Eschscholzia californica; Family: Papaveraceae) takes my breath away. Volunteers, like this one, are blooming in my raised beds. And yes, they take up precious room.   I pull out some and leave a thick stand at one end of the beds for the bees, other pollinators and me!

“Violas and sleeping Poppies”

Have you ever wondered why or noticed that California poppies fold up at dusk? Tulips, hibiscus and crocuses do also. This phenomena is called, “nyctinasty” and scientists have several theories. One is they are protecting pollen from getting wet from the dew. Bees and beneficials can access dry pollen easier and this helps to ensure pollination thus, successful reproduction.

The other is the closed flowers are a defense against nocturnal predators who might munch on tasty petals. Closed flowers expose more ground and gophers, voles or moles are targets of hungry owls. 

My theory is Poppies sleep and faeries use them as little hammocks. Wink. 

“Grey-green foliage in the winter garden”

The California poppy in the wild enjoys diversity growing amidst other wildflowers, grasses, bunch grasses and small shrubs. The foliage is fernlike and provides a graceful touch. I linger in the garden at twilight to watch the bees go home and savor the soft muted tones, watch the dew moisten and glimmer on the leaves. Here in the vegetable garden, with Tithonia, late Cosmos and Violas the Poppies rest and await the coming of Spring.


“Surprise! Poppies by the Mail Box post”

 In a small medium in my driveway where two 25 year old dwarf citrus live, several Poppy plants emerged late fall of 2015. In April, here they are as perky and colorful as can be. Bees, in a frenzy to gather as much pollen as they can, hum so loud I have to smile.



“Poppies in the California Native Garden at The John Muir Historic Site” 

So I admit that I live in an idealic area and my town, Martinez, is home to John Muir’s fruit ranch and the Italianate Mansion built by his father-in-law, John Strentzel, in the early 1900’s. As the native plant collection perks up for Spring, flowers forming, guess who is already creating a show.


“More poppies in native garden”


“In the front yard of a home garden with Salvia’s and Mexican Primrose”


“Meadows of golden poppies at the gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek”


“Poppy Seeds: and planting them!”

Harvesting seeds is easy. Collect seed pods when they are dry. I prefer to snip them off into a small paper sack. Store in a dry, airy place to finish drying.

Direct sow Zones 8-10 in Fall; check with your local nursery if you live in other zones but usually wildflowers are planted in Fall or early spring.

Barely cover the seeds on the surface of soil free of invasive weeds. Easy to grow, they self-seed and provide food for pollinators and birds. Like me, you might be hard-pressed to decide whether to pull them out or leave.


“Roots like carrots”

Be careful to not overwater your poppies. Water deeply when you do and plant with other flowers and shrubs that don’t need a lot of water.


“Ah beauty!”



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *