I first discovered the Matilija Poppy when I was attending a weekend watercolor workshop in Sutter Creek in the 1990's. We had taken a walk to look for good subjects to paint. Along a back side street was a pretty yard attached to a victorian home and there along the sidewalk was a gigantic bush with the most beautiful flowers, about 9 inches wide. They looked like the crepe paper flowers you can buy in Mexico. Or like a giant sunny-side-up fried egg. I fell in love. I never did try to paint them, but someday...
I don't have a way to scan my photos from that first meeting, so I am showing three photos I took in Mendocino on a vacation in 2005. These Matilija Poppies grew to the side of what I believe was the book store. The bush wasn't very big, but the flowers were!
They look really nice up against a picket fence or trellis.
The Matilija Poppy loves full sun, can grow to be about 8 feet tall, and is invasive, so plant it carefully. They are hard to propagate from seeds or cuttings. I had a bit of a hard time finding a plant when I wanted one, I finally did find a small plant at the Front Yard nursery in El Dorado. Now it towers over my head and blooms like crazy from about May through July.
This is my prize Matilija Poppy, enjoying its view of the South Fork of the American River.
It sits away from the house, but that makes it a special trip to get closer and smell the wonderful blooms. They make fairly good cut flowers, but they don't last for days. Enjoy them for a couple of days. Did I mention they smell good?
My bush enjoys a spot all its own, except for a few "naked ladies" I have planted beside it for some late summer bloom.
I have a fence around it because when it was small the deer liked to taste it. They didn't really like it, but they just have to see if they want to make it dinner. Now it is so large they find it intimidating and pretty much leave it alone.
This photo shows the definite "fried egg" look of the blooms. I wish I could take a photo of the scent.
Here is a honey bee going in for a taste. Since they have such a lovely scent, they attract all kinds of bees and little wasps. I like to think I am helping the honey bee population by planting my poppy.
The buds of the flowers are gigantic and look ready to pop in this picture.
This flower looks like a ballerina spinning in an ecstatic dance.
Probably too many pictures but I can't help it, I just love this plant.
At the height of bloom, the Matilija Poppy is covered with hundreds of blooms, you can smell it from 20 feet away.
Although it is sometimes hard to rip my eyes away from the river view, the Matilija Poppy insists that I concentrate on its loveliness. If you have a nice open spot with full sun, you should try planting one too. Mine has been hardy down to under 20 degrees, but we do live in what is called "the banana belt" since we have the air flow along the river. I believe it is worth your while to try to grow one. December is a great time to plant. Ask for one for Christmas!