Helianthus annuus, now and then

Posted on | May 30, 2011 | No Comments

SUNFLOWERS are the true American beauty. They have it all: stamina, fast growth, architecture, fecundity, attitude and, above all, color. The proportions twixt stem and head are so sweetly comical that all it takes is the sight of a sunflower display at Trader Joe’s to defuse the rage that brews daily in its parking lots.

In the wild, sunflowers are so stunning that driving down the 110 past Dodger Stadium, it is hard not to crash as one catches sight of a freeway verge studded with gold. As L.A.’s hillsides turn brown in late summer heat, somehow wild sunflowers still glow from the brush.

Click here to keep reading about how the only thing different from the sunflowers that you buy in Trader Joe’s and the wild type that you see to the freeway (and in the photos, left), is 4,000 years of cultivation. It’s not a recent Dry Garden column, that’s just below about Stephan Ingram’s beautiful book on Cacti, Agaves and Yuccas. Rather, this is an old, frankly lusty long article from 2006, written when my column was headed “Greening,” which was all very nice ego-wise, but was also the name of a citrus blight.

The reason to link this old favorite? To celebrate the Memorial Day flowering of the first of this year’s sunflowers in my new garden, the wild variety, sown with seed from S & S Seeds in Carpinteria, California. As you can see from only two pictures, even from wild “un-improved” Helianthus annuus seed, there are clear indicators of the diversity that turned this into what might be the world’s most famous and beloved flower.



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