Monday, August 24, 2015

Cheeky Sunflowers

There is nothing timid about the sunflower. Anything that can shine sunshine back up to the sun has to be bold, brash and maybe even a bit cheeky. Those strong stalks carrying the flowers ever closer to the sky and those golden manes slowly unfurling, evoke confidence and stamina.

Surrounding our small village there is row after row after row of sunflowers making it seem as if the countryside has been flooded by yellow. Fields and hillsides turn into the waves and troughs of a yellow ocean.

It takes hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of sunflowers to make up this mighty inland sea. The ocean of yellow is beautiful, but it is also fun to take in the expressive faces of individual sunflowers. Although they all resemble clowns on stilts, there are lots of different personalities out there, somber, sweet, grouchy, but mostly “hey look at me” happy.

As strong as the sunflower is it has it’s Achilles’ heel - it can only out play the sun for so long before it starts to feel the heat and gasp for water. With this summer’s gorgeous sunny days and not a drop of rain for the months of June or July the waves and waves of golden sunflower petals pretty much shriveled up over night. One day bright and brash, the next crumpled and humbled. For though the sunflower plant is as strong as Zeus, it’s petals are mere mortals to the broiling sun when there is no rain to quench their parched thirsty fibers.
 Now their heads droop and their faces blacken with the ripening seeds. As brief as they were flamboyant and beautiful the yellow petals did their work of attracting pollinators and now the seeds are maturing for the fall harvest. The sunflower is a hard worker and the loss of her beauty does not deter her from the demands of her work.

Each year we wait with anticipation for these friendly, happy signs of summer in all it’s glory. For even though the sunflower is the loud, unsophisticated, hardworking, country cousin to the elegant rose and the sensual peony, her rugged personality is a part of the culture and landscape that makes this such a stunning place to live.


Leslie in Oregon said...

Thank you for this post about the sunflower cycle. You have prompted me to look beyond the glory of a sunflower field to the faces of individual sunflowers. When were the flowers around your village at their peak this summer? Can the sunflower plants stay alive through an entire growing season without any rain or irrigation water? When will their seeds be harvested? Is the only commercial product of the plant its seeds, or is the oil of the seeds also a stand-alone product? Curiously, Leslie

A Small Village in France said...

The sunflowers should be at peek the middle of July and with enough coolish weather and weekly rain their faces will stay bright and yellow until mid-September. It’s a grand year when that happens!
Farmers do not irrigate their sunflower fields. Somehow those crazy plants just keep on trucking through the hottest of summers. Honestly some of the seed heads are the size of a trashcan lid right now!! The seeds will be harvested now in the moth of September. I think that all of the acres and acres of sunflowers around here are only used for sunflower oil. The seeds are too inconsistent to be used any other way. I wonder if the French use more sunflower oil than other cultures? I have to confess that I use it, but don’t really know why. That is when I am not using olive oil - or even better yet the local walnut oil.

Thanks for your curiosity!