The poppies of summer

Early summer as a season of nature (rather than the calendar or culture) is characterized by fairly long days, warm but not hot temperatures (in the low 70s F.), mating behavior of birds and animals, and the flourishing of a characteristic set of plants. Here in northern California, we zoomed into early summer around the beginning of the month, and suddenly the bulbs of spring were succeeded by the extravagant blooms of summer — including, at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, a pair of poppies that hadn’t even been visible 7-10 days ago: Romneya coulteri, Matilija poppy; and Papaver orientale, Oriental poppy. They sprung up out of the ground as if by magic.

In the northern hemisphere, calendrical summer takes in June through August, with the summer solstice on June 21st. In the U.S., cultural summer is closely aligned with this: it begins on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. But the summer of nature is a local thing; it differs according to factors like proximity to the ocean, latitude, and prevailing wind currents.

Here in the Bay Area, the California poppies (Eschscholtzia californica) bloom, at least fitfully, pretty much all year round, but they go crazy in early summer, and the Gamble Garden has them in a range of colors, beyond the wild original yellow-orange. But they’re small low-growing plants that carpet areas, while Matilija poppies are really tall (routinely 4 ft., but up to 7 ft.), with the largest flowers of any poppy; and Oriental poppies have big hairy leaves and big gaudy flowers.

From my 6/20/13 posting “Poppies, lilacs, and lilies”, a stand of Romneya coulteri:

(#1)

And from Wikipedia:

(#2) Native orange-scarlet Orientals, looking like an artist’s creation

Papaver orientale, the Oriental poppy, is a perennial flowering plant native to the Caucasus, northeastern Turkey, and northern Iran.

Oriental poppies grow a mound of leaves that are hairy and finely dissected in spring. They gather energy and bloom in mid-summer. After flowering the foliage dies away entirely, a property that allows their survival in the summer drought of Central Asia. Gardeners can place late-developing plants nearby to fill the developing gap.

… Aside from its natural brilliant orange-scarlet, since the later 19th century selective breeding for gardens has created a range of colors from clean white with eggplant-black blotches (Barr’s White is the standard against which other whites are measured), through clear true pinks and salmon pinks to deep maroons and plum. In addition petals may be creased or fringed, such as Türkenlouis.

Here (in an image from the net), the variety Papillon Pink, in bloom at the Gamble on Wednesday:

(#3)

 

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