new sunflowers, greater plantains

Last July I wrote a post on  This Low Carbon Life called Plants, Bees and Fascism in the Garden, where I described my horror at finding that the sunflowers I’d been growing for years, from seeds I’d saved at the end of every season, had crossed with another one the year before and given me hybrids!

I soon recovered from the horror and quickly learned to love the new sunflowers with their dark centres, florets like golden lights and sepals flashed through with bronze – the originals had been a white-seeded form with bright yellow sepals and an emerald-gold centre. They lasted about two weeks before fading and were single-flowered. The new cross was vigorous and  put out endless blooms over about six weeks. And the seeds were deep purple. I was hooked.

The above picture is of sepals and seeds from one of this year’s sunflowers. I planted deep purple  seeds in very early spring and  watched in great anticipation as the plants grew – with lovely deep red colouring at the bottom of the stems.

As you can see the flowers were a lovely yellow with a hint of bronze. And the seeds are whiter than ANY I have ever seen EVER on any of the sunflowers I’ve planted.

I’m not the only one they’re of interest to either. Greenfinches love them and have helped themselves to half the seeds already. That’s fine by me, I love finches and there’s plenty for us both. And they taste really good.

A few days later… Didn’t save the seeds in time. But there are other sunflowers emerging.  After all the rain and lack of sun till now though, the sunflowers this year are less vigorous and smaller than last year’s.

On the wilder wayside, here are some greater plantains coming into flower outside the house. People will often tell you that this plant appears to like being trodden on, as all over the world it grows in our footsteps. But even though it is remarkably resilient, and puts up with all sorts of downtreadings, I’m not sure it actually enjoys this treatment.

I dug a few up earlier in the year from the road and put them in pots, and they are thriving, as are these ones in the lane. Now I understand how people have put the leaves in shoes for tired feet. When they are left to grow they are quite big and almost succulent. Someone I once knew had a wound in her heel that wouldn’t get better. This was in the South of France. She went to see a man in the mountains who rolled up greater plantain leaves and spiders’ webs together and placed them in the wound. It healed quickly and completely.

Wounds or no,  I really like this plant. Sometimes when the sun is shining and it’s in bloom, an extraordinary purple glows from its flowers.

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