In Ohio, grey days laden with dying sunflowers are some of my favorite days. Late in the year, my backyard landscape is a juxtaposition of lush beauty punctured by pops of plant death and pierced with cheery birdsong: making October my favorite month to observe and sit peacefully amongst wildlife.
The backdrop many mornings is an expiating, melancholic fog that weighs upon the plants lying in wait--- a purgatory state of sorts. Some sunflowers are beginning their death journey, while many other plants, thriving in their prime,-- stand tall and bright; grateful to the afternoon fog clearing sun and the blue skies that allow them to live another day.
This busy month for wildlife reveals all stages of life in a short period of time. Monarch butterflies stop at this way station on their way to Mexico, birds are busy rearing their fledglings on seed pulling from the sunflower heads, and queen bees are busy mating; knowing that they will soon be choosing a new residence with which to over-winter. Other native bees are taking up residence in the standing pith. A nice warm place to reside over winter, while I am excited to see their emergence come next spring.
I get to breathe in the air of all 4 seasons, condensed into one month. Life, Death and Purgatory---simultaneously.
There are many species of sunflowers that are native to the United States and South America. These plants are workhorses and can withstand many different conditions from drought to wet areas. Sunflowers are also one of the many Phyto-remediator plants--- they remove heavy metals from the soil.
Adult Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds feast on the plethora of nectar provided, while baby bees reap the benefit from the loads of pollen brought back to the nest. Winter birds get natural, chemical free food sources in the form of seeds; along with warm cushions with which to stand upon during blustery winter days, courtesy of the fibrous plant heads.
YES, we DO have PERENNIAL sunflowers that grow in Ohio! Many of these species natives, don't look like the typical annual sunflowers people normally see. They look more like Cupplants or yellow daisies and range in size from 3ft to 13ft tall.
I will be offering species native perennial sunflower for sale this spring. I'm looking forward to sharing these plants with you so that your landscape will be busy year round--including winter--when these beauties are left standing in decay and draw in the birds like bears to honey. See you come April!