It’s me and my dog watching our backyard soak up a mess of grey wetness. Brave and hungry birds still flash by, snag a snack from the feeders then quietly disappear. I leave to go make coffee, but the Border Collie remains, just in case someone decides to invade. Like cats or crows. You never know.
Lulu used to have a tiny, matching partner all long-haired black with identical white tuxedo and spats. Together the bounding 65 pound dog and her elderly 8 pound kitty-partner rid our garden of noisy, messy Killer Crows and Robber Cats. As Boutros aged, she sometimes laid down next to Lulu, curling her bony spine into the warmth of Lulu’s belly. She hated it when Lulu licked her, but never ran away from The Tongue.
California is a “Desert State” and today is a gift, (since I’m blessed by having a roof over my head.) I feel like a teenager enjoying one of Natures Pranks. But I’m not sure how the tomatoes think it’s so funny. We shall see.
I bet our billion dollar grape farmers (‘scuse me: “Vinntners”) are on tippy toes, worrying about mildew and fungus and their other slimy-grape-sucking nemeses. I’m not sure if that will mean they will have to re-poison our earth. I hope not. Once should be enough the next twenty eons, if we deserve that many.
I put an outdoor carpet in the Southwest corner of my garden. That corner is shaded by my elderly Japanese Maple and my neighbor’s tasty plum tree. It’s a cozy-warm place for a desert rat like me to have a coffee, do a little reading and writing. I found a picture of poppies last year and hung it on the fence, mimicking my poppy fields in The North Sector. It’s now a soaking wet outdoor living room, complete with sogging sofa, squishy chairs, but a clean coffee table. I’m not worried: it will dry in one day… one day.
Ahh, my poppy field: it surrounds our Ankh water feature that cools down those few days when the thermometer goes into triple digits, simply by the magic of sound. Thepoppies were the surprise of my garden- life and now the love of my garden. We’ve just finished first bloom; the second will show up late next week, before July Fourth for sure. I think.
I picked up one six-pack of “Thai Silk Poppies” at Harmony Farms out in hippy-dippy West County about ten years ago. Thai Silk: I love Thai food1 And on that basis I purchased just one six-pack of poppies, not two or three. I’ve been to opium fields in Chiang Mai and I didn’t want those scraggly tall, rangy field poppy plants.
California’s state flower is The Poppy. It’s a hardy desert plant that might achieve a foot in height given a wet summer. They are street-wise, brassy plants with an outrageous competition-orange blossom. They can and do live anywhere birds want to drop them.
We also have a smaller and shyer California Poppy: a margarine-pale “mini poppy”, seen mostly in the cracks of serpentine rock areas.
My half-dozen Thai Silk poppies took care of business in their first year. They grew, they blossomed and I was shocked into rare delight by their variations on beautiful that these six little plants produced that first year.
They bloomed strong, luxurious and brilliant, spreading an array of color mixes ranging from soft pinks and alabaster white, lavenders, magentas, coral, orange and red. I found the Thai Poppy also has a quirky attribute, which allows me to keep track of them over the years: each delicate Thai petal has a series of darker toned stripes radiating out from the pistils and stamen, giving th flower a pleated effect.
About three years ago Los Californios showed up.
These are the original settlers, the unmistakable desert-hardy plants who scream a silent hello of competition-orange throughout Californian fields and hillsides, blown in by wind or dropped by birds. And in my garden they took over like the Calvary on Horseback, no doubt having heard about the Asian Invasion. Los Californios are not vain, just loud and boisterous: they sport no showy design in their petals: the only dream in their heart is of reclaiming our state, it’s highways and byways.
But something changed when they met the delicate Thai Silks in my garden. I think I saw Los Californios cozy up to the Thais, intrigued by their delicate beauty, their quiet, contemplative demeanor. By the end of that first Autumn, new and stronger families appeared, not quite as brazen; a little more conscious.
The eighth generation of poppies has taken over the entire garden now, tolerating only elderly pink and red carnations, and my one purple Desert Sage.
And this year for the first time I’m seeing that some of the younger Californios now have a contemplative streak, a decorative pleat in their petals.