Today's solar eclipse got me thinking about sunflowers and by extension, my oldest sun.
When Brandon was 5 years old, I took him with me to our front yard in an attempt to find the perfect spot for a rosebush I wanted to plant.
As I was trying to illustrate to him how we had to choose a spot with lots of sun, I pointed east, “Let’s see, the sun gets up over there and goes to sleep over there (pointing toward the western horizon).”
My son cheerfully corrected me by saying, “But mom, the sun don’t go nowhere, it’s the earth that moves!”
As you can clearly see, gardening can be fun for the whole family and it’s also a good way to introduce your kids to the wonderful science of astronomy (and it's also a good time to explain to them why the Earth is definitely not flat!) :)
Sunflowers were considered to be a portal to sacred realms by Native Americans. I first learned about sunflowers from my best friend Candy, who grew them by tossing birdseed outside her window! I was immediately hooked on this gigantic flower that seemed to have a personality of its own! Sunflowers are hardy, yet they possess a delicate beauty with undeniable charm.
Helianthus annuus is an excellent conversation piece, particularly the Mammoth variety. Mammoth sunflowers are almost surreal, as their heads turn to face the sun as it crosses the sky, it almost seems as if these sunflowers have a personality of their own.
First domesticated by the Native Americans about 3,000 years ago, sunflowers can be used both as decoration and as a food source. There are currently about 56 known varieties living in the United States.
As the name suggests, sunflowers need full sun, which means at least six hours a day. Simply find a bright, sunny spot in your yard and start digging. You can also plant them in pots, but a word of caution first - they don’t much like being in pots and they definitely don’t like being transplanted. The sunflower can be a persnickety plant.
Sunflowers can be used, like bamboo, to make a living privacy fence in your backyard using the Mammoth variety, which can grow up to six feet tall!
Starting seeds indoors for a sunflower garden is not necessary since they will sprout rather quickly. Expect to see growth within 7-14 days after sowing seeds in moist, well drained soil. If you want continuous blooms throughout the season you can sow new seeds about once every three weeks.
You’ll want to discontinue sowing seeds about two months before the full frost.
There is some debate among gardeners as to whether sunflowers are considered to be weeds, since they do compete with cultivated crops.
Even a new gardener who has yet to develop a green thumb can grow sunflowers. They aren’t like roses, which take up quite a bit of time and require skill and specific knowledge. That’s why I always suggest sunflowers for beginning gardeners, especially if you have children who you would like to teach how to garden.
- Chocolate Cherry – This variety boasts deep, rich chocolate burgundy hues of magnificence, surrounded by a center that is blood red, almost black. Use in borders with lighter colored flowers for a nice study in contrasts.
- Cinnamon Sun – Like the Mammoth variety, Cinnamon Sun can reach heights from 5 to 7 feet tall. Deep cinnamon flecked with deeper shades of brown and black.
- Lemon Queen – A favorite among gardeners everywhere. Attracts a lot of bees with bright yellow petals.
- Teddy Bear – More like a fuzzy flower than a sunflower, the Teddy Bear variety looks nothing like a sunflower. My favorite after the Russian Mammoth variety.
- Mammoth – The mammoth variety is probably the most commonly seen variety, reaching heights of six feet or more and is often used to make a border fence in front and back yards alike.