But they don't just look pretty, they also attract bees and birds, provide shade for other plants in the summer, act as a climbing frame for peas, beans etc., and kids LOVE their huge flower! Sunflowers come in a variety of colours and sizes, the most dramatic would have to be the giant ones. The variety I have grown before is the Giant Single. The seed packet says the height is 1.8 - 4.5 metres! But don't expect it to grow very big in poor soil, the more you feed it the more it will grow. They can also be grown in winter in my subtropical climate I've found, just as long as they have a warm, sunny spot.
One idea I would love to try is the Sunflower House, from the book Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots (Sharon Lovejoy). Sunflowers are planted in a rectangular shape, leaving a space for the door. As they grow, they create a leafy sunflower room!
When the heads are finished flowering, the seeds will form. This is the time to make sunflower faces. In the past I have cut off the heads, tied them together, hung them up under cover to dry. I use them as a treat for the chooks, throwing half a head to them every so often and watching their excitement! The seeds can be eaten by us of course, and you can get varieties specifically for seed. However, extracting the seeds from the flower head and then the kernel from the husk is time consuming and hardly worth the effort I'm sorry to say! On the other hand, a handful of seeds can keep the kids quietly entertained for half an hour easy!
This coming spring, i hope to plant many sunflowers in my garden. I haven't had any for a while and I've certainly missed their charming character!
My garden in Summer 2009