May 16, 2019

Starting your Own Poppy Superbloom

This year, I fell in love with California Poppies. Don’t get me wrong. They have always been a favorite flower of mine. I have long admired them on the sides of the winding curves of Highway 1, lining the gates into Big Sur. Little bursts of light orange flower petals clinging to the steepest cliffs, beautifully thriving in the most precarious of places. It’s no wonder why they are the state flower of California. They symbolize the golden state so well.

Visiting Walker Canyon and the Superbloom

I ventured to the infamous “poppy bloom” this spring, and what I found quite frankly blew my mind. When mother nature puts on a spectacle in SoCal, the crowds flock from near and far.  I was stunned when we came to the crest overlooking Lake Elsinore Tuesday and found an entire hillside illuminated by bright orange poppies. 

 My photographer friend, May, and I took the day to catch up and make the trip out despite the crazy buzz on the news about the crowds. It had been too long since we had gotten together and this was the perfect excuse.  We spent an hour getting off the traffic jammed freeway exit. And, just after we had made it through, they had closed the exit!
This meant that we were the last of the lucky gawkers who were permitted to enter the the tiny canyon that day. Slowly, the other onlookers from the morning started to dissipate as we passed by them, occupying the space they were leaving behind. 
That’s right, folks. May and I were left alone at the top of one of the busiest and popular natural attractions in SoCal to appreciate our friendship where nature meets solitude.  

Melissa Gayle Home.

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A drone image I took of the hillside. Pretty incredible.

I am so appreciative of being gifted this rare and beautiful sight in a human-less space where we could really take it in. It is where my most frequent curiosity occurs. “I wonder what this was like 100 years ago before all of these people came to find it. How special that must have been.” 
When you can find yourself alone in nature it becomes what the gods had intended it to be: indescribable.

The cars at Walker Canyon. We weren’t the only ones with this bright idea.

Starting My Own Poppy Bloom

Last year, I threw in my first ever batch of poppy seeds into the Earth’s sacred well of my backyard. Between Winter’s nap times, I became quite the gardener. I sprinkled in the seeds, working them into the soil, while chanting a few Hail Mary’s. At one point while watering the dirt patch where I had put them, I questioned whether they would ever bloom. But, the Hail Mary’s must’ve worked because these guys sure did. I didn’t know poppies don’t begin to bloom until the fall. Poppies are an annual plant, which means they grow from seed every year, bloom and then need to be replanted again to start the lifecycle. As I learned from my trip to Walker Canyon, the bloom of all blooms that could be seen from space, poppies are quite good at seeding themselves. And, with this year’s crazy amount of water, these little guys were in full force.

Harvesting Your Own Poppy Seeds

Since it is nearing the end of the spring bloom, now is a great time to harvest your own poppy seeds. I have been out and about plucking seed pods for next year’s garden. Poppies are a protected flower, so be sure to be mindful where you gather. Here are some tips I have gleaned on how to plant and grow your own poppies from seed.

How To

  1. After a poppy blooms, the flower will fall off leaving a pretty pink ring and a small little tip inside. This is the start of the seed pod. Slowly, over the next few days, that tip will grow into a 3-5 inch seed pod.
  2. You can use gardening sheers, or your hand, to just pluck off those seed pods. Then, throw the pods into a bowl or a cool place to dry out.
  3. Once the seeds begin to dry, the pods will start to split on their own. If your pods are still too wet, you will see that the seeds are still green. Allow them to sit longer.
  4. Once all of your pods begin to split open, scrape out the remainder of the seeds with your fingernail and shake them into your collection bowl.
  5. Store these seeds in a labeled mason jar until the fall for planting.
  6. Plant seeds in late October by mixing them with sand (so that they don’t clump up and stick together) and toss them into your garden. You can then work over a thin top layer of the soil with a small hand rake.

Lots of water. Lots of sun. And you’ll be on your way to having your own poppy bloom next season. Can’t wait to see what you guys do!

keeping dry seeds for next year

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