The fascinating Story of California Poppy

The Remarkable Story of California Poppy

Poppy isn’t a flower that immediately comes to mind when thinking of floral notes in a fragrance, but it has inspired perfumers over the years. Perhaps it is the delicate nature of the blossoms and the vibrant colour as they sway in the wind in early summer when they bloom. James Atkinson, official perfumer of the English Royal Court, was so taken by poppies that he created “Californian Poppy” in 1906.

1907 Californian Poppy ad for Atkinsons
1907 Californian Poppy ad for Atkinsons

Established by James and Edward Atkinson at 24 Old Bond Street, London in 1799, the pair produced their fragrant creations at a factory at Eonia Works, Southwark, Park Road in London. They began with classic citrus colognes that featured bergamot, lemon, bitter orange flower, lavender and rose predominantly. But James’ creativity flourished and he began formulating fragrances around lotus flower, Joss flower, hyacinth, lilac and black tulip. Californian Poppy was one of his earliest scents.

original Atkinsons Californian Poppy bottle design
original Atkinsons Californian Poppy bottle design

The black-and-white advertisement for the fragrance featured a man and woman in romantic embrace with the words:

“As wayward as a coquette…as constant as a vow…as exciting as a first kiss…as thrilling as a first meeting…as gay as the song of the lark. Californian Poppy Perfume.

poppy flowers growing wild in California
poppy flowers growing wild in California

Poppy flower oil is a hazy, powdery floral note that is soft and clean. It can have a citrusy and slightly sweet character depending on where it grows and weather patterns.

California poppy flowers
California poppy flowers

This herbaceous plant is most famous for its one species that is the source of the narcotic drug opium. Gardeners love poppies for their vibrant colour and bees use the flower as a pollen source. When horticulturists refer to California Poppy, they are referencing the yellow or light orange variety that grows wild throughout central California, particularly around San Francisco. The poppy is said to have been domesticated by the indigenous people of Central Europe as early as 6000 BC. It’s an ancient flower.

The iconic scent was re-orchestrated for a new generation in 1995 by the cult British perfumery brand with new packaging. While the original was very floral in character, this new formula is better balanced with some woods, lemon and incense. Yet, it still maintains its powdery poppy accord.

California Poppies
California Poppies

is a free-spirted floral scent with a signature poppy accord and tender muskiness. It boasts notes of jasmine petals, poppy accord, lemon essence, pink pepper, orange flower, incense and cedarwood.

Atkinsons California Poppy
Atkinsons California Poppy

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  • Sandra
    June 18, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Remember this from my childhood my dad use to work at Atkinson in Southwark Park Road SE London he bought some for my mum happy memories

  • Angela Citrigno
    May 1, 2021 at 7:43 pm

    One day I will have the opportunity to smell an Atkinson Fragrance. @959angela

  • Brenda
    April 26, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Loved reading this back story Dave. I remember this fragrance from my childhood. Really interested in trying this new version. I really appreciate the quality of the Atkinsons brand.

    April 25, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Great story — how I enjoy learning the history of scents and fragrance houses! @cindy_sacks

  • LInda L
    April 20, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Sounds divine…”free spirited floral with poppy accord and muskiness.” Definitely a fragrance I must try.

  • Janet Moulton
    April 19, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    I love these scent stories!


  • September Dee
    April 15, 2021 at 10:44 am

    I’m going to have to try this one. It sounds really interesting.

  • Marla Veis
    April 15, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Hi Dave, l always look forward and enjoy reading the Scentlodge news letter. The newsletter always contains interesting facts about fragrance and l look forward to the next publication.

  • Sensible Scents
    April 15, 2021 at 9:56 am

    The new version with cedarwoods and incense sounds like a horrific blend! Don’t think many women would want to wear it. The original fragrance sounds much nicer. Thanks for this warning.

  • Sarah Robinson
    April 14, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    Very interesting
    Thank you

    • GAIL
      December 17, 2021 at 3:37 pm

      I am sure I was given this perfume when I was about 4 years old, with a small koala bear holding it?? Woukd this be right?? 1967??