Connecticut Garden Journal: Sunflowers in their late
Late summer is sunflower time. With our cloudy, rainy summer, our sunflowers have taken their time to grow large and flower. But now they are in their glory.
Many gardeners think of the large headed, 10 foot tall 'Russian Mammoth' sunflowers when they think of this plant. But there are so many different selections now with smaller sized flowers, multi-stemmed plants and different flower petal colors. 'Italian White' has pure white petals, 'Velvet Queen' has red colored petals, 'Ruby Eclipse' has bicolored red and cream blooms, 'Limoncello' has light yellow petals and 'Autumn Beauty' is a mix of many of these colors. These selections grow 4- to 5-feet tall and produce tons of flowers. There are even 2 foot tall dwarfs, such as 'Teddy Bear', with double yellow petals that hardly look like a sunflower.
Sunflowers not only add color to the late summer garden, the seeds are edible. Cover heads with brown paper bags once the petals drop and you notice bird activity around your plants. When the seeds start dropping in the bag, cut the head and let it dry in a warm, airy location. Remove the seeds and roast for a snack. The large headed varieties are best for snacking, but leave some for the birds, too!
For another treat, harvest unopened sunflower heads, steam them and eat them whole like artichokes. You'll be amazed at the sunflower/artichoke flavor of the flower buds.
Grow sunflowers in spring in full sun on well drained soil. Grow in clumps so they support each other and don't flop and you can enjoy the color show even more.