Sunflower psychology

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I want to show you images of celestial sunflowers in my garden.

But I don’t have any.

sunflowerAlas and alack, due to garden-operator error, my sunflowers are just sprouting.

sunflower sprout

Here, however, is the rest of the magnificent ONE plant that produced the bloom in the first, perhaps slightly misrepresentative image –which of course I immediately clarified for you because of my almost debilitating honesty.

street sunflowerI came upon this plant recently when the Fates had me drive through a residential neighborhood to avoid road construction. The plant lives in front of a modest house, where it grows madly, all ablaze with yellow suns of bloom, almost certainly a volunteer. It is about six feet tall and thriving among several dehydrated snapdragon plants which have wilted around its ankles. “Damn,” I said to my passenger (Max the wonder terrier), “now that is a sunflower plant.”

I parked the car and, armed only with my phone camera, I risked my life (you would understand if you knew this particular town) and took a photograph of someone else’s sunflower plant. No one came out with a gun (I didn’t linger) and I got away with the image.

I found tiny comfort in knowing that I do have sunflower potentials started, though so very late, in my garden.

sunflower sprout

But, oh doctor, why did I fail to plant at a reasonable time? How did this oversight occur, and how will it end? Will I have bright blooms at Halloween? Or the horror of frozen buds? How can I have set myself up for this unnecessary crisis of season?  And why do sunflowers grow so well in ditches anyway…?

Fortunately I have this little painting my friend John created for me, to get me through the hard times. Thanks John.


Now I do have a Rudbeckia called ‘Cherry Brandy’ which I grew from seed. The blooms are a nice foil to peachy colored roses in bouquets, and it’s cheerful enough in the garden as well and…but really, it’s not yellow and not big and it lacks all the glories of sunflowers. [Sometimes a person just needs to whine.]

Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' But at least it’s a perennial so I can’t forget to plant it in time.

Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' flowers


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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43 Responses to Sunflower psychology

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Linnie, I think maybe you have some issues with sunflowers. Last year’s, I recall, were not exactly a triumph either. Never mind, I shall seek you out some nice French ones as a consolation.

  2. kininvie says:

    I am never normally anonymous. I blame WordPress

  3. Holleygarden says:

    I hope your weather stays warm enough for your sunflowers to grow and bloom – big, bright, and beautiful! They really are a special flower. And if it doesn’t work out this year, you know the gardening motto: “There’s always next year”!

    • linniew says:

      But Holley that’s what I said last year.

      I do totally appreciate your hopes for my tiny plants and I will of course report back on any success. (If they fail well I’ll just hope everyone forgets about them.)

  4. Roberta says:

    You do suffer from debilitating honesty, don’t you? I thought it very generous of you that you allowed for the very slim possibility that someone had actually thought to plant a sunflower in a crack in the asphalt by wording your statement, “…almost certainly”. I appreciate the fact that you refrain from judgement. You just never know what inspires others to garden the way they do. Whereas others may see great potential in a fissure, I admit, it is often lost on me.

    You are lucky no one came out with a gun. I once had the poor judgement to steal fruit from a front yard that had a truck parked in the driveway bearing a bumper sticker that read, “Insured By Smith & Wesson”. I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t the one dumb enough to climb the fence and go into the yard either. When the front door swung open I was perhaps the fastest of my little trio but my speed did leave me feeling guilty and I did go back for shoe that got caught in the fence.

    Sunflowers live to mock me. Good luck with yours. Your Rudbeckia are beautiful, by the way.

    • linniew says:

      That Smith and Wesson sticker is on many bumpers in my neighborhood, usually on immense trucks that tower over my little Honda at stop lights and in parking lots.

      I am so impressed that you went back for the shoe, and glad no one was shot. I hope you got some fruit.

      Could it be that sunflowers have an attitude of revenge? The sins of the gardener’s of the past being revisited upon those of the present? I better Google that…

  5. sharon says:

    beautiful…I do the same thing and my partner always hates it…anywyay I would have taken some seeds for sure!!! and risked a pot shot!! hahaha…I live in a upscale neighborhood and thats where you will get in trouble if you put a flower form a crack in the road….

  6. Grace says:

    Yes, that dang WordPress! I’m going to blame all my garden (and otherwise) woes on it too, if it’s okay with you and K.

