No, they are not those kinds of poppies. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and the surrounding poppy fields are covered with California poppies and they are all in glorious full bloom right now. Drive through the right part of Lancaster and it truly does appear that a four year old with a love of orange has taken a giant watercolor brush to the mountains.
California poppies are, shockingly enough, in the poppy (Papaveraceae) family and grow in California. They are so ubiquitous with California that they were named the State flower in 1903. The California Poppy has provided the residents of California with a food, oil and cosmetic source for as long as there were people in the area (you know, like even before California was “discoveredâ€). Because of this, there is an Official Poppy Day on April 6th and a Poppy Week from May 13-18. I think this is the only flower I know of that gets more official days than all the previous presidents of our country combined.
These little beauties may look fragile, but they are not. They prefer to grow in sandy dry soil in view of the full sun, which in this area can be a wicked mistress. Not to mention that the areas where California Poppies frequently grow are subject to wind gusts in excess of 40 MPH. These flowers are well adapted to taking a beating and being beautiful while they do so.
They can be grown outside the state of California and will do great if you can provide the climate they like and will do ok if you can’t. While they are technically a perennial, they cannot tolerate temps that dip below 20F, so in most places, even in California, they are regarded as an annual. They do best and look best in alpine or rock gardens where their low growing, compact beauty can be showcased best.
They are also an excellent flower for those who are looking to xeriscape their yard. They need, actually prefer, little water and will flourish under xeriscape conditions. These flowers tend to grow in conditions that others simply cannot. As a matter of fact, many gardeners fail to grow them because they give them too much attention. These are one of the lone wolves of the botanical world. They prefer it if you just left them alone.
They are vibrant and strong and blindingly bright. Just perfect for the gardener who is looking for a low maintenance flower to fill in that tricky and annoying dry spot in the yard.