No Sunflowers, Ever!


In my last post, I made brief mention of my Mommie Dearest moment — a not-so-proud incident that clearly illustrated the ugly and, yes, comedic side of gardening.  I had asked people to remind me to tell the story, and they have.  So here it is.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a backyard not so far away, there lived a young gardener, me.  Joe and I had recently purchased his parents’ home, and the yard presented us with a blank canvas.  I had always enjoyed gardening as a kid, but that was usually relegated to the family’s vegetable plot.  Now, I had a whole yard and a big vision and no money.  The layout in the back was pretty basic.  There was a large built-in pool with red and green patio blocks surrounding it.  To the east, there was an area of pebbles and stones, and this led to a small lawn.  The rocks were held in place by a low wall of cinder blocks, all placed on their sides.

I decided to start small one year, and I planted marigolds in each of the cinder block openings.  They did quite well, thriving on neglect and heat.  The following year, though, I saw on Martha Stewart’s early television show that she grew gigantic sunflowers and would harvest her own home-grown sunflower seeds.  Then, in true Martha-style, she would even hang some of the flower heads in the trees to feed birds and squirrels.  The whole idea sounded like an eco-friendly winner.

I planted sunflower seeds in each of the cinder block openings, and they grew, and grew, and GREW!  I had a wall of green stalks and leaves and massive yellow flowers separating the pool from the lawn.  No one could even notice the cinder blocks, and eventually, the flowers became so full that they couldn’t even hold up their faces to follow the sun.

One day, when I returned from work, I found one of the stalks on the ground, the flower head next to it, and a pile of sunflower seed debris.  I was perplexed, since Martha had said nothing of this situation on her show.

Another day, another stalk down, another mound.  In time, the squirrels became bolder — even taking down two stalks in one of my quick supermarket runs. 

Clearly, I had a serial squirrel on my hands — or rather on my sunflowers.  I told Joe as we left the house, “I think they’re watching us.  I think they’re in the trees and they’re watching us leave.  They know when we come and go.”  And sure enough, when we returned, the gray gang had struck again, hogging up all of the sunflower seeds for themselves, and leaving none for Joe and me.

Finally, I was down to a few remaining stalks.  Joe and I returned home again, and yet another stalk was down — and I lost it.  Big.  I became Joan Crawford and the squirrels were my Christina.

“That’s it!” I yelled.  “I can’t take it anymore.”  I went into the shed and returned with the garden clippers, and I finished what the squirrels had not.  “If I can’t have sunflowers seeds, then neither can they.  I would have gladly shared them, but they’re not . . . leaving . . . anything . . . for . . . mmmeeeeee!  I swear, Joe, I think they’re laughing at us and they’re watching every move we make — and I hope they’re watching now!”  I hacked and cut stalks.  I shook out seeds — and I ate them in front of their hidden squirrel faces.  “They’re not going to kill my sunflowers ever again,” I screamed to no one in particular, but I hoped the squirrels were listening.

Joe stood their.  He said, “But you were going to hang the flowers in the trees, anyway.”

“I know,” I said as I caught my breath and looked at all that I had done.  “But they ruined it.  This was supposed to work like it did on Martha.”  I felt beaten and exhausted and remorseful, because at my feet were the remains of my sunflower wall.

Like I said, this is not one of my better moments, although I believe it could have been Oscar-worthy.

Since then, the squirrels and I have lived in a very fragile truce.  They are cute and I enjoy watching them chase each other up the tree trunks — although they really do get to me in the spring time when they nibble tulips from their stems.  The difference, though,  between me-then and me-now is that today I am armed with the knowledge that time and tide and squirrels wait for no one.

14 thoughts on “No Sunflowers, Ever!

  1. We don’t have a squirrel problem but we do have a deer problem. They like to come nibble on our fruit trees and eat our bell pepper plants. We also have to deal with all the weeds that come up from irrigation watering instead of drip or soaker hoses. Here is a post about our first irrigation rotation.
    http://hoboheart.com/home-garden/garden-2/grow-my-pretties-grooow/
    It is a ton of work but so so sooo worth the effort! Even if those critters get to some of the crop.

    • Hi Kelsey. Great to hear from you. Fortunately, we don’t have a deer problem in my immediate area, but if you drive on the East End of Long Island, you can see the drastic measures that people go to to protect their gardens — from soap in the trees to chicken-wire rooms (walls and ceiling) covering the garden. I’ll keep the squirrels! Be well.

  2. My garden nemesis is the bunny! They drive me bonkers treating my prized plants like a salad bar. But I have found a couple of remedies for that… check out my story…

    • I will definitely stop by. I’m surprised that I don’t have rabbits here — but my parents live in tightly populated suburban area and they are overrun with rabbits. Apparently, they were displaced by a nearby highway project and they “moved on up” and have settled in quite nicely. Thanks for commenting.

    • Hi. Thanks for the tip. It’s true — my dog is all bark but no retrieving skill. I actually just returned home with a kitten yesterday, but she’s a ragdoll and can’t be let outside. It looks like I’m stuck with squirrels — but they sure are cute.

  3. Hi, Kevin- I’m having a great time checking out all your posts- this one made me chuckle. I, too, am not a sunflower fan, but for a different reason. There is about a week or two that they look great, but then (squirrels or no) they begin to look like corpses: drooping heads, withered leaves, overall aura of gloom. I had a half dozen of these grim reapers in my side garden at Massapequa that, when I caught sight of them in the fading light as I turned the corner, gave me the all-overs!
    On a cheerier note- thank you for all the cool pix. I esp like the lace-cap hydrangeas. I just planted my first one (plain blue, not lace cap- but I’m planning on adding more) here in Plainview (I had had one at Massapequa that I loved in summer and hated in winter- it was right in the front yard and after three years of “stick winters,” I replaced it with a small red maple) Anyway, I planted my new one in the back, where I won’t have to see it in its dormant stages unless I choose to . . .

    • Hi, Scott. Thanks for stopping by. I definitely know what you mean when you talk about the sunflower corpse factor. It’s a pity, since when they are at their peak, they bring a smile to my face. This year, I planted a white sunflower (Italian White). They’re getting taller by the day, and I’m looking forward to their blooms. As soon as I have some, I’ll get some pictures posted here. Good luck with the hydrangeas — definitely one of my favorite flowering shrubs. Great foliage, variety in flowers and colors, and they age gracefully.

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