Tuesday, July 15, 2008

July Sunflowers

If it is July at Pinehaven, and if it is close to my birthday, there are several events that should be taking places at the same time: there should be fireflies (there are very few this year); there should be tomatoes (only a few green ones); and there should be sunflowers in full bloom.
The sunflowers, at least, have come through.

Though this close-up of the head seems to be huge, these are actually a small, lemon yellow variety. We planted none this year. These are all volunteers from last year's crop, thanks to the messiness of the birds (try cracking, removing and eating a sunflower seed without using your hands and you'll pardon their mess). We love watching the large Russian sunflowers develop their huge flower heads but invariably they fall when the first storm passes through after the heads become heavy. They topple over, lifting roots from the muddy soil, and just lie there waiting to be carried to the compost pile. These, in contract, are light and dainty and have all the attributes of their larger brethren but for the risk. These will never topple.

This east-facing flower (above) has cranked its head around overnight in anticipation of the rising run. A shadow of its own leaf traces a dark path across the petals. In the evening, this flower will be facing roughly west, slowly demonstrating its heliotropic ability. Who says plants can't move on their own?

We'll let these stand in the garden throughout the season as feed for the birds. The seeds are too inexpensive, too easy to buy at the health food store, to be troubled with shelling them ourselves. I see the birds check them out long before they are mature. Then, one day, I'll notice missing kernels and see that the birds have watched the crop with more anticipation than I.

Some of the seed will again be dropped and next year's sunflowers will be planted - automatically. This line of flowers at the north edge of our garden is a pleasant sight to behold on a warm, sunny summer day like today.