Planning ahead for a bounty of sunflowers

September always makes me think of apple picking, hay barrels, corn, and sunflowers. This summer I decided to try and grow sunflowers and even though I have never gardened before, I liked the thought of having my own sunflowers in September to enjoy.

Before picking the specific type of sunflower I wanted to grow, I thought it would be neat to gather some information on where this popular flower came from. Much to my surprise, sunflowers have been around for almost 10,000 years. Not too much is known about the early days of this flower, but what is known is that it was first seen in the America’s.  Early farmers took advantage of the seeds and used them to make breads.

About 5,000 years ago the sunflowers began to surface in what is now Mexico. According to some historians, the flowers would be an important part of the sun goddess worship. In some cases a high priestess would adorn her head with a wreath made of sunflowers, before worship to the sun commenced.

As the years went on, many other uses developed from other parts of the sunflower. Purple dye could be made from the seeds and the stalks, when dried, could be used for building shelter in warm climates.

Fast forwarding to today we see many different variations of sunflowers. There is the classic large yellow flower with a dark centre. There are dwarf sunflowers, which are much smaller and look similar to daisies. There are red sunflowers, red and yellow sunflowers, and some sunflowers that look like large yellow puff balls.

I decided to go with the red sunflowers. The seed packet said Velvet Queen, which sounded enticing. I’ve never seen red sunflowers before, but I thought they would look awesome come September. Planting began mid-June. By the time mid-August came around, they were blooming. Their colour was red with hues of gold. The petals, fine and delicate. I was surprised to see how many bloomed from the branches of the stems. About four or five per branch, which totaled close to 20 per stalk. I did plant several seeds, but only the one stalk grew.

Unfortunately they did not last very long. After 2 weeks the branches began to droop down. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe I didn’t plant the seeds deep enough. Maybe I should have used more garden sticks for support. It also seems that there were no seeds on the red sunflowers. Or maybe I picked them too soon. Maybe they didn’t grow properly because they are a product of manipulation –  red sunflowers are not naturally found in nature, they are bred to be red.

Despite its short maturity period, they were nice while they lasted. They grew about 6 feet tall, and looked brilliant when the sun hit them. I will most definitely be growing these again next year. I don’t mind the original yellow sunflower, but for an Autumn lover like myself, the red ones are simply beautiful.

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