For me, sunflowers became a multifaceted symbol of intentional community, and I want to share more about why that is. They are a plant indigenous to North America, which makes them a great symbol of valuing our local resources. Sunflowers both beautiful and useful: they offer flowers to look at and attract pollinators, seeds and oil for food and animal feed, and the stalks have been used to make paper. Sunflowers are a great example of resilience. They grow in most soils. People often have the perception that sunflower plants only produce a single flower, but that is only true of the giant sunflower. Other varieties form branches and these branches all flower. When you cut a flower, more grow! For me, this creates a sense of abundance, and I see the determination to create in adversity.
For the past several years, I have planted sunflowers, usually in a circle. When I see those flowers growing together, I can’t help but think of community. Seed packets will tell you to plant the sunflowers spaced far apart. They need some space, but I don’t thin seedlings that I started in the same pot. They produce perfectly beautiful sunflowers, right next to each other. To me, this is a lot like the societal pressures to be individualistic and finding that we can grow happily and beautifully, right next to each other. I argue that a circle of sunflowers growing merrily in a circle, or even a bunch of giants growing in a cluster are far more beautiful than a single sunflower
I see how they enrich the ecology of my garden. They attract the most diversity of bees I have seen in one place, ranging from ones smaller than my pinky nail up to ones 2″ long! They also attract birds, which eat bugs they find in the long grass habitat in the middle of the circle of sunflowers. The birds like to try to beat me to the seeds as the flowers die. That long grass also provides cover to creatures bigger than bugs. I once startled a rabbit out of the circle as I passed it on the way to the garden!
The flowers also offer a source of supplemental income, and a chance to participate in producing for the local economy. I put them in jars and sell them by the side of the road. The giant sunflowers I am growing this year are from seed I saved last year, increasing my self-reliance and reducing my dependence on capitalism. It isn’t just what we grow, but how we grow them and what we do with the products that is meaningful.
All the sunflowers you see in connection with this blog or the Facebook page were grown and photographed by me. Ultimately, sunflowers symbolize to me hope and determination. They are the result of taking my ideas and dreams and turning them into reality.