One of the best spots to see mass quantities of California poppies (Eschscholtzia californica)) every spring is Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve near Lancaster in Southern California. Sometimes nature/timing does not cooperate though. Poppies can be little jerks and decide it’s not sunny/early enough in the day to be open in a giant orange mass if they don’t feel like it. It was pretty cloudy out despite the bits of blue sky you see here.
This is the picture you post on Instagram that makes it look like the poppies are open and amazing. It also gives the illusion that there aren’t 100’s of other people there all trying to take pictures and being obnoxious. Folks were going off the trail all over the place, trampling and picking flowers despite the giant warning signs all over the place. It was still cool to see the orange hillsides, even if it was super cold, people filled and windy. Luckily we saw some great poppy action in Lake Elsinore the next day and many more blooms in the desert.
You may want to check out the live Poppy Cam before heading out as the blooms are different every year depending on how much rain falls in the winter. I took a quick peek back in mid-March and it was nothing but brown hillsides. California poppies are easy to grow and easiest to direct seed as they don’t like to be transplanted. They’re great for filling little cracks where nothing else will grow. I’ve even seen them looking happy in Wisconsin. Select Seeds has a ton of poppy options to choose from including doubles, but my favorite is ‘Mikado‘. Check out my successful poppy experiment in Oakland for even more California poppy fun.