Recently I read the Boston Sunday Globe article about a field of 3,000 sunflowers that artist Euka Holmes has planted in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. What a great idea to take advantage of the full sun and bring a smile to the faces of passersby! And another artist, Elizabeth James-Perry, has surrounded the nearby Appeal to the Great Spirit statue with corn, beans, and sedges.
Check out their work at https://mfa.org/exhibition/garden-for-boston
There are many types of annual sunflowers. The tall classic one is grown for edible seeds (for birds and for us). Tried and true varieties include ‘Mammoth Grey Stripe,’ ‘Vanilla Ice,’ and ‘Soraya.’ These open-pollinated types attract a plethora of insects, as they are loaded with nutritious pollen. Seeds are edible by birds and humans!
The cut flower industry has bred pollen out of shorter sunflower varieties. There is a field of these dwarf sunflowers in full bloom along Old Road to Nine Acre Corner at Verrill Farm in Concord. Popular varieties include ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Big Smile.’
There are perennial sunflowers as well: Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ is an old favorite with pale yellow flowers, blooming August-October. We often pinch this back in early June to make the plant sturdier and bushier, as this plant can reach 8’ in height and loves to flop in the rain. Its spreading roots can quickly fill a bed if you have empty areas waiting.
On my front knoll, I enjoy the long blooming season of Heliopsis scabra ‘Summer Sun’ that I grew from seed many years ago. The bright gold color looks great with the nearby crimson color of Persicaria ‘Firetail.’