Sunflowers: It’s so enjoyable to watch them grow taller and taller and get to the blooming stage so you can see their cheerful faces turning to the light. But, doesn’t it seem like one minute they’re in full glory and the next the heads are drooping to the ground from the weight of seeds?
Most sunflowers are very attractive to bees due to the massive amount of pollen they can produce and I certainly witnessed lots of bumblebees and honeybees on mine. The insects do their job very well, because in no time the flower becomes a seedhead. Then, it’s time for the Goldfinches to arrive en mass for their feeding frenzy. Any sunflowers that touch the ground become vole food here. Of course, there are now varieties grown specifically for flower arranging billed as “pollen free”, so they don’t make a mess of your table tops.
The only issue I had was when a storm front with high winds came through, it pushed many over and broke the seed laden stalks in places.
This year, I planted Arikara, Hidatsa, Tiger Eye Mix from Baker Creek and Lemon Queen from Renee’s Garden. I used the Arikara and Hidatsa as supports for purple pole beans. I vary my sunflowers every season for fun. I will try Lemon Queen as a stand alone variety next year in the flower garden.
Arikara: from the Arikara tribe at the Fort Berthold Reservation. First offered by Oscar H. Will in 1930. Sturdy plants grow up to 12′ tall, flowers are single to multi-headed. Some single heads grow 12-16″ across. Traditionally grown for its masses of edible seeds. Annual, 70 days.
Hidatsa: Plants running about 8 feet tall produce a large central flower head and numerous smaller heads on side-shoots. Seeds are large enough to be processed for food, although smaller than the mammoth types favored today. Originally a staple crop of the Hidatsa people, who grew this variety in their floodplain gardens along the Missouri River.
Tiger Eye Mix: This mix is a stunning assortment of bronze, red, brown and yellow, and many are multicolored with an “eye” look. Medium to large flowers come in both double and single. Many blooms per plant make these some of the showiest flowers in the garden.
Lemon Queen: a lovely branching variety particularly attractive to bees. Beautiful lemon-yellow blooms with chocolate centers.
Sources: ( I have ordered from these companies for many years and have no complaints.)
Botany: Annual sunflower is:
Genus: Helianthus ( “helios” is a Greek word and refers to sun, “anthus” means flower)
Species: H. annuus (annuus means it is an annual rather than a perennial plant in this case)
Binomial name: Helianthus annuus
Here is a gallery of pictures in a homage to this year’s sunflowers: