Sunflower Fort – The Gardening Nana
When you think of Holland you think tulips and it is a wonder to see the fields of tulips from the air as you fly into Schiphol airport. But another flower, the Sunflower, also has a Dutch connection. Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower paintings are the most recognizable and copied of his works of art. When we lived in Amsterdam my daughter’s preschool was next to the Van Gogh museum so it is fitting that I enlisted the help of the preschool at my church to plant the “Sunflower Fort.”
Creating a “Sunflower Fort” is a work in progress and the first step was to start some seeds inside. Before we had the children plant their seed in a Dixie cup with potting mix, we read the book, A Seed is Sleepy, by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long that has great illustrations of the sunflower seed as it sprouts and then pictures of it as a huge flower. All the seeds sprouted! Now it was time for the kids to plant their sunflower.
Some of my gardening friends helped me prepare the site for the “fort,” we dug a trench about 4’ by 8’ in a “U” shape which leaves an opening on one end. We planted a variety of sunflower seeds – ‘Russian Mammoth’, ‘Velvet Queen’, ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Dwarf Sunspot’; then blue morning glories. The “walls” of the fort will be the sunflowers and the “roof” will be the morning glories (Ipomoea spp.).
The children’s sprouts are the tallest sunflower the ‘Russian Mammoth’ (12 ft) with the ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Dwarf Sunspot’around two to three feet tall. The ‘Velvet Queen’ will get 5 feet and has a dark crimson color. The seeds & sprouts are planted and watered. Now we wait in anticipation of the next steps when we can train the morning glories up the sunflowers and over the twine that we will string between the taller sunflowers.
Back to Vincent van Gogh, he had several kinds of sunflowers in his paintings and one of the sunflowers was the puffball like flower called the ‘Teddy Bear’ sunflower. The typical sunflower has the brown, seed filled center with a ring of yellow flowers but the ‘Teddy Bear’ has double yellow flowers with a green center. Scientists say this flower is a genetic mutation.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are called “sunshine on a stem” and are food for all kinds of wildlife all year. We’ll be watching!