    I wonder, could it be a dreaded case of, “the flower is always yellower on the other side of town” malady? I ask because the most surefire way I know of to cure yourself of your sunflower woe is to grow it for a few years. It will look great because you’re a fabulous gardener, of course, but that one on the other side of the tracks will look slightly better to you for reasons you can’t quite determine. After a few summers have come and gone, you’ll be tired of sunflowers and their various and sundry proclivities and won’t miss them when they fail to make an appearance the subsequent year. However, there is Murphy. Being who he is, likely at the point where you’re ready to try something new in last year’s sunflower bed, you’ll march out there one spring morning, full of ideas and goals, and there will be a bazillion little sunflower babies to annoy the dickens out of you. And methinks you’re probably quite fond of Dickens.

    The moral of the story is, we always want what we can’t have. Or at least I do. Or did. No. I still do. 🙂 I grew ‘Cherry Brandy’ for the last two years. For reasons that completely baffle me, the plant is smaller than your sunflower seedling this year. Maybe it thinks I’m tired of it but I’m not. Not yet anyway. Damn that Murphy.

    On another note, I believe cutworms and slugs very much enjoy the tantalizing juices of tiny sunflower seedlings. This might explain things. But with Tilly lurking around, it’s altogether possible that she is the culprit.

    • linniew says:

      The very sad truth is, Gracie dear, I have TRIED to grow sunflowers, several years. I would be happy to be sick of having success with them! What I really want is armloads of blooms to stuff into giant vases. (This may be the fault of Van Gogh instead of WordPress, I can’t be sure.)

      The fate of your Cherry Brandy does not bode well for mine.

      Now, I actually am pretty content in most ways, but you are right that gardeners always have a few Holy Grail plants they can’t find or can’t keep alive–I do have Tillie to blame as last resort, very handy.

      • kininvie says:

        In fact, last year’s sunflowers, although not good, were better than this year’s. That’s a downhill spiral you are on, Linnie. I’d stick to clematis if I were you….BTW how ARE the clematis?

        • linniew says:

          ‘A downhill spiral.’ –It is only your warm encouragement that keeps me going. Also very kind of you to ask about the clematis which are all peachy keen.

          You at large in France again K or does Scotland import French sunflowers? And when will my bouquets arrive?

      • Grace says:

        I will implore the goddess Flora on your behalf, Linnie for the success of your promising little darlings. I can just picture you with armloads for giant vases. If not this year, then surely next! Fingers crossed!

  7. David says:

    Garden operator error: lol!

    Our sunflowers were all volunteers.

    Your flowers are every bit as inspiring as your debilitating honesty. :o)

  8. Your sunflowers are still doing better than mine, if it’s any consolation… Mine haven’t even left the seed packet this year! But you needn’t worry; instead I sowed dahlias, so my slugs didn’t have to starve.

    • linniew says:

      I think you should consider marketing your slugs Søren. Maybe as 21st century pets or possibly low-fat protein supplements. Call them i-something and package them like a phone… I think I’m getting close on this but you might need to do some public surveys first.

      • I think the whole “iThing” is a) so done and b) such an encouragement to egotism, so I think I’d rather brand them “uSlugs” to promote a less selfish way of living in touch with nature. (Though I don’t recommend touching the slugs too much; they’re rather yucky!)

        As far as protein supplements go, I’ve heard that even when deep-fried in a chili batter they’re pretty disgusting. (A gardening show on Danish television tested it last year and none of the hosts could manage to get a bite down. In short, eating is probably not recommended.

  9. Rebecca says:

    The last time I tried sunflowers it was a garden fail. I was planning on trying again this year, but I sort of forgot. thanks for reminding me, though it’s probably too late for this year. Oh well.

    • linniew says:

      You know, Rebecca, I think it might be best to forget entirely rather than to remember in late July, as I did, and be delusional enough to go ahead and plant.

  10. b-a-g says:

    Linnie – What a cruel twist of fate that you should be sent on a detour to be faced with the plant of your dreams stuck in a crack in the pavement. I didn’t even know that sunflowers could have mutiple heads. Cherry brandy looks much more sophisticated than big ungainly sunflowers which don’t know how to hold themselves, so please don’t be too upset.

    • linniew says:

      Dear b-a-g,
      You have perfectly expressed the tragic situation with your words: cruel twist of fate. But we gardeners must be strong, must take our happiness where we can find it (Cherry Brandy rudbeckia, and sometimes just plain brandy), and press on, always mindful of…something…next year, I guess. And also maybe chocolate.


