Moonstone Music

Musings on music composition, walks in the woods, and life after the big city.

Name:
Location: Moonstone, Ontario, Canada

I'm a music composer, clarinetist, writer, podcaster, environmentalist and warrior against the terrors of everyday living!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sunflowers

Our backyard has really poor soil. Birds are constantly picking away at the scrubby grass topside, while underneath voles and grubs reign supreme. Having just moved in, we weren't in a position to do anything about it, other than enjoy the sometimes hectic activities of crows, robins, northern flickers, morning doves and the ever cheerful chickadees.

One of our joyful discoveries amidst unpacking the seemingly thousands of boxes was a cache of seed packets, long forgotten, and long past their "best by:" date. Nothing undaunted, my husband and I decided to plant a riotous mix of seeds anyway, just in case something might come up. All summer long, we watched the bare earth teeming with hardworking ants busy about their business, and moaned as each morning yet another scrap of earth appeared overturned, like a rumpled placemat, the residue of a comfortable raccoon scavenging for insects. Eventually, some greenery actually started sprouting and we studied them with delighted anticipation.

Weeds, of course. Abundant, lush and even beautiful, we had crops of Queen Anne's Lace, St. John’s Wort, mallow, goldenrod, dandelion, plantain - all kinds of interesting things. But no carnations, Canterbury bells or petunias. Closer to the house, we'd sprinkled a mix of wild flower seed, and now, at the end of the summer, beautiful poppies were coming up, stunning in their deep rich colours, but sparsely spaced and vulnerable-looking with their heavy heads balancing on long, narrow stems. One by one, they popped up and we watched excitedly, but at the end of the garden I was absorbed by a race.

I had noticed green shoots spaced far too regularly to be another group of weeds, quietly, and steadily growing higher and higher. Some of the sunflower seeds had sprouted! When I first noticed them, I cheered the little things on, made sure they were watered, and tried to keep sweeping the ants off them. But I noticed in our next door neighbour's front yard, 5 handsome sunflowers already fully grown and sporting those distinctive yellow heads. I discovered later that sunflowers prefer a sheltered area, and where we had chosen to plant them was anything but sheltered. So I vowed to choose my planting sites better next year, but still I kept hoping.

Each morning I checked, and each morning the stems grew higher, and more green leaves appeared. The summer was wearing on, there were now sunflowers in the front and back yards of a number of neighbours, and still I hoped. More green leaves, higher stems, but no flower buds. Eventually, the unusual heat wave that had made our summer so uncomfortable finally cooled down, and I noticed the fading colour of the maple trees, and even the odd red and gold leaf. Summer was almost over! And still only leaves on the gangly plants at the back of the garden. Disappointed, I started checking on the plants only once a day instead of at breakfast and supper, telling myself I would never again plant dated seeds because I couldn't stand my own dashed hopes.

But a few days ago, there were signs of unusual activity. New green growths that were definitely not leaves made their appearance on the tallest sunflower, then its neighbour, and then all of a sudden there were plenty of buds on all nine plants!

Three days ago, one of the buds on a shorter plant opened. As you might expect, it was a small flower, brilliantly yellow with a really interesting green centre with yellow unfolding pistils. Gorgeous but small. Two days ago another small one opened, but most excitingly, the tallest plant started opening its flower head. This morning, it was half-way open, and this time, you could see the distinctive broad, dark centre that surely was going to develop as well as the lovely yellow petals. It looks like a real sunflower, and it's crossed the finish line well before the first frost!

Each day on my commute, I pass hundreds of superb gardens. There are many, many gardeners out there, taking care of their soil, carefully nurturing their seedlings, weeding their beds and cultivating gorgeous flowers. The sunflowers in my adventure are among the more common and ordinary of plants. But a miracle happened in our little garden. A beautiful plant has successfully taken nutrients from an unfriendly environment, fought off insect invaders, turned its head to the sun and blossomed in its most creative way. And I find that stubborn will to live and prosper no matter what, truly inspiring.

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