Friday, August 22, 2014

Growing Sunshine

     There is just something about a sunflower. I can't explain it... it's like growing sunshine right there in your garden. Simple, pure sunshine... right there... smiling at you when you pass by. I have no idea where my fascination with sunflowers began, or what may have started it, but I do know that no garden of mine has ever been without these big, beautiful, blossoms.
      Sunflower, a composite flower of the Asteracea family native to North America distinguished by their ray flowers. Of the 52 species of Asteracea, the domesticated annual sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is the most commonly known and loved as opposed to its perennial cousin which tends to be quite invasive. Sunflowers provide not only vivid beautiful colors, but a focal point for any garden layout. Personally, I love variety often growing whorled variegated plants alongside traditional yellow mammoths.
       While their beauty is astounding, they are purposeful as well- most of you know things on my homestead must be purposeful and practical. Sunflowers provide seed for wild birds and our homestead poultry; stalks and stems are fodder for the goats and donkey. No part wasted, sunflowers are truly a frugal and functional investment for our garden space.
       Care and tending are minimal since sunflowers grow in most average soils and often reseed themselves by dropping to the ground or being transplanted by a bird. Garden designers often suggest they be a backdrop for layered gardens or a stabilizing feature for climbing vines- they make a great support for pole beans. I, myself, and a rather practical/functional gardener whose sunflower seeds get scattered here and there thus afforded the freedom to grow wherever they desire.
        And so it is, that I drive through my gate at the end of every day to be greeted by these faithful flowers which stand quite stately in the fruit garden. They are my ray of sunshine no matter what the day has been. As we prepare for the next growing season I can not imagine my garden ever being without them. Who doesn't want to grow sunshine in their garden?

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