Island Bush Poppy

island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii)

island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordii)

For more than a decade, I had been looking for that highly prized poppy. No one had it. No one could propagate it. Yes, you could see it growing wildon the Channel Islands, and there was a glorious specimen or two adorning the Theodore Payne Foundation landscape, but the plant was not to be found in any nursery anywhere.
Then just the other day, after despairing of ever finding it, I came upon a dozen examples of that very poppy, well-rooted in one-gallon containers, and ready for sale at – where else? – the Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery in Sun Valley.
Perhaps you have seen this astonishing plant, Harford’s island bush poppy (Dendromecon ‘Harfordii’). If not, you might want to have a look at it – you might even want to go out of your way to encounter it – because it is unlike any plant you have ever seen. It has yellow flowers that are soft and silky and bloom abundantly from now until midsummer and intermittently during the rest of the year. It would look wonderful underplanted with California poppies, whose satiny orange flowers would nicely complement the island bush blooms.
Flowers aside, the island bush poppy would hold its own in any garden on account of two highly prized horticultural qualities: smooth blue leaves and a natural symmetry that is not only decorous but minimizes the need for pruning. And the island bush poppy does not require irrigation once established in the garden.
At the non-profit Theodore Payne Foundation, the nursery has never looked better. For instance: for partial sun to light shade, a wonder ribbon grass (Philaris arundinacea) called Reed Canary is available. Its leaves are striped green and white with tinges of red. It would look fine interplanted with coral bells (Heuchera species) or California buttercup (Ranunculus californica).
California natives are commonly recommended for their ability to withstand drought when planted in the garden. The currant or gooseberry family has several members that would make fine additions to the water-thrifty garden. The pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineus glutinosum), the yellow blooming golden currant (Ribes aureum), and the fuchsia flowering gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) are presently in bloom. The shade-tolerant Catalina perfume (Ribes viburnifolium) has pleasantly scented leaves.
Poppy Day, which is the foundation’s annual open house and plant sale extravaganza, will be held April 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be tours of the grounds, plant talks and propagation demonstrations. Admission is free.
The foundation, at 10459 Tuxford Street in Sun Valley, is regularly open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Call (818) 768-1802 or visit the Web site at

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