Study in Sunshine

There is not a flower that says sunshine quite like the Sunflower. Sure daisies are close, but the sunflower radiates and reflects the glow of the sun. It is almost like the sun going in IS the sun reflecting out.  And sunflowers make loads more sunflowers. A single flower can have up to 2000 seeds. My cockatoo loves sunflower seeds, and so do I warm from an oven toasting.

It lights up anywhere it grows. And grow they do, up to 18 feet tall. They are beacons to the birds for bringing in wildlife. I do not grow them here, but they grow on the farm, in fact, many local farms.

A sunflower head is made up of many individual florets that are joined together to a base.

The tiny flowers are so beautifully aligned like little soldiers of new or sustained life.

They create a pattern and texture even without the aid of the sun.

I took the photographs just to prove my point that they still glow. In fact all the images were taken in varying degrees of sunlight. The top three images were taken on a very dark, and an about to be rainy day with the sun nowhere to be seen.  It was just the bland, even light of the morning.

The large petals of a sunflower are individual ray flowers which do not develop into seeds. There purpose is, while growing, they fold over and protect the head holding the florets.

New varieties of sunflowers are non-traditional colors too. Those being currently created range from orange, tan, maroon and some with striped petals.

There are also new varieties that have lower pollen counts, which is not only good for asthma suffers, but extends the life of the flower too. But it is not so good for the bees, I am guessing. But that happy face turns to a frown by the end of summer, and it glows no more.

But even in decline, it has an eerie beauty. Sunflowers were painted repeatedly and famously by Vincent van Gogh, both in the brightness of life and the throes of decline. In fact, I did a post on fading flowers and noted van Gogh’s many studies of the flowers.

And the sun still shines down on the sunflower. But notice, the heads are all pointing the same way, which is east. While the protective petals are opening, the plant tracts the sun in 180° following the sun. It returns to east facing overnight to start the process all over again for the next day. The term for this is called heliotropism. I could not think of this term and had to look it up because it was bugging me not to remember. You know how when you know something and it just slips your mind…. Anyway, once the head blooms, the stalk will remain frozen and pointing east.

That is why when you saw my post on Sunflower Farm, all the flowers were pointed east. A good compass, no?

Sunflower Farm last week had all the bended heads looking so sad, but really it is just a new beginning for the sunflowers. Time to see the sun next summer, is that a date?

And don’t forget that next Wednesday we have Word for Wednesday. It is a meme every two weeks highlighting a Word in Pictures. Oct. 5 we have ‘Repose’ and feel free to expand and stretch the meaning a bit. There is so much creativity in thinking outside the box, so many did just that with Illumination.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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23 Responses to Study in Sunshine

  1. It’s a date! Something to look forward to. I love Sunflowers and this ode to their beauty is spectacular!

  2. GirlSprout says:

    Donna, you’re so prolific. I don’t know how you do it! The last photo is appropriately melancholy for this time of year and evokes a farewell to summer perfectly.

  3. Indie says:

    Even the photos of the sunflowers with their heads bowed have such beauty! I felt sad with them! Lovely post!

  4. nelle howard says:

    I didn’t know that about them following the sun all day then returning to face east. One way or the other, we all seek the light.
    I posted a link for tomorrow’s word, “repose” Last week you said you would be taking posts, starting on Tuesday, but I don’t see any other “repose.” Am I doing something wrong? I will check in again tomorrow if I get internet. I’m camping so I can’t count on a connection.
    Again, lovely post on the sunny flowers.

  5. nhgarden says:

    Love how you captured the Sunflowers!

  6. andrea says:

    I agree with GirlSprout “you are so prolific”, both in words and photos, and I suppose in many other things as well. Sunflower is already an icon! And you might not know this yet! Have you heard of the Fibonacci Number, i think it was prominently discussed in Angels and Demons (not sure if it is this volume or the Davinci Code, now the author’s name slipped somewhere in the convolutions of my brain). The sunflower seed arrangement follows the Fibonacci number to maximize number in small space, and that is the best order arrangement in nature! Do you believe?

