With all the anticipation over the upcoming solar eclipse, I figured today was the perfect day to showcase sunflowers.
The status of these blooms above, just like my walking mileage, is “gettin’ there”.
As to me, I reached mile number 555 today, meaning just 200 more miles will get me my 2017 goal; so, yes … I’m “gettin’ there”. I pushed myself hard today, and was weary after a six-mile journey, which included a walk to and from Council Point Park and five loops done there. Whew!
These sunflowers pictured above are likewise “gettin’ there”; they are not at their peak yet, as their seeds are still forming and the “pan” of black seeds is not yet ripe for feasting. Once the sunflower “faces” are chockfull of ripe oilers, those black shiny seeds that our favorite backyard birds such as cardinals, jays and chickadees delight in, this garden will be the primo backyard on the block for wild birds. The squirrels love them as well.
Back in 2010, I decided to try my hand at sunflowers in the backyard garden. I was already catering to the birds with feeders, seed blocks and birdbaths, plus indulged the butterflies with coneflowers, sand watering stations and butterfly houses that the monarchs and swallowtails coveted. The thought of luring more jays and cardinals to my yard made me happy, so I perused the sunflower seed packets and got the easiest to grow varieties.
I filled three large pots with “Holiday Sunflower” seeds for the back porch. They grow to four feet and are bushy. I also bought seeds for “Russian Mammoth Sunflowers” in which a single plant was guaranteed to grow 15 feet. I spread those seeds in the garden and crossed my fingers for both.
The seeds in the pots took off and by early August I had goldfinches galore honing in on those tender seeds, and both they, and the flowers were a colorful addition to the back porch. As you see below, the goldfinches would hang upside to reach the seeds, so they must’ve tasted like candy to them.
But, as to the sown seeds, well – it took forever to see any sprouts, then suddenly there were tiny seedlings. I was ecstatic! There were a half-dozen one day, and only one seedling the next day. Grrr. Those bunnies may be cute as a button, but they gobbled up those tender sunflower seedlings, just like they polished off all my Bleeding Hearts earlier in the Summer.
But, I was bound and determined to save the one Russian Mammoth Sunflower seedling that they missed.
So, I put an old jam jar over that remaining seedling to create a hothouse effect, and to thwart the bunnies. Soon, it needed a big applesauce jar, then there were no jars big enough and that sunflower needed a stake, as it was growing about an inch a day. It reminded me of the children’s tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”.
The potted sunflowers did reach about four feet high and produced pretty blooms, but lacked the big huge seed pan that you usually find by late Summer in most sunflowers. But, the Russian Mammoth lived up to its name, and soon was towering as high as the garage of my neighbor behind.
I continued to monitor the daily progress of this plant, and its huge flower, especially the middle part that was brimming full of darkening black oiler seeds. And bees. Boy, how the bees sure loved all those sunflowers, especially that not-quite-ripe seedy goodness.
I imagined a feast by the backyard birds and photo ops galore at the Russian Mammoth Sunflower. But, one morning I went into the backyard to find the stalk crumpled in two, and the flower head on the ground, apparently a victim of that wealth of black oiler seeds. Evidently, it had become top heavy and toppled over and a squirrel was sitting beside it, gorging himself on the contents. That was the first and last time for sunflowers for this gardener. But I do love looking at sunflowers, whether they are in a painting by Van Gogh, in a bouquet at the farmers market, or standing tall in the garden like these are.
I heard the solar eclipse tomorrow will cause the birds to stop singing and they will prepare to roost for the night, and other critters will similarly see the sudden darkness and become quiet, if not confused.
So, I guess the eclipse will likewise confound the lowly sunflower because those flowers always turn their “faces” toward the sun.
What will it do? Where will it turn in that brief moment of darkness? Will it droop downward?
Speaking of the sun, are you noticing how late it is rising these days? Even if I didn’t see those first rays of sunlight filtering through the blinds, I know the angle of the sun is different when I am walking down the street these days, because the tree shadows are different.
Fall is a little over a month away and I find myself asking “where the heck did Summer go?”
Painter Vincent Van Gogh not only had an affinity for the moon and stars, but the sun as well. I will leave you with this quote:
“The sun itself cannot make the world bright without souls to feel its light.”