I love how cheerfully and proud sunflowers spring up sturdily almost anywhere you drop a few seeds. Especially when they are unexpected.
After spying a lone stalk topped with the familiar yellow-petalled disc in the front yard of a neighbor I asked him about it. The flower, growing beneath a tree on his front lawn, had just shown up there, he said. I was enchanted.
New to gardening at the time, it was the first time I'd been introduced to the concept of "volunteers" in the garden.
Later when my boys were toddlers we enjoyed watching volunteer Helianthus annuus, as they are officially named, spring up in the cracks between the paving stones on our back patio. The product of birdseed we had placed in the area, and misplaced as they were we let them grow until they towered over the boys.
Well I'm as enchanted by sunflowers today as I was then and every year I plant a packet beneath the large tree in our front yard. Enough late afternoon sun shines on the patch that the plants thrive there.
This year I chose Kneehigh Sunflowers Music Box Variety after last year's Giant Greystripes wound up competing with the foliage of the large tree they grew under. The packet describes them as "bushy plants (that) bloom freely in lively sunny shades from rich clear yellow to deep gold and cream with lots of pretty bicolors of bronze over gold, all with crisp petals and chocolate center discs." The description sold me (who writes this garden porn anyway?) and they have lived up to their word nicely.
A favorite in many children's garden, sunflowers are truly one of the easiest flowers to start from seed. If you too are a sunflower lover and haven't read Eve Bunting's Sunflower House, browse through a copy the next time you are in a library or bookstore. And check out this how-to article and plan to make one of your own next summer.
The Elk Grove Community Garden and Learning Center where I maintain a plot is operated under the umbrella of Elk Grove Community Food Bank Services.
About 25 percent of the 4-by-16-foot planting beds are dedicated to families who use the Food Bank. They may "adopt" a plot to cultivate as they like.
The Garden being in its infancy however, I'm not sure if any families have come forward to claim a stake.
In the meantime, those plots are gardened by volunteer members for two reasons: to serve as demonstration plots and to provide fresh produce to the Food Bank located behind the Parks & Rec. offices at 8820 Elk Grove Blvd.
Currently many of the plots are filled with thriving squash and tomato plants donated by the Horticultural Department of Cosumnes River College.
All gardeners are encouraged to donate surplus to this cause and bins for this purpose are located in a common area. About twice weekly, produce is delivered to the Food Bank by one of our members.
Originally the garden was affiliated with the Elk Grove Community Services District however working with food bank services became a more viable and obviously more logical partnership.