Rewilding Sunflowers

So, the climate is changing. Time to up our game. We could buy some sunflowers, each the same as its sister, and continue to have neat rows of flowers.

Each the same.

This is an excellent way to run a combine on an industrial plantation, but perhaps a bit rough for birds, bees, humans and such creatures. At any rate, my sunflowers are fun this year. There are some black seeded oil ones that the birds left a dozen years ago and replant each year, some Giant Russians from seeds my Dad left, and some short decorative flowers that Yulia left, so they wouldn’t be without a home when she moved to the rainbelt. They kind of all got together and had kids. What can I say.

That’s three plants from the same head, planted on the same day. We got some real good backwards seed selection going on here. Same bunch of renegades below.

Two-Headed. Five-headed. One-headed. Short. Tall. Everything goes!

And below. The wild bees have found them. I plant them for the birds and the insects, and to give the cat a place to hide, and for the beauty of them, above the garlic and the tomatoes and up against the house, where the mint doesn’t let me in after May 31. The birds plant them everywhere else.

This is serious stuff. In this age in which every human has finally earned the right to a gender of their own and the individualism to go with it, in this age in which the physical climate is changing drastically as well, it’s about time that mass-produced, identical flowers are set aside and we work with the changing Earth — accelerate its changes by accelerating its palette, building genetic diversity back into our seed stocks. Perhaps industrial farms can’t afford that just yet, but the rest of us sure can. The one below is weeks behind its sisters. That is vital for the bees.

The bunch below, with a good ancestral line running back to Yulia’s sunflowers, are trying out all manner of heights and maturities as they battle it out with the mint, the thistles and the catnip. Good move. It gets dry back there by August.

And here’s an oil-seeded flower that has gained height from its Russian sisters. It seems to work just fine. I think some early maturity has worked its way into the line from Yulia’s decorative flowers, too. Fantastic. The great creative discovery is going on. Not mine. The Earth’s. When the birds come, they can pick off the tomato hornworms in the tomatoes below. That’s my hope. It has worked before.

Here’s a Russian Giant that has taken on the growth habit of an oil-seeded flower! Crazy wild fun!

I heard one farmer a couple years ago explain that he couldn’t afford to have a labourer pick sunflower seeds in a roadside decorative planting, because it was cheaper to buy the seeds. Yeah, but where’s the adaptation in that? I guess you leave it to the seed pros. That made sense once.

Now, though, the sunflowers, are the pros!

No matter what weather gets thrown at them, they got this. And they have us. Here’s one with a strong line from Yulia’s, except with twice as many petals.

By the way, see the chicken wire there? That’s to protect a rowan that the birds planted one sunflower-eating day. The deer had a go at it, so to support the birds, who are in crisis around here, I gave it a couple years of safety. It’s going to be rough getting that wire off, though!

Yeah! Bring it on. We’ll have to say good-bye to the romance of uniformity, though.

We can’t afford that any longer.

2 replies »

  1. How many similar plants constitute uniformity? Not clear from your post.

    I let sunflowers grow in vegetable gardens, flower beds, etc., wherever the birds have missed them or seeded them.

    Some people dislike the pollen so they get pollenless sunflowers from the nursery which don’t do much for pollinators.


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