Sunflower Eulogy

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The sunflowers have been savaged. This happens every year. And this is the reason I had stopped growing sunflowers in the first place. It’s just too heartbreaking to watch them cut down in the prime of life – before they’ve ever even gotten a chance to produce seeds.

All right, I’m being melodramatic, but it is disheartening whenever this happens.

At least it isn’t a surprise anymore. In the past – before I’d grown cynical and jaded – I went all out when it came to sunflowers. I planted the giant Russian variety, and I was so proud of them. I watched them grow to their massive height, then staked them when their heads got too heavy for them to hold themselves properly upright. I watched the petals around their enormous faces unfold. I had so much fun.

But then an animal found my sunflowers. Something sinister and wild. I think it was a raccoon. Maybe it was a squirrel. Anyway, Something climbed my carefully poled Russian sunflowers, bent the stalks in half and savaged the flowers – ripped their heads to pieces before the seeds had even set. I came out onto my lawn the next morning to bent and mangled stalks, severed flower heads and wildly scattered petals – a gruesome trail of botanical carnage. (More melodrama).

It was such a waste. Utterly heartbreaking.

And what made me doubly angry was that I was planning to feed those very sunflowers to the beasties later that fall…when the seeds had set and matured. Because that is the final fun of growing a sunflower. You cut the head off the stalk and mount it somewhere in the yard and it becomes a natural birdfeeder; something everyone can enjoy – wildlife and humans alike.

But the wildlife got impatient and had to ruin it for everyone.

I tried growing sunflowers for a few years after that – but always with the same result. One year, I even set the sunflowers in a mesh of chicken wire and had CPT America spray the plants with pepper spray. No good. After digging the massive stalks out of the garden at the end of the growing season (never a fun task and surprisingly difficult), I finally swore off growing sunflowers altogether. It wasn’t worth it.

But, this year, I got tricked into growing sunflowers. Their seeds came in the packet I used for my backyard wildflower garden. I was certain nothing would come of it. I expected the chipmunks would find the seeds, eat them and that would be the end of it.

But somehow, the seeds survived. And germinated. And grew until they became this.

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And all the while they were growing I became more and more attached to them. I tried not to care, but I couldn’t help it. Soon, I was looking forward to seeing their cheerful faces each day. I forgot about the squirrels and the raccoons and the fact that a sunflower is, after all, just a food factory. I romanticized nature (as I am wont to do) and I paid for it.

Just this last week, while looking out my back window, I noticed the silhouette of the wildflower garden had changed. And when I looked closer, I realized that the taller, fuller spikes I had grown used to seeing each day – the sunflowers – were missing. Just like that. They’d disappeared.

Only they hadn’t completely disappeared. They were still in the garden – just horribly mangled. Something had climbed them, broken the stalks, nibbled at the half formed seeds, and then gone off in search of other, riper food.

Blast you squirrels!

If they could have just waited a few weeks longer, I’d have helped them. I’d have cut the flower heads down myself. I’d have given them all the seeds for their eating and they would have been ripe seeds, too. Tasty seeds. Edible seeds.

But the squirrels had to go and ruin it…again.

So no more sunflowers! I’m done. And this time I mean it.

I’m sure there’s some sort of moral lesson here. Something about patience and how we shouldn’t be the squirrels of our own lives, unable to wait for things to mature, impatient for the desires of our hearts….but I’m not going to go there.

I’d much rather rant about romanticizing nature and how squirrels don’t give a fig about the happy harvest plans you have for them. How they don’t give a thought to aesthetics. They’re mean little buggers, and they’ll take anything they can get their furry little paws on – even things that aren’t ripe. That’s the thought I want to leave you with.

And, having said that, I feel much better. Take that, squirrels.


Mrs. Smythe


3 Comments on “Sunflower Eulogy

  1. I live out in the country and still have small trees. I miss the squirrels at my last house. I remember my next door neighbor successfully grew giant sunflowers one year. I felt bad for her because their faces continually faced our yard and we enjoyed them the entire summer. Come fall, the squirrel began to feed on the seeds, just as you would have liked your squirrels to have done. Idaho squirrels must be a more patient variety…..

  2. I put up chicken wire cages around my sunflowers, when I had space to grow them. This seemed to protect them. And I kept a couple sacrificial flowers outside the cages, for wildlife to ravage. :). Tall cages. Give it a mull. It can be Pepper’s next adventure (next summer)…

    • Great idea. My neighbor has used those before, come to think of it. I’d forgotten about them. I wonder if the chipmunks could squeeze through the holes, though…