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June 24, 2014

Why Sunflowers Make the Perfect Addition to a Summer Garden.

author's photo: yoli ramazzina

Summer is here! As the warm, summer sun kisses our skin, the sunflower seeds we planted in the Spring are now in full bloom.

So what’s so great about sunflowers? Well, for one thing, just looking at one has the potential to put us in a cheerful mood!

Huge, bright yellow flowers light up our gardens, like the rising sun illuminating a dark dawn.

I hadn’t initially planned on planting sunflowers in my garden, but while choosing seeds at the garden store back in March, my son requested, “Please Mama, can we plant sunflowers?”

We were choosing seeds primarily for a vegetable garden, but I didn’t have the heart to veto his earnest request.

“Sure,” I said. “Pick out the ones you want.” author's photo: yoli ramazzina

He chose a package of organic, heirloom sunflower seeds, named “Lemon Queen.”

The package read:

Like a beacon of light, Lemon Queen attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators to feast on nectar and pollen offered by the sunny yellow flowers.

Well, that sounds good, I thought. Sunflowers will attract beneficial insects to the garden, and provide pesticide-free snacking for our friends, the bees.

And that’s how we wound up with a multitude of bright, cheery Lemon Queen blooms in our garden, to help us ring in the starting of summertime.

They smell amazing! My son and husband both love to stick their noses in the center of the flowers and take big whiffs. I love chuckling at them, when they pull away and have a dusting of golden pollen on their noses. It’s truly adorable.

author's photo - ramazzinaAnd yes, the bees flock to them like nobody’s business! Buzzing happily around the flowers, drinking in their fill. The sight makes my heart happy.

Honestly, just seeing the bright, cheerful flowers lighting up our little garden puts me in such a happy, light-hearted mood.

Sunflowers are wonderful.

They look beautiful, smell sweet, and are so easy to grow! The most difficult task is making sure birds don’t dig up the seeds you’ve sown, for a tasty snack. But once you get those seeds to germinate, they really just need a bit of water and a sunny spot to grow.

Garden hint: Sunflowers are a great plant for children to grow. They can plant a seed, give it a little love, and watch it flourish and grow huge before their very eyes.

We have some in our garden that have grown taller than my son! Their thick stalks are so strong, supporting the weight of the tall plants.

In addition to attracting beneficial insects to a garden, sunflowers will also produce (if you allow them to) yummy seeds we can snack on! So, these flowers truly have a place in an edible garden beyond just looking pretty and attracting pollinators!

If you’re not a fan of snacking on sunflower seeds, you can always dry them out and provide a nice birdseed treat for your local feathered friends.

Or if you prefer, cut the flowers before they begin to set seeds, and place them in a vase indoors to brighten up your home. (Or share fresh-cut blooms with friends and neighbors and to bring a smile to someone else’s day!) author's photo: yoli ramazzina

Of course, there are a couple things to keep in mind, before planting sunflowers in your garden or yard. Sunflower seeds have been known to kill nearby, surrounding grass. So, be mindful about the placement of your sunflowers, if you are planning to allow them to set seeds.

It’s no big deal for me in the veggie garden, because the ground is all tilled soil and no ornamental grass. But if you are planting then in your yard for their beauty, this is something you may want to keep in mind. You can always just remember to pick the blooms, before they begin to set seeds, if it’s an issue.

The seeds grass-killing effects may be related to the sunflowers general allelopathic qualitites.

Allelopathy is a biological phenomenon by which an organism produces one or more biochemicals that influence the growth, survival, and reproduction of other organisms.

Essentially, sunflowers inherently produce a chemical that can sometimes affect the growth of other plants. So, you just want to stay mindful about the placement of your sunflowers.

This doesn’t mean sunflowers can’t play nice with other plants in your garden. For instance, some say that planting sunflowers with corn is said to increase the yield of the corn!

However, the same cannot be said for pole beans. I did some reading on companion planting and learned that pole beans are great to plant by corn because they can use the corn stalks as a living trellis to vine up. So while I was out planting pole beans next to my corn, I had the brilliant idea of throwing some beans down by the sunflowers as well.

Later I read, that this is typically not a good idea, because the sunflower’s allelopathic properties don’t mesh well with the growing beans. Oops! Live and learn.

But this shouldn’t stop you from growing bright, cheerful sunflowers in your garden! Just remember to be careful about what you choose to plant right next to them.

Sunflowers are a beautiful addition to any garden. There’s just something about those bright yellow hues that sends a beam of light straight into your heart.

Perhaps this is why artist Vincent Van Gogh chose to create his series of sunflower paintings!

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_Gogh_Twelve_Sunflowers.jpg

From the National Gallery UK website:

“Sunflowers had a special significance for Van Gogh. He made seven versions of them.
Yellow, for him, was an emblem of happiness – in Dutch literature, the sunflower was a symbol of devotion and loyalty.”

Van Gogh isn’t the only person these sunny flowers have inspired!

In June of 1977, “Sunflower” the song was released. It was written by Neil Diamond and recorded by American country music singer Glen Campbell.

Let these magnificent blooms inspire you too! Plant a few seeds and watch the beauty unfurl before your eyes!

 

 

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Editor: Renée Picard

Images: Van Gogh image via WikiMedia Commons; all other photos courtesy of author.

 

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