In Praise of Sunflowers

Photo of the last sunflowers
I kept the last sunflowers of the season, even the droopy ones, because I wasn't quite ready to let this lovely sign of summer go.

Sunflowers grow so easily where I live that the plants volunteer every year where the parents dropped their seeds the summer before. The variety in my garden springs up eight to ten feet with leaves bigger than my hands. They’re very dramatic, and I love them.

But, early in the summer my sunny garden plot was ravaged by a well-intentioned plumber who was rescuing our household from sewer line collapse. Even with the gaping hole and trampling boots, many of my sunflowers survived, most with crazy, bent stalks.

Sunflowers are a symbol of loyalty. I couldn’t give up on them and simply yank out the unruly ones. Even though I knew their regal form was compromised beyond repair, I left the flowers in their trampled state. (My friends and neighbors were far too polite to express how appalled they were by the sight of my poorly groomed garden. I suspect they put up with the mess in exchange for the fresh tomatoes I’ve been handing out like candy.) The finches loved the wild tangle. The squash climbed the sturdy, if bent sunflower stalks.  And we had cut flowers all summer.

In fact, the sunflower heads were more profuse than ever. It’s almost as if getting beat up early in the season made them even more determined to propagate. And true to their namesake, this was one flower that withstood the blistering sun. Despite the two-month drought we suffered, the crop has been bountiful.

Over the last week, now that the weather has finally begun to cool, I’ve been clearing the spent stalks. And I keep finding what I think is the last of the flower heads. The ones pictured here, cut on Sunday, really are the last of the season.  I’m so grateful for the shift in the weather and the turn of the season, but so sad that these are the last of the sunflowers. They always make me smile.

Do my kids care? No. Did they even notice the sunflowers looked different this year? Probably not.

Now that they’re teenagers, busy with their own lives (cross-country, band, homework, bicycles, friends) our garden is no longer a place where they go to learn from me, their geek mom, and the original geek, mother nature.

Our garden is where I go for my own pleasure. It’s my sanctuary.  Mine alone. And there are many times I crave the quiet and the peace.  But as I write this, I realize I’m also sad to be in the garden alone, a place that is really meant for sharing.

You see, once upon a time my kids and I planted seeds together and watered and watched and wondered at every new life that sprang forth. In fact the last of this season’s sunflowers, the ones I’m worshiping today, are descendants of seeds we planted together many sun cycles ago. And every once in a while, when one of my teens finds a moment of pause amidst his or her swirl of activities, I spot them gazing out the glass door at the birds who gather where I’ve set the basket of dried sunflower heads.

We’ve seen the last of this year’s sunflowers. It’s good to know they’ll be back.


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3 thoughts on “In Praise of Sunflowers

  1. We tried growing sunflowers in pots last year on the patio, but they seemed none too pleased about the whole thing. Some kindly bird or critter planted a couple just beyond our fence, though, and one of them was a humdinger — nearly five feet tall with a dozen blooms bigger than my hand. The local birds went crazy for it. The stalk is at least an inch in diameter.
    We had a new tree planted near there this week and I was amused to see that the landscaper tore out all the weeds and left the sunflower standing there proudly.

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