Monday, August 07, 2006

Fancy Sunflowers, All in a Row

Sunflowers sounded like such a good idea. They are bright and cheery and feed the birds. I thought they’d be the perfect addition to a cottage border. My sunflowers, however, have gone all wrong.

My first mistake was growing fancy sunflowers, instead of the regular type. I thought red sunflowers would be far superior to yellow. While the color is nice, the blooms are smaller than the usual flower and definitely not in proportion to the size of the giant stalk. I have to actively look for the small, dark red flower heads, unlike the standard yellow beacon.

I also ignored one of the cardinal rules of gardening: thou shalt not garden in a straight line. I lined my sunflowers up like soldiers along the back of the sun bed and sunset bed. Boring.

The final problem with my sunflowers is that nearly every one has fallen over. They seem to grow puny roots to support such extravagant growth. My very tallest sunflower, once sturdy enough to stake gladiolas, is now bowing into the path.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have grown the plain, old, black oil sunflower seeds from my bird seed mix. There is nothing wrong with yellow sunflowers! I would have planted the sunflowers in clumps, not rows. Not only would my planting look more spontaneous, the sunflowers could have supported each other. Perhaps my yard would have looked a little more like this “sunflower house” I photographed in Vancouver, WA.

My one success with sunflowers may turn out to be the plants I stuck into the ground beneath my teepee. The plants are well supported by the twiggy frame and, when they finally bloom, the flowers should be somewhat of a surprise, peeking out from the sweet peas and cardinal vine. If they fall over, taking the teepee with them, I’ll have to declare sunflowers a complete loss for this season.


Blogger firefly said...

If you want red sunflowers, you might try Tithonia rotundiflora (Mexican sunflower). They have a rather small (~4") flower that varies from a deep orange to a hot red, with a big yellow eye. The stems get to about 6 feet, are between 1.5 and 2 inches diameter, and mine stayed upright until a bad storm in September. (Then I just staked them, and they were fine.)

This is my second year growing them. They attract monarch butterflies when they're in bloom, and after the seedheads dry, finches will eat the seeds.

They're available at Select Seeds -- I started them directly in the ground last year and in seed flats this year, and they're pretty much unstoppable.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Garden Obsession said...

I had the mexican ones this year and mine required staking. Not that I did it, but if I'd not been so lazy, I would have staked them. The blooms were beautiful though, so I'd probably grew a few of them again, even though they look like weeds until they bloom. I'll plant them behind other stuff next time. :)

3:20 PM  
Blogger snappy said...

I love sunflowers too.I have posted them a bit.Mine also keeled over as the flowers are so heavy.I remember childhood sunflowers growing as tall as houses..dont remember staking them.
I tried little leo's which flower beautifully in a border, and each one had maybe ten flower heads.But they are shortlived.The heat killed my sunflowers during our recent scorcher.There is always next year though.Hope your teepee holds on, its a nice flower combination you will have.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

I have sunflowers that may be the same as the wild ones growing in fields along roads. When self-sown in a mass in a field, they hold each other up, but I had to tie mine to the fence, because the squirrels use it as a ladder or a trampoline, and rip off the developing seed heads.

It's battered, but still pretty!

8:20 AM  
Blogger Zoey said...

I think sunflowers are difficult to incorporate into a border.
That said, I did plant some seeds (like 4 packs), but only about 4 plants came up.
I'm still waiting for the bloom. Don't remember if they are the yellow ones or the red/brown ones. I will certainly post when they bloom.

2:56 AM  

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