Here Comes the Sun(flowers): A Post From the Archives Resurfaces and Brings With It A Poem

Cheers to the official first days of summer! This week, here in the Vintage Kitchen we celebrated our own set of happy firsts too. The first volunteer sunflower of the season bloomed on the balcony just at the very same time that a sunflower re-bloomed on the blog. The balcony blossom was planted courtesy of Paul and Julia, our resident mourning doves.

The blog blossom was plucked by the editor of a Canadian poetry journal who discovered the Vintage Kitchen archives through a 2012 post about growing red sunflowers. That blast from the past featured this particular homegrown delight…

From the archives – a sunflower blog post from 2012.

Both sightings added unexpected sparkle to the week, but the blog blossom brought along an extra something special. It was selected to appear alongside a beautiful poem entitled Black SunFlower written by Redgina Jean-Paul. The two were published in the Juniper Poetry Journal on Tuesday…

Black SunFlower

by Redgina Jean-Paul

I am

going over
every single
little thing
every single—
 
And I wish I could
turn it off
stop the train
in its—
 
Track my thoughts,
pull them back,
nocked-arrow’s fletching,
set them—
 
Free to choose,
I wish…
I want it to
End. I do. I want

perfect pitch
black sun
flower bed
fellow man
made   disaster.

— from Juniper Volume 5, Issue 1

With her remarkable way of illustrating longing and need, Redgina’s poem is quite a lovely collection of words. Even though there is always a sense of poetic movement and association when it comes to cooking in the Vintage Kitchen, it is not often that an actual poem comes home to roost among the pots and the pans and the foodstuffs collected on the counter. So it is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to introduce a real-life poet who added beauty to the week with her turns of phrase.

To highlight the dramatic tone of Redgina’s poem, the editors of the poetry journal added a filter to the 2012 sunflower photograph so that when it was published in Juniper this week, the garden glory looked like this…

Side by side, picture with words, the two tell a little story…

If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you’ll have noticed that sunflowers pop up on a regular occasion around here. Idyllic companions in the kitchen garden, I love them especially for their sunny dispositions and their continuously cheerful color.

Cultivated by indigenous tribes in Arizona and New Mexico long before explorers ever set foot on North American soil, sunflowers have been brightening up our landscape for over four centuries. Not only are they a fantastic food source for bees, birds and people but they also offer lots of possibility for creative gardenscapes too.

A long-time love affair:) This was a garden photo taken in 2014.

Tall enough to offer shade to smaller plants, sturdy enough to act as borders for visual interest, and easy enough to grow in almost any type of soil, sunflowers are equally at home both in the city and the country. In our neighborhood, this city cottage grows them so tall every year they almost reach the roof…

And the birds help spread their seeds in empty city lots. Each summer, it is fun to walk around town and spot their handiwork…

The 20th century Rutgers University gardening professor, Victor Tiedjens believed that sunflowers were such a common sight and essential component in gardens, it was practically impossible to think of them as merely a decorative flower.

Every part of the plant contains additional uses. The stalks, thanks to their fibrous composition, can be used to make a wide variety of useful products like trellises, instruments and utensils. The flower heads can be sauteed or grilled with butter, olive oil, and garlic in their immature stage, where depending on preparation methods, can taste similar to artichokes or corn on the cob. And the seeds can be consumed in their natural state or processed for their oil.

Multi-clustering blooms of the Del Sol sunflower. The more the merrier!

When it comes to the red varieties, it wasn’t until I started doing my own gardening about 20 years ago, that I discovered the dynamic array of shades of the red sunflower varieties. Ranging from rust to almost-black, I became so smitten with them in 2012, that I ordered seed packages of all the red varieties that I could find online and then planted them all over the garden. Two months later a few hundred bloomed! These are some of the photos from that magical summer…

Sunflower love!
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Autumn Beauty Sunflower
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Rouge Royale

That was back when I lived in another state on a lovely rural farm with cows for neighbors and my favorite camera always in hand. After some time spent in this country setting, we moved to the city and sadly, my camera died an untimely death a couple of years later. Our last big photo adventure together was a trip to Seattle where I was trying to track down my great-grandmother’s doughnut shop (read about that adventure here). But I am happy to still have the sunflower photos and the memories of those colorful patches of red faces dancing on the breeze. They added quite a bit of drama to the garden in 2012, and it’s nice to see that they are now adding a little drama to the field of poetry too.

