The lovely perennial which is often grown as an annual, has pretty cup shaped blooms in various hues of yellow, orange and even bronze and is a wonderful addition to a dry border. Despite its delicate appearance this flower is quite a tough little cookie and thrives in gravelly, dry, well drained soil. It is well known as a prolific self-seeder and it can flower for a long time, even setting new seeds and new flowers even in the same growing season.
One fascinating characteristic is the way the flower is shaped before it opens. Long slender teardrop in shape, it opens in the sun to reveal the generous silky, fiery coloured cup, only to close again at nightfall. It also boasts some lovely seed heads which make a cracking sound when they burst. This sound is particularly fascinating when the sound is amplified by many of these flowers popping side by side.
Growing these flowers is easy, you can sow them directly into well-drained, gravelly raked soil in Spring and to prolong the flowering season a good tip is to sow successively from April through to May meaning you’ll have plenty of flowers all Summer long. Another way to prolong your flowering season is to trim some of your flowers to the ground in mid summer which will ensure a succession of flowers throughout the season.
Good companions for the Californian poppy
The colour of this flower is perfectly suited to a hot and fiery border and plants such as Papaver commutatum, the Caucasian scarlet poppy is a lovely ladybird red companion. Calendula flowers also look great with these and add to the fiery hot scheme. Another warm coloured companion with stunning seasonal colour is the wallflower -Erysimum cheiri ‘Fire King’ with its endless amount of long lasting orange-red clustered flowers. The colour of the Californian poppy also works really well with cool colours and the elegant Lavandula stoechas as well as Salvia Mainacht both of which would set beautiful contrast to the cheerful yellow. The sweet forget me not-Myosotis sylvatica is another cheerful companion which contrasts in colour and with the shape of its tiny cerulean blue flowers and yellow eyes.
Self seeding plants are not limited to ornamental plants. Many edible flowers are great self seeders and are as useful for their pretty appearance as they are delicious in the kitchen. Borage (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a firm favourite and a delicious addition to salads and cocktails and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) is fantastic for salads and for making ‘nasturtium capers’ in Autumn. Many salads such as mustard, mizuna and rocket are also prolific self-seeders and are great to grow alongside ornamentals.
Many self-seeders are fantastic plants for wildlife, providing rich source of nectar and valuable seed-heads in Autumn and Winter. Plants such as the common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) are often covered in hungry bees and the Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) is a stunning statuesque plant which has valuable architectural seed-heads which birds can’t resist. These thistles are also great for cut flowers!
Some self-seeders can grow to be stunning architectural additions to the garden and one of my favourites, which also belongs in the edible section is Fenell -Foeniculum vulgare. Their feathery foliage and lovely coloured flowers are beautiful combined with almost any flower. Verbena bonariensis is another tall beauty, with stunning purple clusters of flowers rising above most other plants in the border.
Maintaining the self seeded border
One disadvantage of self-seeded spaces is that it can start to look messy, with too many of one flower growing in one place. Some flowers are happy doing their own thing and don’t swamp others while some are prolific and can take over a border. To avoid this and also clusters of a single flower type in one area, simply transplant some of the new seedlings to another part of the garden and remove any excessive spreading seedlings.