- Author: Catherine Bibeau
Two years ago I went to the Walker Canyon poppy superbloom twice; once when there were lots of people, and a second time early in the morning when there were very few visitors. It was unbelievably beautiful. I felt compelled to try to grow poppies one more time.
During a visit to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley last year (theodorepayne.org). I picked up several packs of California Golden Poppy seed and a few packs of red poppy seed. Last September I sprinkled all but one of the packs along the dry creek bed we'd put in years ago. I kept all the seed within the rocky confines of the creek.
Fast forward to this past winter. There was another superbloom in Walker Canyon. I saw that one as well, and somehow it seemed even more spectacular than the 2017 superbloom. I wished I could have a bit of that golden glory of my own to see every day. But all I had was a dry creek bed. Period.
And then – a tiny, unmistakable poppy leaf appeared from under a rock. Later in the day, it had the company of another tiny poppy leaf. I scrutinized the seeded creek bed daily, like a 49er examining his claim, hoping to find gold. During the following weeks more and more little poppy plants popped up. I was thrilled. But that's all there was. Plants. No little golden explosions of color. I thought “Well, okay. It's a start. Better than I've done before. Maybe next year.”
On March 15 at 11:29 a.m. I saw it: One lone Golden California Poppy atop a long, reedy stem. It wasn't open, but in my eyes it was the singularly most stunningly gorgeous and perfect flower that ever existed. It was every happy holiday, birthday, and special occasion all rolled up in soft petals of golden orange. I was sure it was smiling at me.
Poppies are wild flowers; they grow where they want, and regardless of how their seeds are placed, I am certain that when no one is looking, those little seeds get up and march to the very spot they think they should be. The strictures of a human plan cannot contain them; they are an expression of freedom in nature. If we are lucky, we get to witness that expression.
The golden poppies have been joined by red poppies, appearing somewhat later than the goldens. They are growing outside of the creek bed and have shown that their design sense is far superior to mine. Each of them is perfectly situated, their size and colors in a balanced palette I could never achieve.
Next September I will again seed poppies. But this time I will toss them into the breeze, rather than in a neat arrangement of where I think they ought to grow. The poppies know much better than I where they ought to be.
Cathi Bibeau is a home gardener, growing various fruits, seasonal vegetables and a few types of ornamental flowers. And now poppies.