Ask Ella: Why Sunflowers Are The Ultimate Summer Flower
Ask Ella is a recurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, EllaStavonsky, about floral design– including the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight sunflowers, a summery flower with a straight-from-the-garden feel.
Sunflowers are one of those truly magnificent plants. Even when small they seem to evoke the incredible beauty of nature, their center’s spiraling perfectly according to the Fibonacci sequence. They have an earthy grandness, entirely different from the delicate grandiosity of a peony or the architectural allure of a bird-of-paradise. But sunflowers are not only beautiful to look at– the North American natives have historically been used to remediate the nuclear fallout (like in the aftermath of Fukushima) while their seeds are made into a variety of consumer goods: oil, flour, or dusted with salt and eaten as they are.
In bouquets, sunflowers add a wild, bright flare, and they work well as a centering element for simple arrangements (just complement it with some yellow Solidago to keep it affordable). Sunflowers evoke the natural ease of summer and give any arrangement a sprightly boost.
To lengthen a sunflower’s life, cut the stem at least half an inch from the bottom right when you bring them home, then place them immediately in warm water. If you’re preserving their height, make sure your vase provides support and won’t topple over under the weight. (If you’re harvesting sunflowers from your own garden (and if so: we’re impressed!), then make sure they’re well-watered in the days leading up to harvest, and cut them in the early morning before it’s too hot. Place them immediately in warm water and out of the sun.
Recutting the stems (always at an angle!) and changing the water every other day will help sunflowers live for a week or two. Sunflowers use a lot of water, so check frequently that there’s enough– especially during these hot months. We love pairing sunflowers with simple snapdragons for a chic, late summer farm look that doesn’t detract from the sunflower’s magnificence.
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