November 8, 2014
I consider sunflowers the royalty of sunny summer and fall gardens that attract all kinds of wildlife, from butterflies and bees, to the occasional hungry gardener. Today we’re at the Truck Crops Branch Station in Crystal Springs taking a look at their demonstration block of pretty sunflowers. A really gorgeous sunflower is Lemon Queen, with its lemon yellow flower petals and chocolaty brown centers. The plants can grow greater than six feet tall with multiple 5 inch diameter flowers on each stem. The flowers develop at each leaf node up the entire stem and extend the bloom period to about six weeks. Not all sunflowers are bright yellow, which is quite evident when you look at Crimson Queen. The flowers of this variety are velvety, offering a variety of deep shades ranging from burgundy-red to orangey yellows, all having a dark center. These plants take on a tall, bushy habit with multitudes of three to five inch flowers. I really like the flower clusters that appear fused together. This last variety called Tarahumara has the huge flowers up to ten inches across. Many of the robust stalks produce only one enormous solid gold flower that will be filled with delicious, edible sunflower seeds. The flower heads can be so big and heavy they droop from the weight. This variety was brought to Canada by Russian immigrant farmers. Sunflowers are incredibly easy to grow, just direct sow the seeds into almost any soil type. As long as the spot is sunny you’ll have sunflowers. I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.