Why Natives? The Wyoming Sunflower
Helianthus maximilani or the Perennial Sunflower will soon be gracing every
open space, every road barrow pit, and my garden. Why my garden?
- Nothing is like the warm, golden color of these natives.
- Fast Food for the Road: The flowers feed late pollinators, preparing them
for migration, hibernation or egg-laying. Seeded flower heads feed migrating
song birds as they head south for winter.
- Disguised: The “flower head” is actually hundreds of tiny flowers. Look
- The Good Bugs: Our native sunflower attracts one very special pollinator:
the bee fly (I love this name ~ Bombyliidae). You’ve seen them. Fuzzy little
flies with a long proboscis that looks like a stinger, but is used to take nectar.
These little insects will fill the centers of the sunflowers, their legs and fuzzy
bodies packed with golden pollen. And here is the ecological role of these
peaceful creatures: The Bomby is able to detect small holes in the soil where
grasshoppers have laid their eggs. The Bomby bee fly hovers over the hole
and drops its own eggs into that hole. The Bomby larva hatch first and
consume the grasshopper eggs. I love native team members. The first and
most important practice in permaculture is observation. Observation is done
to understand and apply what nature has developed over tens of thousands
of years. This reduces waste of resources and introduction of toxins or other
human long-term damage. As practitioners we support, even encourage natural processes. And so every year I collect the native sunflower seeds and
strategically plant them in the gardens near the fruit shrubs, and I offer them
water so that they will grow strong.
- Yummy: Collect the little sunflower heads when they have gone to seed.
Remove the sepals, or leaves, from around the flower head. Brush oil – like
olive flavored with garlic or sesame oil. Bake or grill the entire flower head.
The flower head will soften and then it can be eaten whole.
My cows are less appreciative of the gifts of the sunflower. They simply put the entire flowerhead in their mouth and pull the crunchiness in, crushing the sweet oily goodness.
“Each plant in each specific location under each specific moment of conditions responds specifically. You can work to create the best set of circumstances to support and encourage the best ecology for that plant even to its best death. Study in-depth or take a seed and stick it in the ground and water it. Then observe, learn, try again. When you figure it out the 8 year cycle of grasshoppers will pop. You will do everything you can and still be overwhelmed. You will wait a year and start over. Thus is nature. Live IN it. Don’t get too cerebral. Stay light on your feet and ready to learn. Or else you will miss the important stuff. Then pick that sweet ripe berry or grape, eat it and smile. The End… and The Beginning.”
The life of plants is not a mystery, but it is completely enmeshing. I believe that all approaches to horticulture should be held up to a very wise bit of advice:”Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe anything because it is rumored and spoken of by many; do not believe merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe merely in the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it”. Who knew Gautama Buddha was a gardener… in other words, take that seed, stick it in the soil, tend to it and see what happens. Oh and don’t wash your hands right away. Moon or no moon.
All Together Now: Free Remote Consults Beginning March 30
Text, Email or Messenger & Get Discounts
Every spring I get texts (got one today!!), emails and phone calls with questions on plants, gardens, water, soil and design projects.
Starting March 30, 2020 I will be taking questions and brainstorming by text, email, Facebook Messenger or by message from the The Refuge Permaculture Center website (www.tarafarmandnursery.com).
You can attach photos or videos to texts and emails (bigger files are better on emails.)
[“I had leaves! Where did my leaves go??” “Is the ground wet?” “Yes.” “What do you see in the mud?” “Oh. Deer tracks. Never mind. Thanks.” ]
The NEW part is that everyone I work with remotely will also receive a 15% discount on the following:
Plants and Seeds from the Nursery
On Site Consultations
Concept and Design Work
Classes (except for OLLI classes through Casper College)
Full Design and Installation Planning
So any time after 8:00 a.m. on March 30, 2020 reach out! I will answer your question or get back to you for discussion as soon as possible. I will then add your name and contact information to the discount and email list so that you can receive messages about upcoming events.
Visits to The Refuge: Later this summer (depending on the status of my little friends the grasshoppers) I will be opening up for small tours – either individuals or up to five in a group; (hugging or kissing of plants only!!)
“What About Classes?”: I am also working on adding narration to some of my PowerPoint presentations and packaging them for viewing online. The cost of access will include the above discounts as well as free remote consults.
“Will You Be At Natrona County Master Gardeners Farmers Market This Year?”: If things continue to go well, I am still hoping to set up a plant sale in town late this summer or early fall (which is still a great time to plant perennial shrubs and grasses.) It may not be at the Ag Ext building, but I will post locations. (Possibly Tractor Supply if public gatherings seem safe by then.)
The Earth Abides, and so will we, with planning, creativity and calm.