Be honest, who doesn’t adore sunflowers? It’s likely to be a very small group, you can bet on that.
Yellow is widely regarded as the colour of intellect, the mind and general happy states of being. Years ago, I read that psychologists had started to use yellow postcards as an effective antidote to depression, the theory being (I suppose) that if you’re prone to depression and you sit in the sunshine, the colour, the warmth and the light helps to lift the spirits and provide a visual mood-massage. I’m not sure how much success those people had with a piece of yellow card, four inches by six, but I have to agree that yellow, as my most favourite colour, certainly has that effect upon me and my mood.
So, it is surely a given that sunflowers are widely admired because they simply make us happy – it’s hard to look at a single sunflower and not think cheerful notions. In France, many years ago now, we once drove through the countryside, roughly straight down the middle passing some magnificent, enormous seas of sunflowers. The sight was breathtaking. A couple of years before that we had visited the tiny island of Gozo, just to the south of Malta, to find similar fields of sunflowers swaying in the sunshine. They are synonymous with holidays, happiness and contentment.
At this time of year, social media is filled to bursting with people’s fascination with Nature’s elixir of elation. There are sunflowers on their own, sunflowers in groups, some with tiny florets and others with gargantuan, dinner-plate-sized heads. Even the leaves, thrown joyfully out to each side are reminiscent of someone shouting ‘SQUEE!!!!’ just for the sheer joy of being alive, warming oneself under the might star at the centre of our solar system.
Sunflowers are essential for pollinators as well of course… at this time of year, as many flowers are beginning to fade, the sunflower stands, like a beacon calling to bees and bugs to feast on the abundant nectar, asking only that the creature transfers a little pollen to other plants, thereby ensuring the survival of the species. Watching the many bees staggering away from the Sunflower Bar reminds me of Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong on a Friday or Saturday night – drunken folk, careening along the pavement to the next bar, smiling and enjoying the experience hugely. Happiness, again.
Until this year though, I had always believed that sunflowers only ever produce one, massive floret, so heavily loaded with seeds that when they begin to fade, they hang their heads in melancholic sadness. Their time is almost at an end and the effort required to lift their faces to the Sun just one more time is simply too much to ask.
But, I was wrong! Almost all of the sunflowers we planted this year (from the seeds of last years’ superstar sunflower, ‘Sunny Jim’) have produced multiple florets atop their gangly stems. It’s such a surprise to me!
Height is frequently an issue for us as both my FAB hubby and I are around the five-foot-three to five-foot-six marks and when they decide to grow to a height of over eight feet, it makes collecting seeds quite difficult. In order to counter this short-coming (please excuse the pun!), I also planted some red sunflowers which grow to only about three feet tall.
They were put in the ground later than the others as well, so they are only just beginning to flower now. I love the colours – deep russet reds set off with saffron and brilliant cadmium – and the fact that they are a dwarf variety means that they flower at around hip-height, perfect for getting up close and personal with.
Today, the wind was making its presence felt. Blowy, gusty at times, always incessantly moving the flower-heads, making leaves tremble and forcing tiny insects to hang on for dear life, the breeze wafting, whirling and blasting for all it was worth. These are not often ideal conditions for aesthetically pleasing pictures to be created. But, I managed. I’m particularly pleased with this photo of the red sunflower, which is almost SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) – I simply resized it. I like the movement that seems to be conveyed – you can almost feel the wind rushing past, in a violent hurry.
Gardening, growing things and watching them mature into bright, beautiful forces of nature is a lot like being a parent. Each plant, each flower, each vegetable or fruit has so much potential; all they need is good soil, light, water and a little TLC, to grow and develop so individually. I think I’m finding Zen in my garden. I wasn’t even looking for it.
As always, thank you for reading – you make my day brighter for your presence here!