Saturday, February 16, 2008


Glinda writes:

I adore Sunflowers. They are one of my great loves in the garden, especially the veggie garden.

I love to watch them grow. As the seedlings thrust up from seeds in the soil, they grow every day. You can almost see it. Last summer, I would head to the garden just about every day, stand beside them, and see how much I had shrunk from the day before. While some are tall, others are relatively short. Their tall and variable heights make for great contour in the garden. Their variable and usually vibrant colors make for great contrast with the luscious greens of the vegetable plants.

I love watching their smiling faces bloom. I am enchanted by the mandala like pattern of the fattening seeds. My eyes could gaze at their lovely curving patterns on those broad seedheads for a very long time.

This is one of my favorite cut flowers. I love to create flower arrangements high on drama and radiant with life. Sunflowers are the leading lady of such a beautiful cast. This is a great flower for an arrangement to be seen at a distance.

Late last summer, I would stand underneath their tall heads, poke at seeds and watch the Chickens scramble at our feet. It was a riot. Plus, in the late summer and fall, Goldfinches arrived like sunbeams to devour the seeds. This year, we plan to save a bunch of seedheads back for the Chickens and for feeding the birds over the winter season.

I think I out-did myself with the selection of seeds for this year's garden. I am really excited. These are seed packs in my stash:
  • Antique Mix, yellows, golds and reds, 3-6 feet, turn of the century heirloom varieties (Shumway's)
  • Arikara, 12 feet, yellow, multi-headed, collected by Melvin Gilmore from the Arikara on Ft. Berthold Reservation; I wonder if Dorreen knows about this (Seed Savers)
  • Autumn Beauty Mix, cream to mahogany, 6-8 feet, up to 2 dozen flowers per plant, heads up to 8 inches across (Shumway's)
  • Fantasia Mixture (Pinetree)
  • Giant Sunflower, 8-12 feet, heads up to 20 inches across (Shumway's)Irish Eyes, 24-30 inches, dwarf, golden pointed petals with green centers (Seed Savers)
  • Italian White, 6 feet, 4" flowers, dark chocolate centers with pure white outer petals (Seed Savers)
  • Large Grey-Stripe (Shumway's)
  • Mammoth Gray Stripe, 9-12 feet, heads 14 inches across, great for toasting (Gurney's)
  • Mammoth Russian (Shumway's)
  • Pastiche, 5 feet, soft shades of yellow, red, buff (Gurney's)
  • Ring of Fire, 4-6 feet, dark centered blooms, 4-5 inches across, petals fade from dark red to golden yellow tips, or cream to mahogany depending on seed catalog (Seed Savers and Shumway's)
  • Royal Flush Mix, 6 feet, 4-6 inch flowers dramatic color combinations (Gurney's)
    Skyscraper, up to 12 feet, multi-headed, bright yellow, flower heads 14 inches across (Gurney's)
  • Summer Cutting Mix, 5-7 feet (Burpee's)
  • Sunspot, 2 feet, 10 inch blooms (Gurney's)
  • Tarahumara, 7-10 feet tall, rare (Seeds of Change)
  • Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower (from dear friend Sarah Saltmarsh)
  • Valentine, 5 feet, very long lasting cut flower, dark brown center, soft primrose yellow petals (Seed Savers)
  • Velvet Queen, 6 feet, crimson petals (Gurney's)

Will I be saving seeds for re-planting in 2009? I don't think so. On the back of their seed packs, Seed Savers tells me that my gregarious Sunflowers will cross-pollinate and should be separated by 1/2 mile to ensure seed purity. Of my 17 varieties of Sunflowers, I would need to plant one every half mile. That means I would make it 8 and 1/2 miles of the 10 to Mother's house. She would like that.

I have to smile as I think about my attachment to Sunflowers and my plans for the garden this year. When I was digging through some old family photos last fall, I found a picture of Aunt Mary Bloskovich Bryson standing beside a very tall Sunflower in the first growing season of their new house in Prairie Village, Kansas. The year was 1956. Last summer, I was here in the first growing season of our new house standing by my enormous Sunflowers too. (That's the thumbnail picture of me by my bio in the lefthand column of this Blog.) Some things don't change and, for Sunflowers, that is a very good thing.

Sunflowers make me smile. Just like some people, I see them and I smile. I can't help myself. Perhaps more of us should aspire to be Sunflowers and to plant Sunflowers. Now that's a plan.

Photo above: Our seed stash

Photo middle: I drop Sunflower seeds to the now exuberant Chickens.

Photo bottom: In 1956, Aunt Mary stands by her Sunflower in the first growing season after they moved into their new house in Prairie Village, Kansas.

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