As with so many garden plants, taking a look at where eschcholzia, the California poppy, grows naturally in the wild tells us what it enjoys most in the garden. In California, and other parts of the south western USA, California poppies grow in deserts and in other dry and sunny situations.
In the garden, that translates to the maximum of sun and the minimum of boggy soil – this is one of the very few annuals for which the familiar recommendation of poor sandy soil really does apply. So the sunny margin of a gravel drive is ideal.
But I’ve found a better situation. I’m going to steal the idea from a neighbour whose south facing stone house has no front garden at all, the pavement runs right up the base of the wall. But, where the wall meets the pavement, there’s a narrow crack.
Left to nature, that slender crack is soon home to groundsel, thistles and other quick, and more vigorous, colonisers – like buddlejas and willowherb. So: first thing is to get out there and extract all those weeds and weed seedlings. Next run the watering can long the crack and dampen it. Don’t flood it, just a little moisture. Then – sow the California poppy seed in the crack.
Sow more thickly than you usually would, as this is a challenging situation for newly sprouted seeds and few may survive the drought and the occasional dog pee.
The seedlings should then over winter, flower in spring and shed far more seed than was in that original packet. And, soon, there’ll be poppies all the way along. Varieties? Take a look and pick whichever you like.
Wild California poppies tend to have orange or yellow flowers but there are also pretty pastel shades including ‘Apple Blossom’.