  7. Christina says:

    My favourite sunny flower too, beautiful images – you certainly captured the sunshine! There are fiels and fields of sunflowers here in Italy, especially in Umbria; they don’t grow such tall ones propable because of the strong winds, but whatever size they are they never fail to make me smile; just as yours did today. Christina

  8. Cathy says:

    Terrific post filled with fabulous information. I have never been able to “warm up” to sunflowers because the Victorian meaning is “haughty” and that always bothered me. But I am seeing them in a new light — literally and figuratively! Your photos are breathtaking!

  9. Thank you Donna, you have explained why I can’t see most of my sunflowers from my own plot, they smile happily at my neighbours instead! I knew that they followed the sun, not that they froze facing East when fully open. Next year I plant to get it right, and plant them where I can enjoy them – my neighbours will still see them too… Lovely photographs, I particularly liked the individual flowers all perfectly aligned.

  10. One of my favorites! They are such great flowers when they are smiling and when they have a frown on their faces. They just scream sunshine!

  11. 7aces/Darla says:

    When I saw your post pop up in my email box, the song, Walking on Sunshine starting going through my mind…and rightfully so after reading this post. Oh how I wish the squirrels would leave the sunflower heads alone here, I so love to grow them. Perhaps I’ll give it another go next year!!

  12. Laurrie says:

    There is something so pleasing about a big floppy yellow sunflower. I am definitely growing them next year. I love that they follow the sun all day and then turn around to do it again the next day!

  13. One says:

    Gorgeous shots especially the first one! Love the bokeh and the light in that one! I wonder how you managed to get such excellent shots since they are so tall. I recently have a few mammoth sunflower but didn’t manage to get any pleasing captures. Just harvested the seeds.

  14. Carolyn♥ says:

    Your Sunflowers are stunning Donna… they surely place the emphasis on SUN.

  15. Donna says:

    The sunflowers do illuminate this post too…I love these flowers and many reseed for me if I allow them to die back and do not cut them back. Of course the birds get to most seeds…I found the monarchs partaking of the sunflowers recently…I do love these flowers in decline…there is a something about them…I actually taught heliotropism to 4th graders years ago…fun concept and this flower does it justice…as always a wonderful post to muse about, learn from and revel in the gorgeous pics!!

  16. HolleyGarden says:

    I have never grown sunflowers, but now I vow to someday. Who could resist having their own little sun? I knew they turned toward the sun, but didn’t know they ended up in an east position. Now I’ll know where to plant my sunflowers!

  17. I erroneously picked up some sunflower seeds last year that were pollen free. I gave them away as soon as I realized, I expected the bees would be less than thrilled! Now I’m glad I didn’t plant them, especially with all the long-horn bees we’ve seen here this year, they especially love sunflowers, and rolling in the all the pollen. I do love how these flowers glow too, especially early in the morning, standing behind them as they face the sun, as the sunlight radiates through their petals. I wish we had more growing here this year…but there’s always next year!

  18. linniew says:

    Sunflowers and I have a close but stormy relationship. We shall overcome. In the meantime, I really enjoyed the post. I liked the sideways image most, looking across the flower.

  19. TufaGirl says:

    Donna, those sunflower photos are very beautiful. Bright and shiny yellow with the green background. Just gorgeous.

  20. Jennifer says:

    I absolutely meant to plant sunflowers this year and then forgot all about it come spring. Next year for sure! One of these days (perhaps I have missed the one you did already) you must do a post on your cockatoo. They are such pretty birds and I am sure everyone would love to see yours.

  21. Sheila says:

    Some of the most beautiful photos I’ve ever seen of sunflowers. Amazing close-ups that reveal so much of the flower’s structure. Great information, too! Now I want a really nice camera 🙂

  22. patty says:

    I can’t help but smile upon seeing those bright sunny blooms. I learned about heliotropism at some point too but seemed to have promptly forgotten all about it. Nature is fascinating in its details.

  23. Love the first two photos–couldn’t they be end of summer for GGW? Just read a goos novel about Van Gogh called Leaving Van Gogh.

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