Smiling Sunflowers

bee and sunflower

Incoming bee

Okay, technically sunflowers don’t smile. The effect is pretty much the same, though.  When I look out my window they’re waving in the breeze, nodding their sunny flower heads and vibrating with bees.  Maybe I’m the one smiling, but either way it’s contagious.

sunflower and yellow bee

Bees move between the sunflowers and the pumpkin vines

The tallest of the sunflowers is my height: 5’10” or 177 cm. It was the first on the scene.  I planted a variety of sunflowers this year, so each one is a bit different. One of the flowers just reaches my knee.

pair of sunflowers

Brothers and sisters

knee high sunflower

Knee high sunflower

Yesterday I gently untangled a few overzealous pumpkin vines, redirecting them back towards the deck. As soon as the sunflowers go to seed, they’ll be overrun by squirrels. I don’t want my furry visitors trampling the pumpkins in their quest. Sunflower stems are sturdy enough to support the heavy seeds. They are not, however meant to withstand the added weight of a squirrel running up and down at snack time.

A little history:

Sunflower (Helianthus annus) is an annual plant native to the Americas. It possesses a large inflorescence (flowering head). The sunflower is named after its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun. It has a rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves and circular heads of flowers. The heads consist of many individual flowers which mature into seeds, often in the hundreds, on a receptacle base. From the Americas, sunflower seeds were brought to Europe in the 16th century, where, along with sunflower oil, they became a widespread cooking ingredient. Leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed, while the stems contain a fibre which may be used in paper production. – Wikipedia

sunflower leaves and bud

Sunflower bud, about a week before it bloomed

opening sunflower

Ready to meet the world


Bronze-centered flower

Here’s a story that will leave you smiling like a sunflower:

The Fukushima Sunflower project is now following the lead of Chernobyl, and fields of sunflowers are bursting into bloom across this contaminated area of Japan. Volunteers, farmers, and officials planted the flowers so that they can absorb the radiation that leaked into the soil from the region’s damaged nuclear power plant. There are concerns that the contamination is mainly in the topsoil and that the roots of the flowers are too deep to absorb it. Time will tell whether this project will be a success.

Officials are hoping that the local economy will benefit as much from the project as the environment. They are hoping tourists will come back to the region to admire the sunflower fields. Due to this magnificent flower’s ability to assist in getting rid of nuclear waste, it has become the international symbol of nuclear disarmament.

I’m smiling. How about you?

sunflowers near walkway

Sunflowers along the deck


17 thoughts on “Smiling Sunflowers

  1. Well if that isn’t the cheeriest patio in San Jose! They are just plain ol’ fun aren’t they? I wonder if just store bought seeds have sturdy stems? I let some grow the the birds had spread out of my winter feeder once. They had really spindly stems and didn’t stand upright well at all. They really fold themselves neatly before opening, I really like that photo. Looks like it’d be a soft and quiet place to snooze if we were Fairies. Interesting how versatile they are. Considering how fast they grow, we should have to use trees for paper at all. I read the part about trying to attract tourists to the nuclear damaged land in Japan…then what, throw away your shoes? I think that’ll be a tough sell. I’d much rather enjoy yours from my comfy sofa. xoxK


  2. Your sunflowers made me smile too Alys! There is a patch of land not far from our village where sunflowers and gladioli are planted for picking. It’s a lovely sight when I drive by. I have one sunflower in my garden and am waiting patiently for it to flower!


    • Oh how beautiful to drive by fields of sunflowers and gladiola. I love those too. We have to drive a bit to find open fields of flowers. There is a seasonal ‘pumpkin patch’ in Gilroy that also grows sunflowers. They even give tractor tours through the rows of towering flowers. I did the tour early last year before they bloomed, but never got back to see them open. Hopefully this year.

      Best of luck with your sunflower. Be sure to share a picture when it opens up.


  3. What a delightful post, Alys, and I loved the fascinating story about the Fukushima Sunflower Project. I’ve enjoyed my sunflower volunteers this year, but can attest to the fact that those strong stems can’t without the weight of a squirrel jumping on them to get to the seed head — one was stolen just the other day right in front of my eyes! 😉


    • Oh the nerve! Yep, those cheeky squirrels are convinced the garden is there for them. I don’t mind too much. They’re little characters, aren’t they?

      How nice to get volunteers! The foragers must really pick them clean because I never get a volunteer crop of flowers. I have plenty of pumpkins that volunteer each year, but they’ve usually planted them somewhere inappropriate like in the middle of the lawn or in a side yard without any sun. Clever!

      I need to make sure my camera is loaded and ready to go. It will be any day now.


    • Thank you, Marlene. I love all the layers just before they open up. I’m cheered immeasurably by these flowers and will enjoy more good cheer when the squirrels start their harvest. I hope I don’t miss it.

      Working from the inside of your home to the outside makes good sense to me. You’ll be comfortable and settled and then you can pick up where nature left off.

      How’s it coming along?


  4. I love sunflowers! And your photos are wonderful. In France they have acres and acres if sunflowers planted. While part of me worried about such a monoculture, they always made me smile. I think the French name translates as ‘turns to the sun’. You have inspired me to plant some next summer.


    • Hi Anne,

      I’ve noticed the fields of sunflowers in the Ukraine since the flight crashed. It makes me sad.

      They are gorgeous blooms. Perhaps since they crop is short lived, they replant with other crops. Is that possible?

      You’ll have lots of yellow cheer this time next year.


  5. Excellent shots, Alys! And thank you for the history and the story – I am indeed smiling!
    My sunflower update: first, I JUST found out that sunflowers are annuals. I guess I should have known. Of the 4 plants, only one survived and is growing. We shall see what happens next …


    • Thank you, Laurie! They’re extraordinary aren’t they, all the more given the short cycle. Did your other sunflowers die or were they eaten by a deer? I hope the one that hung in there produces a beautiful bloom. From there you’ll have dozens of seeds to plant next year. The race will be on though so get ready.


  6. I’d go along with smiling sunflowers, although it is me that always smiles, especially when I see fields of them. In Italy their name is Girasole which means turns to the sun which is what they do of course until their flowered have been fertilized.


    • I knew they rotated with the sun, but didn’t realize that it was the fertilization that made them stop. thanks for that bit of news.

      Mine are all facing the driveway now, though they’ll be going to seed any day now. I’ll miss them.


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