By Richard Flowers, ACCNP-Green Thumb Nursery-Ventura
Peering in the distance is an 8-10 foot or taller shrub covered with cheerful yellow poppy blossoms, in front of that is a blue flowered Cleveland Sage, and lastly an orange monkey flower, what a show stopper of California native plants! There is a special type of plant that is rarely observed in cultivation and not often seen for sale. So what makes this plant so sought after and special? Maybe I could tell you that it has glorious 3-inch four petaled flowers that bloom abundantly. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that it grows at a moderate to fast rate, is easy to care for, is surprisingly hardy to 15-20 degree Fahrenheit, and its spectacular blossoms appear from spring through fall in a coastal setting. Or it could be that it is only native to one part of the world, the Channel Islands (Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Catalina) off the Southern California Coast and to have one or more of your own is truly a special treasure. What is this elusive yet mysterious plant I tease you about? It is the one and only Island Bush Poppy!
Island Bush Poppy’s fancy name is Dedromecon harfordii and is related to the state flower of California, the California Poppy. It becomes a shrub or small tree reaching heights between 6 and 19 feet, if left unpruned. This native species has thin branching stems covered sparsely with attractive smooth-edged, oval-shaped, cool silvery leaves that contrast well with its dazzling sunshine flowers. It is even attractive when its not in bloom because the foliage is interesting.
Island Bush Poppy thrives in a site that has well-draining soil and prefers a very sunny location, however it can also do well in a part shade location in interior areas. Ideally it likes to be more on the dry side than too wet, although for new plantings, during the first two years they are tolerant to summer watering but not overly saturated wet soil. When mature, it is best to cut irrigations down to 1 or 2 times a month or eliminate supplemental water completely, especially if the plant is in part shade. Do not over-water! Generally speaking, no amendments or fertilizers are necessary when installing this plant. Island Bush Poppy can tolerate clay soil if planted with cactus mix, situated on a slope, and be careful with the watering. It is suggested to protect them from strong winds. For a tidy plant and to control size, it is best to prune to thin or shape after blooming. I advise when planting Island Bush Poppy, do not disturb the root ball, as the roots are delicate. I suggest to slice away all sides of the container and the bottom, then remove the container from the plant minimizing root disturbance, and finally plant as recommended.
When using Island Bush Poppy in the landscape, I recommend using California native or other drought tolerant plants that would thrive with the same conditions and blend very well with this species. This stand-out plant will mix very well with the following California native plants: Catalina Cherry, Red Buckwheat (also knows San Miguel Island Buckwheat), Ceanothus (blue flowers), Sage Brush, and Island Snapdragon (red flowers). For non native plant selections you have the option of using: Pride Of Madera (blue flowers), Lions Tail (Orange flowers), Jerusalem Sage (yellow, pink or lavender flowers), Fruitless Olive, and Pink Melaleuca (pink flowers). You are not just limited to these plants only, they are just suggestions that would fit harmoniously together. Try using Island Bush Poppy as a large background shrub where you and others can enjoy the beautiful flowers. It can also be effective utilized as an informal hedge or screen.
Please visit your favorite Green Thumb Nursery, we carry a wide selection of California native and drought tolerant plants for beautiful gardens. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask one of our helpful staff, we will be glad to help you.
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