One of the most delightful spots in my neighborhood is an outdoor garden classroom established by the local junior high. It is a beehive of activity this time of year and I always enjoy peaking over the fence to see what is going on.
Today I noticed the mammoth sunflowers were beginning to bloom. Each stalk rises 8 feet above the ground, and is topped with a brilliant yellow flower.
Plant breeders have been hard at work developing new sunflower varieties resulting in a range of colors and forms that is pretty astonishing. Some of the giants can produce flower heads at least 12 inches across. And then there are others that perhaps don't grow as large, but make up for it with a beautiful array of colors such as the Italian white with cream petals and a brown center or 'Moulin Rouge', which is a velvety burgundy with a black center.
In the past I have planted the big guys, but since my vegetable garden is small they tend to over power it. So this year I planted dwarf varieties. The scale seems to fit better. And when you mass them in a raised bed, they can be quite the splash of color. I planted mine from seeds about 6 to 8 weeks ago. I sowed 4 rows of them, spacing the seeds a couple of inches apart.
Sunflowers are some of the showiest annuals that you can grow and since they are up and blooming so quickly, it is a good way to get children excited about gardening, which is why it is no surprise to see them thriving in a garden classroom.