Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Let the sun shine in. Create a lovely sunflower bouquet for the patio or deck. Sunflowers are happy blooms. Their gladness is contagious.
No experience required. Sunflowers are the perfect flowers for novice floral designers. The stems are sturdy, and need no wiring. Find a suitable container, and you’re all set. If you want to get fancy, a sunflower topiary is fun and easy to create.
Choosing the blooms is the hard part. There are so many kinds. The petals may be yellow, orange, red, copper, chocolate, bronze, purple, or mahogany. The centers may match or contrast with that of the surrounding petals. Typically the centers will be either yellow, black, or brown.
You can also have your choice of sizes. Some are as big as dinner plates, while others are petite.
For an unusual look, try Teddy Bear sunflowers. This double flower features frilly petals.
With the growing popularity of sunflowers, plant breeders have been busily at work creating new varieties. They have come up with pollen-free ones especially for cut flowers.
Look for sunflowers at local farmers’ markets and farm stands. Chances are there are growers in your area offering these for sale.
In addition to their use as cut flowers, sunflowers can also be dried as an everlasting.
It is very easy to grow your own sunflowers. Just add a row to your vegetable garden or cutting garden. Most varieties of sunflowers grow to about five or six feet tall, and will bloom about two months or so after the seeds are planted.
There are two general types of sunflowers. One contains a single, large terminal bloom, while the other type produces numerous smaller flowers on shoots up and down the stem. I prefer to grow the multi-flowering types.
For the most part, all sunflowers are annuals. However, there are some that can be grown as perennials. These include ‘Lemon Queen.’
In the garden, sunflowers tend to be trouble-free plants. They can withstand considerable drought. I’ve never had any insect or disease problems on mine. The only difficulty I’ve noticed were slugs, which demolish the young seedlings. That no longer happens once I started using Sluggo, a relatively new non-toxic slug bait. It is safe to use around pets.
Sunflowers are native plants. They originated in the New World. There are numerous books on these popular natives. My favorites happen to the two below.
Gibbs-Smith Publishers released “Sunflowers-Growing, Cooking and Crafting With the Sunniest of Plants” by Diane Morey Sitton. Shaped like a sunflower, this informative book is one of a kind. It includes a delightful chapter on the history of sunflowers. Illustrated in full color, it features gardening tips and descriptions of ten varieties, such as ‘Velvet Queen’ and ‘Valentine.’ The author included a chapter on crafts containing step-by-step instructions for drying the flowers and using them in wreaths and other projects. The appendix has a list of sunflower sources.
“The Great Sunflower Book” by Barbara Flores, published by Ten Speed Press, is a larger volume. So it features even more varieties-30 in all—and more recipes. She has so many recipes they’re organized by the kinds of dishes, such as entrees, side dishes, baked goods, and the like. In addition, Flores gives a comprehensive history of the plants and its role in the lives of Native Americans, using Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden as an example. There is also an extensive chapter on how to grow them.
Add a cheerful touch to the home with arrangements featuring American’s favorite native flower.