Sunny Saffron

Sunflowers, sweet corn, goldenrod, crook neck squash, the juicy flesh of ripe peaches, and many other harvest-time goodies … they all suggest that yellow is August’s favorite color. The saffron beauty of sunflowers attracts bees and artists alike.

Above: One of several sunflower paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Immediately below – more of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, including a painting of Vincent painting sunflowers by fellow artist, Paul Gaugin. Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, may best be known for his water garden paintings, but he was also a lover of sunflowers (see images further down on this page).

Did you know that sunflowers are an American original? The Sunflower is a native species to North America and was used by American Indians for an important, high-energy food source. Explorers carried it with them to Europe in the 1500s. Russian agronomists were responsible for the first agricultural hybrids. But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant.

Sunflowers were used in many ways throughout the various Indian tribes. Seed was ground or pounded into flour for cakes, mush or bread. Some tribes mixed the meal with other vegetables such as beans, squash, and corn. The seeds were also cracked and eaten for a snack – just like today. There are references of squeezing the oil from the seed and using the oil in making bread.

By the late 19th century, Russian sunflower seed found its way into the US. By 1880, seed companies were advertising the ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflower seed in catalogues. Today, the sunflower is the national flower of Russia.

The sunflower is valuable as a food source, but it is also favored for it’s ornamental beauty. Not many plants can lay claim to both virtues. Many new colors and varieties have been developed in recent years. The one below found a permanent place in my garden: the Mahogany Velvet or Merlot sunflower. I’m saving seeds from this one for farmgirl my friends.

Another favorite of mine is the Teddybear sunflower (top photo and below). I first saw them in Van Gogh’s paintings; later when I spied them in a seed catalog, I had to have some. They are especially well suited for this area since they are smallish – not as susceptible to the ravages of wind – growing only to about three feet at the tallest.

I clip a few heads off and add them to my basket of potpourri.

Sunflowers come and go as a fashion statement, both for garments and home decor. The European gal in the photo below was pretty brave to wear sunflowers over her … ta-tas :o), but, Europeans have always been less inhibited than us Americans. The sunflower is a good teacher of the saying, “lighten up” — they’re the happy flower with a sunny disposition! Pun intended.

This time of year, wild sunflowers decorating country roadsides are a common sight. I took the below photo when we were hauling hay bales home the other day. I imagine the seeds will feed many a hungry bird this fall.

After the green of summer has passed, do you save sunflower heads for winter food for the birds? Below: the paintings of Claude Monet, Catherine Klein, Gustav Klimt.

A few ‘birdseed’ volunteers popped up in my flowerbed, and I let them be. The seed heads are about 12″ in diameter. The birds will enjoy them.

The other day, while I was watering my garden, I was thinking about how fleeting the life of a flower is. Some flowers bloom for a morning or a day and then they are gone. The bible verse, Psalm 103:15-16 came to mind. “The life of humans is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone.” With that idea in mind, we ought to spend our daylight hours doing what we should be doing and living like we mean it. Life is brief. Sunflowers make the most of every day and of every ray of light, for they know their time here is short.

“All day long their silent worship lasts,

And every stem a lengthening shadow casts

Toward the east, ah, they love him best,

And watch till every lingering ray is gone,

Then slowly turn to greet another dawn.”

~Albert Bigelow Paine~

Sunny smiles from Wyoming, Shery

Leave a comment 16 Comments

  1. Connie Mac says:

    Shery, First I have to admit this is my first comment despite lurking since I joined MJF. I love your blog. It is the first one I check. Thanks for going to the trouble and taking the time to make it so enjoyable!
    Now my sunflower story … I planted sunflowers outside my west facing kitchen window once many years ago. My sister came to visit around 6 one evening and I was so excited to show her how well they had grown. She gazed out the window and with a quizzical look on her face said "They are beautiful but why didn’t you plant them facing the window?" My laughter made her mad and to this day the subject of sunflowers is taboo. Paine’s poem brought that memory back. Thanks for the remembered laughter!
    Sister #2880 CMac

  2. I just love this article. I have been planting the huge Mammoth flowers to border my Chicken coop and raised garden. I would love to get some merlot sunflower seeds.
    I harvest my seeds for snacks…soak them in salt water and roast them the next day! I still have some left so I may just cut them for decorating this fall. Thanks again for your article.

  3. karen bates says:

    Simply stunning…oh, how I love their faces. I have just had a hankering for some photos of them this year….thanks for the fabulous post…as always!

  4. Cyndi says:

    I adore your blog posts and always read as soon as I get your email from Mary Jane. Your photos are always fabulous and so interesting.

    I do love sunflowers and this post is beyond excellent!
    Thanks for sharing all you do with us Shery!

    Smiles, Cyndi

  5. Treese says:

    Here on my Colorado ranch I only have a single Sunflower, but every year I can count on it coming back. It is a little bigger every year. It always makes me smile to see it return year after year.

    Colorado Cowgirl.

  6. Kare says:

    Oh how I love sunflowers. They just cheer you up looking at them.

  7. Jan Ogden says:

    You are an amazing lady. Love to read your blog and see what you are up to next. I just have to share about this lovely sour cream that can be made out of sunflower seeds.

