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Archive for the ‘Sunflowers’ Category

Besides roses, we have beds of other flowers including annuals that give color all season and where we also slip in a couple of rows of string beans, some basil and one tomato plant. Just one. No matter what variety of tomato we plant, they all ripen in August and that one plant yields a tsunami of fruit quickly. A sprig of basil and a slice of mozzarella cheese added to a thick slice of fresh tomato and a glass of chilled white wine creates a summertime treat.

This season, after a hiatus of a few years, we added sunflowers to this eclectic side garden. We planted seeds in early June only to discover the following day that each seed was neatly excavated and eaten. We replanted and the same thing happened only this time I observed the seed lifting. The perp was a crafty chipmunk sneaking around early in the morning.

We replanted once again only this time in small pots on a garden bench where the chipmunk was unlikely to find them. They soon germinated and when 10 inches high we transplanted them into the garden where they grew amazingly fast in mid-summer heat.

Our sunflowers topped out at 10’2”,  producing a flamboyant display for a few weeks in early September. Each plant featured a single platter-sized corona chock full of seeds.

We chose a popular variety that we had grown before called Mammoth, a behemoth of a plant that rockets to 10 feet and beyond and produces one humongous corona 12 inches across – all from one little seed.

But once the peak goes by, the heavy coronas sag and get raided by squirrels who have discovered the rich seed source. The bright yellow florets quickly turn brown and the once-elegant foliage now looks shabby. It’s time to remove these deteriorating giants with a football-sized root ball and harvest the seeds.

First, we had to cut the coronas off before we lost everything to hungry squirrels and hung them to dry for two weeks and then shucked the seeds into a colander. We will put a handful aside to plant next year and use the rest in our bird feeders this winter.

Sunflowers are easy to grow, requiring little care, are available in every size and can fit in any garden. There are no flowers more cheerful, flashy and optimistic than these spectacular golden coronas in full bloom in late summer. An image especially welcome this year.

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Sunflower 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.

 

Side Garden in August

Side Garden in August

Side Garden after Blizzard

Side Garden after Blizzard

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?

 

Sunflowers-over-Fence-9.

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… Sunflowers-in-VaseThey 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. Sunflower-and-blue-sky
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.

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