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The first poppy of the year

Following My Muse
Robert T. Nanninga
Surf City Times
March 4, 2004


I love California poppies. Here at the Scenic House we have made a ritual out of waiting for the first poppy of the season. Marking the arrival of spring, California poppies bring vibrant color to a regional winter made somber by gray clouds of promising rain.

Precious rain.

This year the ceremonial poppy opened after a recent bout of much needed rain. Situated near the street, I spotted it while taking out the recycling. A good omen if other there was one. Usually we take a photo of the first bloom, this year we didn't due to an unrelenting schedule that leaves little time for spontaneous floral appreciation sessions. Instead I said hello, congratulated our little friend, and then went about looking for other flowers in bloom.

Our hillside of ceanothus is already in bloom, providing a lilac buffer between the non-natives to the south and us. The bees have already begun their spring sessions. Getting close to the ceanothus is now considered extreme gardening because the bees don't dig us monkeys interrupting the pollen buffet. They are also looking for a place to construct a hive.

Poppies are very different from flowering scrub. As wild flowers they can grow just about anywhere. From border to border these little beauties remind us all of the California that existed before the saturation of farms and ranches, towns and cities plowed under millions of years of evolution to "improve" the esthetics of California with tropical trees, thirsty lawns, and miles upon miles of asphalt and cement. Sadly our state flower must now fight like all native species for a place to root in a mass of humanity that has no time to stop and greet the poppies.

Every year, after the poppies have blossomed and produced seed, we harvest the future bounty to spread about our community. Some seeds are given to friends so that they may plant them in their own personal habitats. Other seeds are reserved for guerilla landscaping runs in parks, road medians, and places crying out for floral therapy. California poppies are an enchanting part of our natural heritage or which I am determined to share with future generations.

Where oaks are majestic and sequoias awe-inspiring, poppies are simply sweet. Never imposing, the California poppy is unassuming in stature, yet prolific in charisma. Personally I couldn't imagine myself living in a place without the possibility of the golden poppies announcing spring one delicate blossom at a time.

I love California poppies.

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