Garden Clippings for September 21, 2019

Sunflowers have hit the news in Sarnia Lambton after the Schoonjans family planted a 6 acre field of the yellow beauties at their farm at 5023 Douglas Line just outside of Forest.  They planted the field in memory of Max Rombouts, a two-year-old boy who did of leukemia early this year.

Visitors to the Sunflower field are encouraged to visit, take photos and snip off a blooming sunflower to take home.  A donation box has been set up to encourage guests to leave a charitable gift to support causes chosen by Max’s parents.

What a wonderful way to pay tribute to Max’s short life.

There’s another field of Sunflowers along Lakeshore Rd, just outside Kettle Point with a small sign explaining this field is not to be confused with the Schoonjan’s field.    Both fields are showstoppers, with their bright yellow blooms putting on an impressive display for those driving by.

Lambton County is not known for growing Sunflowers.  We’re big on soybeans, corn and wheat, with the occasional field of sugar beets.  Manitoba gets the honours of growing about 90 % of Canada’s sunflower production.

Farm grown sunflowers produce two types of seed:  oilseed and confectionary.  Oilseed sunflowers are used primarily for vegetable oils and to a lesser extent for bird feed.  Confectionary or striped sunflower seeds are used as snack food and in the baking industry.  A small portion of Canada’s sunflower production is used in animal feed.

Most Sunflower seed production is destined for the Canadian and US market, while a small but growing percentage is shipped to European and Asian markets.

Farm grown sunflowers are tall, rising well over 6 feet.  Varieties are chosen for their abundant seed rather than for their pretty yellow petals surrounding the seed head.  Farm grown sunflowers are grown and bred for their rapid seed production that ripens quickly and consistently.

Horticulturally grown sunflowers chosen for home gardeners are available in an almost bewildering array of varieties.  ‘Mammoth Russian’ is the variety that closely mimics farm grown types, growing 6 to 9 feet high with yellow flowers growing 10 to 14 inches in diameter.  Other varieties are more compact with an eventual height of as low as two feet.  Most grow 4 to 5 feet high.  Many varieties have flowers that resemble traditional sunflowers, while other flowers can readily be mistaken for marigolds or daisies.

Sunflowers are wonderful for attracting birds and butterflies to your garden.  Their rapid tall growth makes them useful as living walls to provide screening and privacy.  Health conscious consumers will use sunflowers to grow nutrition packed microgreens, perfect for salads and smoothies.