If you have some extra time this weekend, pop over to Juniper and get lost in some modern poetry. You might just discover some new favorites of your own. And if you like Redgina’s poem as much as we did, please share it with your friends and family. The poets at Juniper do not get paid for their work when it is published, so their efforts are a true labor of love and self-expression. Around here, we think the world definitely needs more poets. And sunflowers too for that matter.

If you are looking to grow your own sunflowers, I recommend seeds from Botanical Interests. They are not a sponsor of the blog or affiliated with the Vintage Kitchen in any way, other than being my most favorite seed company. That is a love affair that has been going for over 10 years now! Their seeds always have a great success rate, they offer many heirloom varieties and the packages are really pretty and informative too. Browse their sunflower collection here.

Pretty packaging!

Cheers to Redgina and to Juniper, to Paul, and to Julia for planting seeds of joy and inspiration. And to the sunflowers who remind us to keep our faces pointed towards the light each and every day. Hope your weekend is a sunny one!

Garden Update: Day 47 – A Sunflower Is Born Just as War Comes to Town

Oh my darlings, today is a celebratory day. Ms. Jeannie is pleased to announce that there has been a birth! A petite little beauty greeted the day. Here she is…

The first sunflower of the season!

This was from the Botanical Interests Autumn Beauty seed packet, which all have red, orange or gold petals with brown centers.  It’s supposed to reach heights of 5′ to 8′ feet tall but this little gem is only about 2.5′ feet tall. She must be an early bloomer:)

You can see her height best in this picture…

In the land of the giants, a small flower blooms.

In the midst of all this excitement Ms. Jeannie did experience a little set-back this week. It appears some sort of war rampaged in the garden. Ms. Jeannie lost 3 of the troops…

The sunflower tops were severed.

Ms. Jeannie is not sure what happened. Her first guess was deer, thinking they bit it right off. Here’s another angle…

Same stalk – different angle.

This is the second stalk that was tampered with…

Casualty #2

And the third…

Casualty #3

Whatever it was, deer, worm, bug…it didn’t eat the tops of the leaves. Ms. Jeannie found two in the dirt inside the beds and one in the grass next to the trough.

Beheaded!

All the destruction occurred in the same section but not with stems right next to each other. It is a bit of a mystery as to what happened. Ms. Jeannie was a little ruffled at the scene. If a deer ate the sunflowers for nutrition, then fine, but just to bite it for no reason and then leave the tops to wither seems wasteful and unnecessary.

Ms. Jeannie is hoping that the stalks, which are still in hearty shape, might recover, and grow new leaves. So she  will leave them be to see what happens.

She also consulted her handy dandy Bug Book that’s for sale in her Etsy shop

The Bug Book: Harmless Insect Controls by Helen and John Philbrick

In case it is a bug of destruction, they recommended spraying a solution of Dawn dish soap, water and rubbing alcohol on the sunflowers to create a sticky environment.    So Ms. Jeannie sprayed all her garden with this and so far there has seemed to be no other damage.

If it is deer, that are eating the sunflowers, Ms. Jeannie is not quite sure what she will do yet. If you have any suggestions. Please let her know!

Garden Update: Day 41

We have a bud, ladies and gentlemen! That’s right – one sunflower bud is on it’s way to flowering!

A sunflower is hatching!

Funny enough, this is one of the little guys that sprouted long after the others. It’s only 14″inches tall while most of all the other sunflowers are now 3″ feet tall.

Bird’s eye view!

Full length view!

Do you remember Ms. Jeannie’s other garden patch project? The one that involved the hard to make, impractical but so so beautiful twig fencing? Well, Ms Jeannie discovered that yes indeed – it is definietly hard to make a twig fence. Hats off to all of you that have the paitence to muddle through such construction.

