The Gardening Diva
Never be too busy to stop and smell the beautiful flowers.

Sunflowers


                 

                              The Sunflower
                                       
By MG Calla Victoria

     As I was named after the Calla Lily, of course the Calla Lily was my favorite flower for many years, but that
was so until I began planting sun flowers. 
Named sunflower because it looks like the picture of the sun when we draw the sun, its face is huge and round. But it is also called the sunflower because it follows the path of the sun throughout the day.  In the morning sunflowers face east to greet the rising sun, and as the day wears on the flower’s head turns to follow the sun, and finally in the evening sunflowers are facing west as the sun is setting. This phenomenon is known as heliotropism. I planted a bank of sunflowers in my back yard, and every morning when I stepped into my garden the sunflowers were cheerily facing me, as my home faces the east. When I visit-
ed my garden in the evening the sunflowers were facing west as the sun was setting, that is so amazing to me.

     Commonly known as sunflowers, the scientific name is Helianthus Annuus. Sunflowers are native to America, and nearly 3,000 years ago Native Americans domesticated them for food production. Lewis and Clark made mention in their journals of its usage by the plains Indians (Native Americans). The common Sunflower is a
typical member of the Asteraceae, one of the largest and most successful families of plants.

      After planting the bank of sunflowers I enjoyed watching their growing stages. Once the stark was good and tall, there is a bowl that appears on the very top of the stark, and the bowl would be facing the sky. Then in the
next couple of days the stark will have bent and now the bowl is facing forward and not straight up to the sky.
The bowl now looks like a bright yellow disk, as all of the pedals of the sunflower are folded in over the bowl.
In the next few days a few of the pedals have opened away from the bowl and now you can see part of the
center of the sunflower. Once all of the pedals are open and the center of the sunflower is fully exposed, you can see the tiny seeds but the whole disk is concaved and curving inward. Over a period of time the center of the sunflower is no longer concaved, but has become convex and looking like a dome.

     

 Sunflower head facing sky                       Sunflower as yellow disk                    Sunflower half open            Sunflower w/concaved center        Sunflower w/convexed center

   Within the structure of what we think of as the “flower,” it actually has two different types of flowers-ray flowers and disk flowers. The heads consist of many individual flowers which mature into seeds, often in the hundreds on a receptacle base.  These are called disk flowers. It usually takes about 30 days from the time the last flower is pollinated to seed maturity. The long yellow petals that encompass the center of the sinflower are the ray flowers.

     Although there are many varieties of sunflowers I love to grow the “mammoth” sunflowers which grow about 8
feet tall and the disk center is as large as a charger plate. After they have finished blooming, I let the seed heads dry on the stark. You can get some 300 - 500 seeds from a single sunflower. I use the seeds as feed for my parakeet Pepa, and I leave some on the stark for the wild birds.

  

                      My mammoth sunflowers                                         One of my sunflowers covering a chharger plate                   The seed head sitting on a charger plate

     I love to plant fast growing flowering vines along with the sunflowers, as the storks make a perfect trellis for the vines. It is the same premise as the “Three Sisters,” which is a planting method perfected by the Native Americans years ago. They would plant corn, beans, and squash together. As the corn grows it becomes a trellis for the beans, and the squash which grows close to the ground forms a mulch for the corn and beans.

      Aside from the ornamental uses of sunflowers as cut flowers, and the tasty sunflowerseeds we snack on sunflowers have whole-seed confectionary uses, such as candy, snack food, and baked goods. Vegetable
oil is the main use for sunflowers in the United States and worldwide. Sunflower oil is considered premium oil
due to its light color, mild flavor, low level of saturated fats, and ability to withstand high cooking temperatures.
The ray petals that circle the sunflower can be used is salads, the leaves of the sunflower is used as cattle
feed, while the stems contain a fiber which is used in paperproduction. Sunflower peanut butter and sunflower butter are recent additions to the American diet.

      I wanted a sunflower block so I started sunflowers from seeds and gave them to my
neighbors to plant at there curbs, and now we have a block of sunflowers!

Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!

                       froggy

 


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