Throwback Thursday: Sunflowers

Throwback Thursday: Sunflowers

Helianthus annuus

The Sunflower

Ah Sunflower

Ah Sunflower~William Blake(1757-1827) P. 1793

Ah! sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire;
Where my sunflower wishes to go.

Giant globes of gardeny goodness. This is what you get with sunflowers.

Sunflowers rock!

That’s all, end of article. Not.

Better than Strawberry Fields?

The sunflower has only been around as long as the sun, perhaps not quite that long, but for a long stinkin’ time.

Sunny with Sunflowers

People once thought that sunflowers followed the sun. This is not so, generally sunflower flower heads point east and fixed in that direction.

Facing East

In The Garden

Plan to sow 5-6 seeds rather deep (about 1 inch).  Leave 12 inches between seed groups.

Soil needs to be worked to a depth of about 2 feet for maximum root health. Also remember that sunflowers are heavy feeders so plan to amend your soil with a slow release granule fertilizer, such as Osmocote if you’re not going organic or a good granule fish fertilizer if you are. If you are solely organic, a well composted bunny manure works great in addition to the fish granules. You need to feed sunflowers, regularly and rather heavily. In this way they are similar to corn.

When your seedlings reach two inches, thin them to your three best, at one foot, thin them to two and at two feet high, pick your best plant and compost the other. This will leave you with plants 12 inches apart, which is ideal for growing large sunflowers.

Large and proud

Sunflowers can get extremely large. Stalks of 10′ to 12′ are common with some varieties. Flower heads the circumference of dinner plates are not unusual. One of my favorite things is to plant a “fort” of sorts. Girls love them because it’s like having a fairy house of flowers, you can hang little hand painted signs on the stalks, and a silk or tulle “door” makes a perfect place for friends to giggle.

The difference between boys and girls.

A great place

Boys make them fortified bunkers, Hobbit holes, Elf villages and Goblin caves, although I once heard them having tea with Mr. Tumnus (from Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)as well. I never asked them about it. I’m sure they would have denied it. But, I know.

The Hobbit Hole?

My boys liked to keep their “collections” there. This became the perfect place to keep the marbles, rocks, shells, interesting found items that mom didn’t necessarily want in the house, get put in the Sunflower fort (or Christmas tree fort in the winter). This is where the Goliath beetle corpse stayed for I don’t know how many summers.

If they are going to be storing stuff in a sunflower fort, remember to give them something weather proof to keep the “fragile” items in. A show off tub with a piece of tarp works well. Rocks and marbles or shells are fine in the open, but if they like to read or have games in the fort, they’ll need a weather proof solution for storage.

Check Goodwill or other thrift stores and garage sales for a small set of dishware they can use in the fort. Lunches are about a thousand times more interesting out of doors, and fort lunches are right up there with lake picnics in many kids opinions.

A simple rectangle outline can be used for your fort, or get creative with semi-circles or even fancy scalloped niches would be fantastic. We pretty much stick with a rectangle it’s the Parsnip digging after all, so expedited ease of design is essential for good (or relatively good) humor during this process. = )

The big…really big…HUGE varieties:

  • Sunzilla
  • Mammoth
  • California Greystripe
  • American Giant (hybrid)
  • Skyscaper

Some other interesting things about sunflowers…

They’re Not All Big

There are varieties that are a scant one foot high with lovely baseball sized flowers. There are even some that are great in containers, perfect for you city dwellers thinking sunflowers were relegated to us country folk. Not so! You could have sunflowers on your apartment terrace if you so choose.

Sunspot-for containers

Try these varieties for a mini version:

  • Munchkin
  • Ballad
  • Firecracker
  • Sunny Smile
  • Dwarf Teddy Bear (there is a standard size Teddy Bear so make sure you get the dwarf if that’s what you need)
  • Sundance Kid

They’re Not All Yellow

Chocolate Addiction....Ooooh

I resisted unusual sunflower colors for quite a while. I love the old timey look of the huge orbs of gold. Recently however, I have found myself drawn to some more of the more “exotic” hues.

I did love Jonathan’s take on the issue. “So, you’ll grow white or pink eggplants, but a brown sunflower is out of the question? Where’s the logic with that, Miss Paisley?” It’s about time to spank that kid again don’t you agree?

So, I’m growing brown sunflowers this year. I think they’re actually called “Chocolate Addiction”, which could be what finally won me over.

The thing that pushed me completely over the edge to branching out was an article in Country Gardens magazine. The article was about a young girl that runs her own vegetable garden business and makes a tidy sum selling veg to friends and neighbors. She also grows and sells cut flower bouquets at her farmer’s market stand. Her best sellers are zinnias and sunflowers. The pictures of her red sunflowers cinched the deal. It’s time for the Paisley Carrot to grow other than yellow sunflowers.

Firecracker Fun!

Here are some ideas for varieties of other colors:

  • Velvet Queen (which is beautiful)
  • Cappuccino
  • Florenza
  • Italian White
  • Autumn Beauty
  • Chocolate
  • Lemon Bi Color
  • Little Becka
  • Cherry Rose (stunning)
  • The Joker
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Tiger Eye

Did I mention they’re edible?

Not just the seeds either! The petals can be used in salads, dressings, garnish and are fun in muffins.

Salad with rose and sunflower petals

There is even an interesting article about eating the leaves as greens. I have not actually eaten it this way, so if you try it, let me know what you think. I’m sure my adventurous foraging friend from Gettin’ Fresh will let me know if she’s tried them. If any of you make the chips, please email or comment, I’m interested in trying them, but I kind of need some moral support!
The leaves are huge I use them in the compost and they make a big contribution.
You can grow sunflowers for fun and profit, so let’s get growing!
I hope by now you’re motivated to grow some sunflowers for yourself. Check out these great resources.

Renee’s Garden

Bakers Creek (of course)

Johnny’s Seeds (not always organic so if this is crucial, choose elsewhere)

Swallowtail Seeds

Harris Seeds

Have a gloriously sunny flowered paisley day!~KeriAnne


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3 Responses »

  1. I haven’t tried sunflower greens yet, but I have been wondering about the greens of my Jerusalem artichokes, which are very similar. On the other hand, I’m presently overrun with greens in the garden, so this experiment may have to wait until midsummer, when the lettuce, spinach, and mustard isn’t around anymore. (I love those Firecracker sunflowers, by the way!)

  2. Did you read the article about making Sunflower leaf chips? It seemed interesting, though a bit time consuming perhaps. Do you mash your Jerusalem artichokes? You should do a post about them, I’m curious now. I’ve never grown them. (I’ve had them in a couple of really good restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed them)

    I adore the Firecracker sunflowers as well! So paisley!

  3. Ooh I just thought…I wonder how they would be as a wrap of sorts? Like a cabbage roll idea? Well, now I can’t wait for them to get bigger so I can try that! Probably too soon to start peeling leaves at a foot high, huh? Oh well, summer is coming.

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