Ms. Jeannie fears that she is a tad short in that department!

After what seemed like a thousand trips into the woods to find perfectly straight, not too big, not too little sticks, Ms. Jeannie discovered that she had only gathered enough to build about 1/16th of her fencing. Goodness gracious!

So the fencing plan was modified just a smidge.

Revised garden fence!

Ms. Jeannie wrapped her garden in 1″inch strips of hardwood and heavy duty steel wire instead. It is still impractical and won’t keep any sort of small critter out, but Ms. Jeannie loves it’s rustic look!  The twigs were re-purposed as a little decorative barrier at the front and back of the garden.

Front entry still needs some sort of gate.

Ms. Jeannie clipped some wild thistle and hung it at the entrance for a little early color. Mr. Jeannie Ology found a buzzard feather that same day, so added to the bouquet it was!

Wild spring bouquet.

The vegetables and herbs don’t seem to mind that the fence is sort of quirky. They just keep growing anyway! Both tomato plants are already flowering!

Tomato plant tucked between three different types of sunflowers, garden peas, snow peas and cosmos.

The start of the tomatoes!

Ms. Jeannie also had to make some amendments to the garden after a cutting worm or two came to enjoy some sprout salad. Ms. Jeannie has filled in the bare patches with cosmos flower seeds and peas around the garden edge.

Besides the bin of three feet tall sunflowers, Ms. Jeannie also has two other water troughs full of sunflowers. They were planted a couple of weeks later then the initial batch of sunflowers to help stagger the bloom time, so they are just getting their soil legs now, so to say. This morning they were just peeking over the rims of the troughs.

Trough #2

Trough #3

After learning so much about the starlings, Ms. Jeannie is on the watch for other birds in her garden. She’s delighted to find that a woodpecker now comes to visit every morning! He sure is a handsome thing…

Garden Update: Day 31

Well my dears, in what surely must be some sort of record, the sunflowers have grown an amazing 11 inches since our last garden update 14 days ago.

11 inches in 14 days! Ms. Jeannie’s going to need to get a longer ruler!

That’s about 3/4 of an inch per day!

Over 14″ inches tall as of today!

How exciting! Ms. Jeannie’s not trying to rush the days – but she can’t wait until they flower:)

Just to refresh- the target bloom date is Ms. Jeannie’s birthday – June 16th. A month and a half away. If they continue on this growing rate they will be about 55″ inches tall in mid-June, which would put that at about 4.5′ feet tall.

According to the seed packet, this Moulin Rouge variety of red sunflower reaches an average height of  6′ feet tall, so we don’t quite know yet if Ms. Jeannie will have that birthday bouquet or not. Oh the garden suspense!

Blog Post Update! Mexican Folk Art Inspirations

In case you missed it, Ms. Jeannie just wanted to let you dear readers know that her blog post Mexican Folk Art: How Circumstances Affect Creativity has been updated with new information from some of the artists that were featured.

Get to know what inspired the following pieces by visiting this link here. Share your thoughts in the poll at the bottom of this post.

Angel Retablo Tropical Alta from ChristinaAcosta

Tropical Accent Pillow from arribachica

Purple/Blue Folk Art Box from mimexart

Garden Update: We have sprouts!

It’s only been four days since planting the garden sunflower seeds and they have already sprouted!

Sunflower sprouts already!

Ms. Jeannie checked the  Botanical Interests seed package… they estimated sprouts between 10 and 15 days, so we are WAY ahead of schedule! How exciting!

Ms. Jeannie added a garden countdown calendar on her blog . She set the date for her birthday, June 16th, in hopes that she will surprise herself with a lovely birthday bouquet.

At the rate they are going – they might be here by Memorial Day!

The Start of the Sunflowers

Today Ms. Jeannie started planting her summer garden.

Bed of sunflower seeds all planted!

