Johnny Poppy Seed: La Jolla architect shares his poppy seeds with the community

By Ashley Mackin

When spring 2014 comes around and California Golden Poppies start popping up along La Jolla Boulevard, they may be the work of local design architect Mark Bucon — or those who collect seeds from him. After planting several poppy stems in his yard and in front of his office, he began collecting the seeds. He now invites the community to pick some up and start their own poppy gardens.

He said he chose poppies for several reasons: they are the state flower, they are low maintenance, they are the first flowers to bloom in spring and bees love them.

To get a poppy patch started, the avid gardener said, “All you need to do is scratch the surface soil and toss them in (the ground) with water.” To prove his point, he offered some seeds to neighbor children, who, after a short dig with a rake, just threw them into the ground. “Perfect!” he declared.

Bucon started planting seeds Nov. 21, when there was a light winter rain. “One seed makes a whole plant and one plant can produce 50 flowers (when cared for), you just have to keep them watered,” he said, “So when the rain was falling, I threw some seeds down so they could be watered by the first rains.”

Poppies, when planted in cooler months, bloom in spring, which is another reason Bucon — and bees — like the bright orange blossoms.

“Come spring, they are one of the first flowers to bloom. Bees are particularly hungry after the winter, so they particularly like poppies so I’m happy to provide for them,” he said. After Bucon planted poppies last year, bees came and pollinated other plants in his elaborate garden. “I had the best crop of avocados last year,” he quipped. “I was good to the bees and the bees were good to me.

“Plus it gave me something very simple to do that brought me a lot of joy, especially collecting the seedpods.”

The seed process, he said, is simple, but involves patience. When the flowers die naturally, the pods dry out and explode, releasing dozens of seeds. Observing the pods and waiting until they were dry enough, Bucon would collect them and put the pods in a bag where they would explode and the released seeds could be contained.

Having collected thousands of seeds, Bucon is inviting fellow La Jollans to take a few and start their own poppy patches. His office is at 6796 La Jolla Blvd., where he said he would leave a large bag for people with containers to grab as many seeds as they’d like.