What’s with sunflowers?
I see them widely planted and yet had never been tempted to try them myself. But that changed last spring when Angelina and I were presented with a unique opportunity. Due to the removal of a large maple tree because of hurricane damage the previous year, we created a border in a now-sunny location along our new deer fence. Since we had no clear vision at the time of what this border should be and did not want to waste a growing season by doing nothing, we settled on an eclectic mix of garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, string beans and sunflowers.
We both wanted the vegetables and Angelina lobbied to include sunflowers. Even though it was getting late in the spring to plant seeds, I bought two packets of leftover sunflower seeds for $1 each at a local discount store and planted them in late May, having no idea what to expect. Would they be fussy, high maintenance plants? Tough to grow? Attract unwanted animals?
Well, no worries. I planted one long row along the fence by poking my index finger into soft soil and dropping a seed in, covered it up and watered. That’s it. A week later these tiny seedlings appeared and started to grow…and grow…and grow… They grew as tall as the six-foot deer fence and then grew another six feet. Our neighbors enjoyed them as much as we did. By late July they started to bloom into an eye-popping blast of bright yellow that continued into the early fall.
While the tomatoes, eggplant and garlic grew superbly and the string beans never quit, the stars of the garden were the towering, frisbee-sized flower heads. What had started off as a diverse assortment of miscellaneous plants melded together by mid-summer into an unusual yet attractive garden that we could never have planned.
As I sit here writing in January, the Blizzard of 2015, as it is now called, howls outside. But as snow drifts across the driveway and the temperature sinks towards zero and the news media predicts winter doom, I think of those great golden sunflowers from last summer smiling at me.
If, as Angelina likes to say, gardening begins in January with your imagination, then it also continues through warm reflections of gardens past.