  11. Kate says:

    Sunflowers are contrary. Every one I’ve ever planted on purpose disappears. Every one I’ve tried to thwart has thrived instead. Just wait, a sunflower will come to you one day. You won’t anticipate it, and it will grow in the most unsuitable place you can imagine.

    • linniew says:

      Cantankerous sunflowers.

      I very much appreciate your testimonial Kate–it makes me feel less abused. But your prediction reminds me of Charlie Brown waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

  12. cynthia says:

    I don’t even use WordPress – can I blame it for my problems, too?

    Kate is right – I have volunteer sunflowers, and they very rarely grow in exactly the right spot. I still love them, though, and allow them to grow even when draped over the front step or overpowering a more delicate offering or completely the wrong color for the composition I’m attempting to pull off. Which might explain why my compositions rarely go as planned.

    • linniew says:

      Well, I blamed WordPress for a spoiled peach, so yeah.

      Regarding garden compositions, Cynthia: I like to think of them less as a string quartet and more like jazz piano –which totally fits with your impulsive sunflowers.

  13. Sheila Read says:

    At least you make failure amusing… I have failed this summer with cherry tomatoes, of all things. Perhaps digging up fairly large plants, moving them 30 miles, and transplanting them in 100-degree heat at the end of June is not recommended. The two plants have teased me with a total of 5 tomatoes, which somehow is worse than none. I blame WordPress.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Sheila
      I have never heard of nomadic tomatoes…Still I feel certain that WordPress did have something to do with the low fruit production. But the summer isn’t over yet, and if I can still hope for sunflowers then surely you also have a chance of cherry tomatoes.

  14. Sunflowers remind us that sometimes plants just don’t need as much help from us as we think they do. I love that you braved life and limb to photograph an amazing sunflower. I usually have sunflowers pop up under my bird feeders. However, my last Cherry Brandy rudbeckia was so miserable I yanked it to end its suffering. I think I heard it sigh with relief.

  15. Roberta says:

    I have a new strategy for growing sunflowers. I have taken to feeding the seeds to the hens in hopes that the nitrogen rich fertilizer mounds that come out the other end will catapult them into germination all around my yard. The seeds, not the hens. The last thing I need is a big fat hen being catapulted across the length of my yard.

  16. mossandivy says:

    Love these sunflowers! Must have, I also need a dog like yours as I am quite smitten. What kind is he/she?

    • linniew says:

      The dog is primarily a garden dog, but he is also a Westie (West Highland White Terrier). I like that I can pick him up if needed (he’s 20 lbs) and that he is affectionate but somewhat independent as well. When Maxfield was a puppy I took him to my antique shop every day so he is socialized beyond reason, loves all people (including children) and all other dogs too. –Yes I recommend Westies!

      • mossandivy says:

        A Westie! They are no.1 on my list. I have a Cairn Terrior, So I know the personality well, little guy, big personality and he can work a room like there’s no tomorrow.
        We also have a sweet Corgi who has Lymphoma, and while I feel horrid even looking at another dog while he is still here, I know that it will be the best way for me to heal when he is no longer sitting at my feet.
        Thanks so much,

  17. mossandivy says:

    Wait, Silly me, it was a cone flower that I saw. Of course it would be, I seem to fall for every one that I see.
    Lovely Blog, I will be back!

    • linniew says:

      Thanks for coming by — I just looked in on your blog too. Boy what an amazing garden, especially for this time of year. I am so impressed with that fountain! My garden is looking a little done, to be polite about it…

      • mossandivy says:

        Thank you again 🙂
        The garden was planned to be drought tolerant and to go out with a bang (hopefully) in the Autumn.
        As I have not been getting any younger in recent years, I have been revamping the hell out of our property to make it easier to keep up. So far, so good, as I really enjoy taking care of this garden.

  18. Two thoughts, as a fellow sunflower, um, not-success. First, there are perennial sunflowers, which optimistically would require only remembering to plant once. Second, the most successful sunflowers in my garden are the ones that sprout under the bird feeders. Have you got a sunflower feeder?

    • linniew says:

      I think the only perennial sunflowers I know are actually Rudbekia…?

      I have considered using bird feeders, but right now I only feed the birds in the most frozen parts of winter. I do plant with birds in mind and they seem to benefit especially from the many native plants in the gardens. I’ve been told before that the best sunflower seeds are in bird feed so maybe I will try that next year. But I will have to remember to plant!

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