I’ve always loved sunflowers. There’s something about them that just makes me smile. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Sunflowers have magical powers. Well, maybe it just feels that way.
After the never-ending winter we had here in New England, I decided to celebrate spring this year by planting 9 packets of sunflower seeds. It was a good move as they eventually yielded a wonderful variety of 96 buds this summer. That’s pretty magical! Needless to say, I’ve had an abundance of photo ops right here in my own backyard.
The sunflowers’ beauty has delighted me since early summer straight through to these first few days of autumn. I even have a plant that is just starting to show its buds now. With the warm spell that is due here this week, I just may get another bloom! My camera and I are ready and waiting!
Spring Seed Planting
All of my seed packets this year came from the Livingston Seed Company in Columbus, Ohio. I happened to find the seeds at both my local Ace Hardware store and also at a nearby Dollar Store in early spring. I’m so glad I picked them up when I did, as these delightful annuals have proven to be nature’s gift that just keeps giving.
So Many Seeds — So Many Different Varieties
I never realized just how many different varieties there are of sunflowers. Some of the seed packets I picked up were new to me — like the Mexican Sunflower. Not only was its color unique to me, but I soon discovered so were the shape of its leaves. As the plant began to grow, I could tell something special was on the way.
All of the images featured in this article were taken over the course of the summer as each of the different sunflowers made its appearance. Here’s a bit of info on each of the varieties that I planted. Perhaps one or two varieties will speak to you as well.
Mammoth Russian (Helianthus annuus)
This Mammoth Russian was the very first to appear in my garden this year. True to its name, it is indeed one big plant! The shooting perspective I chose for this image was primarily due to the fact that the sunflower stood taller than I. I’m not the only one who appreciated its height. The birds seemed to like its overall size, as my goldfinches happily fed on it for a long stretch of time.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: The Mammoth Russian is a giant in beauty and stature. The huge, yellow flowers are often 12″ in diameter, full of plump, tasty seeds. Harvest when heads bend from weight. This sunny giant is perfect in your yard or garden to create a natural fence or just make a statement. Everyone will love your Mammoth Russian Sunflower, including our feathered friends!
Height: 10′ Blooms: Midsummer through Fall
Summertime Mix (Helianthus annuus)
The Summertime Mix was one of my favorite seed packs primarily due to the diversity of the flowers it produced. I loved the size and delicate nature of each flower as it appeared. The soft color palette was quite eye-catching and deserved to be showcased.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: Summertime Mixture F1 is a true mixture of colors and forms. The single-stemmed and branched flowers make you smile by just looking at them. Wonderful for mass planting and cutting gardens. This is a pollen free-free, hybrid collection.
Height: Approx. 4′-5′ Blooms: Summer through Fall
Autumn Beauty (Helianthus annuus)
The Autumn Beauty seed packet led to one of my favorite shots from this summer. I loved the color of this sunflower and well as its flawless, unblemished petals. As you can see for yourself, the rust and gold of this particular flower’s petals against the backdrop of its deep, green leaves definitely says, “Autumn Beauty.”
However, that’s not the only variety of sunflower the Autumn Beauty seed packet brought to my garden. It was one of many.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: Sunflowers make you smile. Blooms in shades of lemon yellow, subtle bronze, rich wine, and bicolors on multiple flowerheads make Autumn Beauty a true beauty. Cut for a bouquet, plant for a natural fence, or plant in a garden for color. Harvest for your feathered friends!
Height: 5′-7′ Blooms: Late Summer to Fall
Orange Mahogany Bicolor F1 (Helianthus annuus)
Bicolor sunflowers always add interest to a garden, and this Orange Mahogany Bicolor was no exception. Round and symmetrical, it instantly grabbed my attention. It’s vibrant colors and curved, wide petals made it an instant standout.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: The brilliant colors of Orange Mahogany Bicolor F1 make it a standout in your garden. Striking colors of orange and yellow with brown center rings definitely add beauty to any spot. This is an F1 hybrid variety.
Height: 5′-6′ Blooms: Summer through Fall
Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
The Mexican Sunflower seed packet was my big surprise of the summer. Long before buds appeared, it was the plant’s dark green leaves and their unusual shape that made me take notice. Truth be told, at first I thought it might be a weed, as I didn’t recognize it. Thankfully I kept my weeding hand in check and let nature continue on its way. Was I ever glad that I did. This vibrant orange sunflower proved to be a show stopper.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: Lead the uninhibited life, and let Torch light your way. Its fiery orange petals are irresistible, and it’s so easy to grow. In no time your garden will ignite with its glow.
Height: 4′-6′ Blooms: Summer/Fall
Velvet Queen (Helianthus annuus)
The deep burgundy color of the Velvet Queen added rich beauty to my garden. Contrasting with the color of the surrounding flowers, it quickly became a visual magnet for this photographer and her macro lens.
Livingston Seed Packet Text: Velvet Queen Sunflower’s stately chestnut-red blossoms usher in fall’s regal glory. The seeds are edible and can be harvested for a tasty treat. Use the cut flowers in fall floral arrangements or leave the seed head in place as a gift to the birds. Velvet Queen prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil. Do no overfertilize. A Victorian symbol of hope, these sunflowers are a reminder of early autumn’s grace and beauty.
Height: 5′-7′ Blooms: Summer/Late Fall
Who knows what this upcoming winter will bring? All I know is come next spring I will be one of the first on the lookout for the appearance of sunflower seed packets in the stores. Perhaps there will even be a new variety or two for me to discover.
Needless to say, the wheels in my head are already turning. I even have the next planting schematic all mapped out in my mind. Can’t wait!
~ Liz Mackney