It’s been a very mild winter this year in the South, so she could have started much earlier, but every once in a while, a folklorish sounding thing called blackberry winter  hits our region, which sort of fools you into thinking that spring has sprung. But then a wicked Mr. Frost comes calling, and knocks out all the early garden preparations.   Usually this happens around Eastertime, if it occurs at all, but this year Ms. Jeannie is throwing caution to the wind and planting early. Hopefully it will all work out.

Ms. Jeannie likes to order seeds from her favorite company, Botantical Interests.  They have a lot of heirloom varieties,  organic mixtures and seeds that always sprout. Plus they have marvelous looking seed packets that contain all sorts of fun growing information. They contain drawings of what the seedlings should look like too, which is helpful if you have a weed prone garden or aren’t quite sure what is what!

Pretty packaging!

…and informative too!

This year Ms. Jeannie is keeping things simple by just planting sunflowers and herbs. She will leave her vegetable growing to the local farmers and just shop for them at market each week.

Ms. Jeannie always likes to be a little out of the ordinary, so she has ordered 4 different varieties of red sunflowers, two fuzzy yellow sunflowers and one white sunflower.  Ms. Jeannie finds red sunflowers to be most elegant in a bouquet and since many people aren’t familiar with them, she enjoys a bit of the surprise element!

Martha Stewart put together this beautiful bouquet.

Urn style planters serve as great vases for sunflowers. Their tall yet curvaceous lines balance the bold roundness of the sunflower face. Urns are usually heavier too, which is good, because some mammoth varieties can reach heights up to 9′ feet tall!

The botanical name for sunflower is Helianthus, which comes from the Greek word “helios” which means “sun” and “anthos” which means “flower.”  Although native to North America, sunflowers were first discovered by European explorers in South America, but Native American tribes had been growing, cultivating and defining them from the beginning.  Native American tribes used the flower petals for dye, the seeds for food, the oil for ceremonial body painting and the stalks for fiber.

Explorers brought seeds back to their native countries, so that by the late 1500’s sunflowers were a common site throughout Europe.

Sunflower Field – Bordeaux, France. Photo by robsound

By the 18th century though that Europeans began cooking with sunflower oil. If you have never cooked with sunflower oil, it is supposed to contain the highest levels of Vitamin E, of all the cooking oils. It is light in taste and color. and is low in saturated fat. Learn more here.

Sunflowers can even be used as birdfeeders! Thanks again crafty Martha for supplying us with this pretty feeder idea:

To make your own birdfeeder like this one click here.

Because of their warm, cheerful coloring and their dramatic size and shape, sunflowers have been a subject for artistic study for centuries. Probably, the most recognized paintings of sunflowers would be those of Vincent Van Gogh:

While Ms. Jeannie does love all these paintings, she does wish that Van Gogh had painted more red sunflowers! As a gift recently, she did receive the new Vincent Van Gogh biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith…

Book Cover

…perhaps she will learn more about the inspiration behind all those sunflower portraits! Maybe he’ll even address the red ones! If anyone has already read this book, please let Ms. Jeannie know what you thought of  it. She always enjoys a good book review.

On Etsy, there is a glorious amount of sunflower-related items, but red sunflower items are a little more niche. Ms. Jeannie was happy to come across these items:

1970’s Ceramic pitcher from Vintagality

Duralee Red Sunflower Pillow by PopOColor

Red Sunflower Card from Teroldegoandtomatoes

Large Decorative Clipboard from ConfettiStyleDesigns

The Kernal Kozi from HollyWorks

Glowing Golden Sunflower Pendant from Bella Grethel

Sunflower Bowl from betsybpottery

Ms. Jeannie couldn’t resist these yellow sunflower items either:

Sun King – 11×17 Fine Art Photography from sintwister

Sunflower Tote Bag from jjmillistration

Vintage 1960s Sunflower Tunic Dress from digVintageClothing

Reverse Me Dotty Apron in Sunflowers & Paisley from bdoodles

Ok, garden. Ms. Jeannie can’t wait to see your pretty faces. So start GROWING!

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows follow behind you.”
~ Maori Proverb