    1 Cup Sunflower Seeds (Raw) (Roasted can be used, but the raw blends better and is better for you. )

    1 1/2 cup water
    1 tsp. onion powder
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    1/2 tsp. Salt
    1 fresh lemon- Squeezed

    Place all the above ingredients in your blender and whiz until creamy and smooth. The longer you blend it the smoother it will be. (About 5 minutes)

    If not thick enough, add a few more nuts.
    If too thick, add a little more water.

    Enjoy it on your favorite baked potato, or tacos, or your favorite Salad, Brocalli etc.

    Much better for you than the High Cholesterol real Sour Cream.

    I love making this. Hope you will like it too. And you’ll be
    excited about what can be made when your lovely sunflowers are mature.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share with us each month!! Jan

  8. REBECCA ROSBERG says:

    A BIG HELLO FROM MY LITTLE PART OF THE WORLD.. SUNNY SOUTH FLORIDA !
    I HAVE WRITTEN BEFORE … I WAS THE ONE THAT THOUGHT "WHAT WOULD I HAVE IN COMMON WITH A RANCH GIRL" AS I LIVE WITH ONE FOOT IN THE COUNTRY AND ONE FOOT IN THE BIG CITY OF PALM BEACH FLORIDA.

    BUT THE ANSWER IS I SEEM TO HAVE LOTS IN COMMON WITH THE RANCH GIRL ! I JUST LOVE YOUR BLOG AND THE WAY YOU DECORATE.
    IT ALWAYS FASCINATES ME THAT AROUND THE WORLD THERE IS A SMALL GROUP THAT DECORATES AND LOVES THE SAME JUNKTIQUES THAT I LOVE !
    I RECENTLY RENEWED MY SUBCRTION TO MARYJANES FARM … AND LOW AND BEHOLD THE FIRST ISSUE I GOT WAS THE WONDERFUL ARTICLE ABOUT ALL THE THINGS YOU COLLECT !
    DO ANY OF YOU OTHER FARMGIRLS OUT THERE FIND THIS INTERESTING … WHEN YOU MEET PEOPLE WHO LIKE THE SAME KIND OF "JUNK" THAT YOU LIKE … YET YOU NEVER MET.

    WELL SIGNING OFF FOR NOW … I WONDER IF THERE ARE ANY OTHER TRANSPLANTED FARMGIRLS DOWN HERE IN SOUTH FLORIDA ?
    FROM REBECCA HERE AT SUNNYBROOK FARM !

  9. MerrieJayne says:

    Thank you for this lovely post. My home is known as The Sunflower Ranch here in central Arizona. We love our sunflowers.

  10. Betty Stone says:

    I’ve grown the teddybear sunflowers and must say they grew taller than the three feet listed on the packet. They were more like six feet. Gorgeous flowers because they always make me smile. I have a few in my garden also and one that seems to be pushing nine feet–Russian Mammoth. Thank you for sharing your sunflowers.

  11. Maria Kaul Casper says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog – I have in my spare time been working on a revised book of the secret language of flowers – Sunflowers say, "I admire you and desire to look upon you always. And as the the sun moves across the sky, east to west, my flower head follows the sunlight and rays – so do I desire to follow you. As the sunflower head droops and fades when the sun is gone from the sky, so do I miss you and long for you when you are not near me." Like a heliotrope turning toward sun light, so I turn toward you as you are the bright light in my life." Say all these things by giving sunflowers to the one you love.

  12. Janice K. says:

    YAHOO FOR SUNFLOWERS! This year is the first that hubby and I actually didn’t plant any sunflowers, we relied on the volunteers that pop up in the compost bed and other places in the veggie garden area. We went to a neighborhood BBQ and my closest neighbor (over the fence) told us how she missed the regular group that peeked over the fence line each year. Guess what?? Next year we will plant some more in that area.
    I also have tried to save seeds and end up with a completely different version of flower. Could it be something to do with cross pollination???

  13. Debbie says:

    Shery my dear,
    As always I can count on you for a colorful blog both in words and images! I too enjoy Sunflowers. Everything from the range of colors and sizes to the sentiment of sunniness too! When we left Nevada for the east coast we drove across our great United States in the last week of July. Guess what we saw mile and miles, acres upon acres of? SUNFLOWERS! It was then that I learned Kansas was the Sunflower state and I finally understood what " the heartland of America was ". It’s easy to take for granted where the ingredients for many of the products made for us come from until you see it first hand. I gained a great appreciation for the growers of the heartland after driving through it… As for my own little patch of earth, I’ve grown Mammoth Sunflowers, and kids sized ones too, and some of my favorite perennials are in the sunflower family: ( Prairie Sun ) Helianthus Maximiliani, and new to my garden this year, Lemon Queen which has small paler yellow blossoms and grows to 96 inches tall in one season! Heliopsis is another favorite of mine that grows 3-6 feet high… I leave the flower heads on for the entire winter for the birds.
    YOUR sunflowers are delightful and I love the deeper colored ones… Great way to ease into fall color…Thanks as always for a wonderful blog! You’ve done it again!
    xo
    Deb ( beachy farmgirl )

  14. Brenda says:

    I plant sunflowers every year. Although this year I put them in late and they are very little and not much to look at. I will find a new spot next year. Have a great week Shery!

  15. Nancy says:

    I have one row just for sun flowers in my garden in South Dakota!!!!

  16. Sarah says:

    I love sunflowers, but I’ve never grown them. Maybe next year…but I do LOVE the color that’s the first burst right before all the fall colors really kick into high gear. As we slide into reds and oranges and golds and browns, the yellows of late summer are a great last hurrah!

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