California Cliché: Flower Power
It’s that time of year again and everywhere I go I see the happy California Poppy popping up like a wild party in the field, by the road side, and on the coastal trail. When I first created this website, this time of year inspired me to chose the official state flower of California for the new Savvy California logo.
I’ll tell you about the poppy in a sec, but here’s why this native wildflower is important to me.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I started out with a hyperlocal San Francisco Bay Area blog, back in 2009, that focused on finding discounts on local arts and entertainment. That was during the economic downturn and real estate crisis when Troy and I first moved back to California. Our house sale fell through at the last minute, so we had to make two house payment for a year. Ouch!
In 2011, readers encouraged me to expand into Southern California. So I started a second site called “Savvy SoCal.” Then business clients suggested I go national, so both blogs morphed into “Savvy Cities.”
But after years of scrambling to do justice to way too many cities, I decided to bring the blog back home. I realized that while I enjoy traveling to other places, I’m happiest exploring and writing about my home state. And what a state it is, too.
Now, in 2020, we’re seeing the probability of another economic downturn, so my posts about finding fun cheap things to do near you may just come in handy again.
And the poppies?
California poppies now grow wild in my front yard along the driveway, a symbol of thriving in a natural habitat, and a happy reminder to do what I love and leave the rest behind.
All About California Poppies
If you’ve ever driven into the state from somewhere else, you’ve seen the California Poppy on the highway welcome signs, and the flower also decorates official Scenic Route signs.
To see the real deal though, drive around California in spring and summer when the poppies are in their most eye-popping, outrageous, ostentatious, full bloom.
Best Place to Gorge
You’ll see California poppies everywhere during the season, from SoCal to the Central Coast to Northern California. But the most notable place, with mile-long carpets of poppies, is a state-protected place called Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, located in northern Los Angeles County (15 miles west of Lancaster). There are other places, of course, but this one is my favorite.
ALSO SEE: My post on the Antelope Valley Poppies.
California Poppy Day
That’s right, this wildflower has it’s own day: April 6.
How to grow California poppies
These golden delights are easy to grow in your garden. Plant them from seeds in the fall or very early spring. Snip them down or pull them up when they’re done for the season (when they start to brown and fade). They’ll reseed easily for next year, so let some flowers ripen to seed on the plant and then scatter them. You can replant in the fall, or they’ll come up on their own next spring, especially in warmer places.
How to keep a poppy happy
They like to slum it, that is, they prefer poorer soils, especially the sandy stuff. If the dirt is too rich and wet, they won’t thrive. Well, they do like moist conditions at first, but once they get going leave them alone — they can handle droughts.
They don’t like to be transplanted. And they don’t like it hot. They’re a cool-season annual, showing their color early in the growing season and fading in the heat of summer.
The petals close at night and when the weather is too cold, windy, or cloudy, but they open again in the morning sun.
Eschscholzia californica, a dicot, is an annual or perennial herb native to California and a few other places in western North America.
The California State Floral Society chose the poppy as the California State Flower in December 1890, and it was made official by the state legislature in 1903. It took them that long to figure out the poppy’s golden blooms were the perfect fit for the Golden State.