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California's native bush poppies...tough and drought-resistant.

California's native bush poppies ... tough and drought-resistant Touch and drought resistant, the big flowering shrub shown above is one of two species of native California bush poppies. Both thrive in sunny, dry locations and deserve to be more widely planted in the low-elevation West. (Desert gardeners, however, should consider them experimental.)

Fall is the best season to plant bush poppies, so they can grow healthy root systems during the rainy season.

Once established (after a year or so), bush poppies need little summer watering--every 4 to 6 weeks at most. Clear yellow flowers appear in abundance from late spring to early summer, but the dense foliage provides textural interest all year.

Island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii) is native to Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands off the coast of Southern California. In some areas, this shrub eventually will grow to 20 feet tall. Branching freely, it becomes very dense with 3-inch oval green leaves. Peak bloom occurs April to July, with scattered flowering throughout the year.

Bush poppy (D. rigida) is native to dry chaparral areas in the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada. Flowers are similar to those on D. harfordii, but peak bloom comes slightly earlier--about March to June. The shrub reaches no more than 8 feet, often less. Its yellowish gray or white bark sheds, and its gray-green leaves are 1 to 4 inches long.

Consider either bush poppy for the background of a bed with other low-water-use plants, or a dry slope, or grouped in an informal screen. Avoid putting them near plants watered frequently in summer.

On both species, prune just after peak bloom. D. rigida should be cut back to 2 feet each year; prune D. harfordii only to thin or shape.

A 1-gallon plant costs about $6, a 5-gallon plant about $18. Young ones grow fast;a 1-gallon plant may catch up to a 5-gallon one in less than two years. Not every nursery sells them, but your nurseryman can order for you.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1986
Words:329
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