Friends, I need more than hands and toes to count the number of times people this week have told me their child asked to give or receive sunflower seeds this holiday season.
How can I not have hope for the world?!
What gift would you give the world, if you could give anything?
The gift of a sunflower is the gift of growth, of beauty, of abundance, it’s the gift of life itself.
There are dozens of different sunflowers, all native to Central and North America. The only plant with more Monarchs on it in our garden is milkweed.
And did you know?
Sunflower petals are EDIBLE!
We toss them in salads and arrange them on cakes all summer long.
So yes, we grow the seeds of many sunflowers, each one with a unique gift and story to share.
We love the bright lemon yellow of Lemon Queen petals, a unique hue among so many golds. She is ohhhhh so tall, easily climbing 12+ feet tall in rich, fertile soil. She is crowned with a massive, single head on top and bursts with several dozen more blossoms going down her stalk all summer, each one on long, strong stems perfect for cutting. Sparrows often nest in her strong branches and will totally beat you to your seed saving game unless you are paying close attention come August.
She offers a fine trellis for pole beans and morning glories, as well.
We are lovers of autumnal colors here at Fruition, and Evening Colors satisfies us in so many ways. She is as tall as Lemon Queen, easily topping twelve feet in fertile soil and full sun. Dozens of strong stems blossom, spiraling down from the massive crowning flower throughout summer. Monarchs are especially fond of Evening Colors’ rich hues and abundant pollen. Sparrows take equal delight in her shade, protection from predators and thousands of seeds ripening in late summer.
Another common plant in the traditional 3 Sisters polyculture, tall sunflowers like Evening Colors offer a fine trellis for pole beans and morning glories, as well.
Standfast is the open-pollinated dream of our dear friend Will Bonsall in Maine, who developed her from several F1 Hybrids he was growing to feed his family. Indeed, her massive heads have many hundred massive seeds that are a treat to eat. She is wholly focused on this fact, creating only one flower on each 5-foot stalk, that quickly faces down toward the ground to bear the weight of her seeds. If you’re looking for the show-stopping, endless blossom sunflower, you’ll only be disappointed. If you’re eager to feed yourself and be in awe of what humans can create in both joy and necessity, grow Standfast.
Soraya is a dwarf sunflower, developed for the cut flower market. Only 4 to 6 feet tall, she bears 20+ stems with rich gold petals and chocolate brown centers. She surprisingly thrives in large containers, as well.
Sonja is Soraya’s little sister, the dwarf of the dwarves. Just 3 to 4 feet tall, she was also developed for the cut flower market and is one of the most irresistible beauties we’ve ever grown. Even in small containers she holds her own. If you have only partial sun but want to grow sunflowers nonetheless, give Sonja a try.
Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)
Tithonia is one of the best-kept secrets of gardening. Everyone who knows her loves her, yet she’s barely known despite being native to Central and southern North America. So easy to grow and so effusively cheerful, her deeply cut, dramatic foliage shines with silver trichomes as dozens upon dozens of miniature sunflowers, the size of mandarins, reach for the sky. Tithonia easily reaches 8 and 10 feet tall in rich soil with full sun. The only plant with more Monarchs sipping nectar is our milkweed.
Gloriously, tithonia is entirely different genus/species than classic sunflowers, much more bitter as a seed and seedling. So if you have any trouble establishing sunflowers in your yard on account of lunching chipmunks and squirrels, tithonia is your ticket.
Finally, I’d love to share a poem that sunflowers consistently remind me of, though the poet’s sentiments were inspired by another golden flower.
in fall fields,
in rumpy bunches,
saffron and orange and pale gold,
in little towers,
soft as mash,
sneeze-bringers and seed-bearers,
full of bees sand yellow beads and perfect flowerlets
and orange butterflies.
I don’t suppose
much notice comes of it, except for honey,
and how it heartens the heart with its
I don’t suppose anything loves it, except, perhaps,
the rocky voids
filled by its dumb dazzle.
I was just passing by, when the wind flared
and the blossoms rustled,
and the glittering pandemonium
leaned on me.
I was just minding my own business
when I found myself on their straw hillsides,
citron and butter-colored,
and was happy, and why not?
Are not the difficult labors of our lives
full of dark hours?
And what has consciousness come to anyway, so far,
that is better than these light-filled bodies?
on their airy backbones
they toss in the wind,
they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
they rise in a stiff sweetness,
in the pure peace of giving
one’s gold away
~ Mary Oliver
May the words we speak and the gifts we share amplify abundance for all, in this season and all seasons.
Sending you the peace and stillness of a garden in winter!
Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,
& the whole Fruition crew