Sunday, July 5, 2009


Sunflowers blown flat by the wind in the backyard of our former house.

In bud

First of the season

Standing proudly in the weeds

"As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,

The same look which she turned when he rose."

My grandfather always planted a few sunflowers along the edge of the vegetable garden, near the fence so that if they grew too towering they could be tied up with baler twine to finish their season upright. When frosty weather arrived the sunflower heads were harvested along with the squash and pumpkins and were hung upside down to finish drying in the shelter of the porch roof. The striped black and grey seeds provided a winter treat for bluejays and other hardy birds.

I continued the tradition of planting sunflowers in my own garden, experimenting with newer dwarf hybrids which produced branching sprays of flowers in wonderful deep burgandy or bronzey shades. In late summer when many of the perennials were past their early beauty, the small sunflowers became a vibrant bouquet tucked into a wide green McCoy vase.

In much of the midwest sunflowers are a cultivated crop. I have ridden past fields of them in Kansas and Nebraska just before harvest. In Wyoming, small headed, slender branching sunflowers are a native plant. They grow and bloom in spite of wind and drought.

The first home we built here had a long gravel driveway leading up to the paved road. Sunflowers grew all along the crispy dry ditches, surrounded our mailbox, reaching out so eagerly that one year the mailman left a note asking us to cut them back.

I have birdfeeders outside the dining room window of this present house. One is kept filled all winter with sunflower seed, the others with a mixture for finches and other small birds. The second summer of our residence, the area around the feeders and along the garage wall exploded with big sunflowers germinated from the seed that had been blown onto the ground or dropped by the birds. Last summer there were none. During this wet and cool June I watched eagerly for my sunflower plantation to emerge around the feeders. Again, none. Today I noticed that in a stand of rank-growing weeds near the pond there are sunflowers. I think they are the native variety rather than the large tall ones grown for commercial seed. However they came to be where they are, their bright faces are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. No sunflowers here - though I did buy a packet of seed for one of the shorter varieties in deep red. I shall grow them next year now. I am glad to see that binder twine seems to have as many uses in the States as it does here too!

    BTW, I have a connection today (work still not done - due next Monday) so I am making the most of it! Hope my snail mail letter and package arrive safely with you.