Sunflowers: Here and There
My sunflowers are nearly finished blooming now and the birds -- mostly finches -- have been feasting on the seeds. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers in the garden because they are always cheerful and I never tire of watching the wildlife they attract.
Years ago, I spent some time in Spain and, to this day, I still recall how amazing it was to see the fields upon fields of sunflowers that grew there. I was mesmerized by the expanses of flowery terrain; it looked like miles of smiling faces -- an entire landscape dotted with golden-yellow sunflowers, thousands of them, all turned in the same direction -- towards the sun. The Spanish word for sunflower is girasol, which is derived from girar (to turn) and sol (the sun) -- turning to the sun. In French it is similar: tournesol means "turn with the sun."
Spain seemed like a logical place for sunflowers to grow. When I was there, it was warm, dry, and, well... very sunny! So it was interesting to learn that, while sunflowers are native to North America, it was actually Russia that first cultivated sunflowers on a large scale as a commercial crop. Today, Russia is the world's third largest producer. And the sunflower is so important in Russian history that it was even named Russia's national flower.
When I think of Russia, I envision ice and snow and thick, wooly coats lined with fur. Who would have thought... Sunflowers?