There is always so much hope when seeds are planted in late spring.
Especially sunflower seeds.
We look forward to their golden petals all summer, while at the same time, know that their arrival signals the transition to shorter days and the autumn season.
The New England weather challenged backyard gardeners all summer long as severe to extreme drought conditions gripped the region. (We lost our little bit of lawn — again — yes, that ‘Sad Sod Situation’ continues to be a challenge – but we’ll discuss that in another post someday.)
Beginning in June, we watched the sunflowers struggle. The dozen or so inch-high seedlings were a much sought after ‘garden buffet’ delicacy for this year’s over abundance of chipmunks and squirrels. In the end, we were able to grow a TWO eight foot tall sunflowers that became a stunning, late early autumn focal point, adding much-needed color to the garden. (Even the hydrangea failed to bloom due to the challenge of changing climate conditions.)
It was amazing to watch the single large flower on each stem slowly open and come to life over the course of four days.
Once each flower opened, the bees quickly began their pollination process. It was amazing to watch the bumble bees AND honey bees over the course of about 10 days navigate around and around the flowers’ centers to pollinate and bring the sunflower seeds to life.
As the seed head grew bigger and heavier each day, I was looking forward to harvesting some of the seeds to save for the 2017 garden. The plan was to leave the majority of the seeds for the songbirds to enjoy.
THEN THIS HAPPENED!
A squirrel used a nearby trellis as a ladder to reach the seeds. Fresh sunflower seeds became another menu item in the backyard garden buffet. Delicious!
The seed head continued to swell for a few more days and approximately three weeks after the flower first began to show its sunny face, its head bowed deeply toward the earth as autumn set in. By day 30, the squirrel came back, hungry and in full force, to strip the seeds row by row – creating an interesting pattern.
Second to peonies, sunflowers have always been one of my favorite flowers (lavender would round out the top three.) After enjoying hundreds of sunflowers from self-sown seeds in the Greeley Park Community Gardens a few years ago, it was gratifying to grow sunflowers in our own backyard garden this summer. Perhaps in 2017, we’ll double our crop …. and raise four of them!
This feeling of optimism that sunflowers bring must be part of the story behind the Helen Keller quote that inspired me to share the story of our 2016 sunflower success: