Poppies of Spring

Visual kief, intoxicating to the eye, O’Keefian, the ephemeral poppies of spring.


These are not the flamboyant Oriental poppies immortalized by the painter Georgia O’Keefe. The Orientals won’t grow in Southern California, requiring more winter chill hours than we have to give, but there are lots of annual poppies with which to console
one’s self for that grievous loss.

Along with the Spanish poppies colonizing the front path, Papaver ruprifragum, the Poppy of Troy, P. setigerum, has found a home this spring next to the back porch, in the crevice between porch and path. These Dwarf Breadseed poppies might be my favorite, and I’m so glad a few have returned this year. None were found in the main garden beds, just these few that reseeded into the cool verges at the pathways’ edge.


I’m getting some suspicious queries like Why are these weeds growing here?

My enthusiastic reply varies but usually includes something along the lines of Weeds? No, this isn’t a weed! (This point is endlessly debatable and best dealt with abruptly.)  It’s the Poppy of Troy!  (Men go for this.) Don’t worry, it’s an annual and will disappear when summer arrives. Isn’t this a great opportunity to really get a look at the pistils and stamens? Did you notice how the seed capsule is a perfect seed dispersal unit, a gorgeous pepper shaker? etc.

Usually, the questioner is satisfied with these explanations, or pretends to be because they’ve had about as much botanical conversation as they can tolerate.


The Poppies of Troy don’t make masses of leaves that can smother neighbors. At 2 to 3 feet, they never need staking. They are perfectly proportioned and self-contained, in stature if not seed. I’d probably enjoy them sprouting up through the kitchen floor, but then that’s just me.  Intoxicated by poppies.


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2 Responses to Poppies of Spring

  1. Grace says:

    I love poppies. Last year was my first for growing ‘Lauren’s Grape’ and it was just stellar! I love your photos.

  2. keewee says:

    I love poppies, but must admit I haven’t any in my garden yet.
    My mother always had many poppies in her garden, and I remember her holding the cut end of the stalk of a poppy over a lit match, before she placed them in a vase.

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