Sleep, My Pretty, Sleep – The California Poppy Fields of Antelope Valley, California

California Poppies covering a hillsideNo, 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 Poppy FieldsCalifornia 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 “discovered”). 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.

California Poppy FlowerThese 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.

California PoppiesThey 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.

7 thoughts on “Sleep, My Pretty, Sleep – The California Poppy Fields of Antelope Valley, California
  1. I have always liked poppies and wildflowers in general. In Texas the Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, do the same type of thing. While not being crazy about orange, I could live with this.

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  2. I’ve grown them the last two years here in Austin (see photo in link). They don’t like our clay soil or humid summers but they are well worth making an effort to grow. In answer to Gus above, the orange goes really well with the blue of our bluebonnets.

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  3. Oh man, this makes me homesick. I used to have these back home in Seattle, but here in Pittsburgh they simply refuse to do well, or even OK. For now I just have to sigh longingly at the photographs, and cherish the moments of seeing them in greenhoused botanical gardens.

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  4. I grew these flowers for the first time last year here in my garden in Shropshire – right on the English/Welsh border. They grew luxuriantly, about 12″ – 15″ high,and were smothered in flowers. Several plants have over-wintered – perhaps because this year our frosts have only dropped to about 5/6 celsius. I’m definitely going to keep them as a permanent feature, they’re glorious sunny happy flowers.
    BTW, came upon your blog via nablopomo and love it :O)

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  5. Love the poppies! I’m so thankful I stumbled on your blog.

    You’ll have to stop by my blog, I just posted some pics of my gorgeous sweet peas and peonies!!!

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  6. What a lovely post. There are a cluster of poppies in my SoCal community gardens growing volunteer on one of our paths. My toddler and I stop and admire them when we are traipsing around for hoses and wheel barrows and to go gossip with other gardeners. I had no idea they were so hearty. Perhaps I really will sow some in my borders and let them be…

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