Sunflowers: Better Luck Next Year?

Budding Sunflower

Budding Sunflower

I tried something a little different with my sunflowers this year. I sowed the seeds in narrow planters and lined the front of the deck.  If all went according to plan, the seeds would produce tall, healthy specimens.  The towering wall of sunflowers would face the kitchen but could also be enjoyed by passersby.   I was jazzed!

My son helped me plant the first crop, which promptly disappeared.  Squirrels made off with the seeds.  A few went undetected, but once sprouted they ate those as well.  I managed to preserve three plants.  Moving on to plan B, I purchased more seeds, and started them indoors.  I also planted a few in the side yard hoping the critters wouldn’t notice the new location.  Last summer the flowers grew as tall as the house there.  Alas, those too disappeared.  Poof.

Indoors, the seeds sprouted quickly. I needed a plan to keep them safe.  The morning of Mother’s Day, my husband helped me assemble what I now refer to as “screen savers,” a system I created with left over screening and sliding window screens from the hardware store.  They worked!

I originally planned to remove the screens from the established plants, but the stalks remained on the thin side.  The soil dried out quickly, even after I added a thick layer of mulch.  Eventually the stalks cleared the top of the screens and started their accent.  The birds arrived, pecking away at the leaves, creating patterns as they chipped away.  Every few days, the plant added leaves and the birds came back for more.

SunflowerThis week, ninety days later and right on schedule, the sunflowers are in bloom.  The original three are the hardiest of the plants and the first to bloom.  They are taller and stronger than the others.  The transplants are fairly weak, with bent stalks and smaller stems.  But they too have buds.

What have I learned for next year?

  • The planters need to be at least twice the current depth
  • Sow directly into the soil, add lots of mulch, and screen
  • Plant a lot more seeds, then thin when necessary
  • Don’t give up hope!

Row fo Sunflowers

Sunflowers in a row

Sunflowers Line the Deck

Happy Mother’s Day!

Motherhood has a very humanizing effect.  Everything gets reduced to essentials.  ~Meryl Streep

My Mom loved Cyclamens and Poppies

Dedicated to my friend Betsy, who recently lost her mom and misses her terribly.

Magic of Swing

I dreamed of a garden swing for years, but it seemed like such an extravagance. Stylish and pricey swings graced the pages of Grandin Road catalogs and the garden section of Sunset Magazine, teasing me with the seductive possibilities of life with a swing. When my youngest son was still small we would “test drive” all the display models at our local Home Depot garden center.

Then in 2009 I spotted a swing in town for under $200. Though it wasn’t a high-end model it looked sturdy and it was comfortable. The seats were cushioned and the back had built-in head rests and a canopy to fend off the sun. It was perfect! We snapped one up and my husband assembled it for me for Mother’s Day.

Had I known that swings had magical powers I would have splurged years ago! Whenever I wandered outside to sit on my swing, a kind of hypnotic trance took over. Suddenly, swinging was more important than answering email or tossing a load of laundry into the dryer. Invisible hands lulled me. I could barely move.

My boys were drawn to the swing, too. I would trek outdoors and before I knew it I had company on the swing. Back and forth we would go, swish-swish, swish-swish, swish-swish. Feuding cats set aside their differences and joined me on the magical swing, paws curled in as they settled into the deep cushions.

If I had to make a phone call, I figured I may as well do it from the swing. I pretended to read my book out there, but in short order the sun and swing led to slumber.

After three seasons under the noon day sun, my swing needs a little TLC.  I’ve got my eye on some new fabric, part revitalization, part disguise.  If the shopkeeper ever learned about the magical powers they would undoubtedly find a way to double the price.

Mother's Day Two-Fer