Dressed in summer whites and not the least bit concerned about wrinkles, these Matilija Poppies were recently seen showing off in Seattle.
The towering plants with flowers that can measure 5 inches across are a new discovery for me. I was really taken with the bold drama of clumps of big white poppies floating effortlessly against a cerulean sky in the bright sunlight.
I was in the UW (University of Washington) neighborhood of Seattle that day to see a client. My work takes me all around the Seattle area and that afternoon I was in rather desperate need of a bathroom. I remembered the University’s Center for Urban Horticulture, with its gardens and the clean, cool, inviting library that’s open to the public. I drove over, parked, and was pleasantly startled by these gorgeous creatures as I walked to the building.
These big poppies, properly called Romneya coulteri, are sometimes called tree poppies, or fried egg flowers – you can see why. It looks like I was just in time to catch their annual show; the pollen was beginning to settle into the petals.
I learned that the Matilija Poppy is native to dry canyons and burned over areas of California & Mexico and is difficult to establish. But once they’re growing, apparently you’ve got them.
The Center for Urban Horticulture website says the plant “highly resents transplanting.”
You can just imagine one looking down at you, haughtily waving its paper-white petals, saying, “Go away and leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m perfectly happy here?“
(If you’ve ever done an unsuccessful transplant, you know how important it is to try to match your environment to the plant’s native habitat).
Given its native habitat, you can imagine this plant deals well with drought.
And you might wonder what it’s doing here in Seattle!
Actually, we’re dry all summer long – very dry. We have lots of sun, daytime temps in the 70′s and nights in the 50′s, and no humidity. Yes, I’m bragging. I have a right to with the gray skies I put up with all winter!
So I’d say the flowers are in a simpatico location during the summer bloom time. I noticed they were planted in a raised bed, which should allow good winter drainage. Back east I imagine it would be hard to establish them because conditions (both soil and air) aren’t usually dry for very long. That’s probably why it was a new plant to me.
Next time your summer whites
(be they cotton or linen) are
remember the pretty Matilija poppies,
breathe a sigh
and carry on.
(Note: I didn’t have my camera with me the day I discovered the poppies on the way to the rest room, so I took photos with my phone. On the weekend I returned with my DSLR for more pictures. If you’re curious, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and last two pictures were taken with the DSLR).