The Victorians used the sunflower to depict “pride” in their Language of Flowers. It’s easy to see why. Taller than the other plants in the garden, more striking and bolder than any other, the sunflower is no shrinking violet.
The Incas first worshipped it for its likeness to the sun, and it crops up in art throughout the ages. Has anyone not seen a print of one of Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower paintings? One hung on the wall at my primary school, a glow of bright yellow and orange; it captured a child’s attention with ease. I spent many long moments of boredom during morning assembly, staring at it.
For British sunseekers, a field of sunflowers symbolises holidays in the south of France, where neat ranks of the flowers march to the horizon, turning in unison throughout the day to face the sun.
Children compete to grow the tallest and biggest flower head, and as the petals fade, the seeds provide food for the birds. Keen to prove I could do anything the kids next door could do, I have planted sunflower seeds in pots for many years.
Sadly, however, I have to confess that none of these have reached maturity. If the slugs don’t get them, those birds nip off the flowers before they have a chance. Ungrateful brutes!