Sunflowers can brighten your day

Jerry Apps
Sunflowers can brighten a person's day.

My dad, a lifelong vegetable gardener, said a garden must always have something that’s pretty. By that he meant it should include some flowers.

His favorite flowers were dahlias. He always grew a short row of them. When they were both in their 90s, and my mother was in a nursing home, he would always take a big dahlia from his garden when he went to visit her.

I have followed his advice by growing some flowers in my garden. I grow sunflowers as they are one of my favorites. As someone once wrote, “No flower can lift someone’s spirits quite like sunflowers. They are bright and cheery, and as warm and inviting as the sweet summer sun.”

Sunflowers have a long history in the Americas. In addition to their beauty, they were a food and medicine source for native people. They crushed and ground the seeds and made bread and cakes from the resulting flour. They used the juice from the stems to treat wounds.

The sunflower’s name comes from its tendency to face the sun. There are two main types, one grown for its oil, and other, with larger seeds for human and bird feed. Sunflower oil can be used for cooking, and it is also found in some beauty products.

Birds love sunflower seeds.

But beyond the practical uses for their seeds, sunflowers are valuable in other ways. They symbolize vitality, intelligence and happiness. Their yellow color symbolizes friendship.

As Helen Keller once wrote: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. It's what sunflowers do.”

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Want to cheer up a friend; give them a sunflower.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to www.jerryapps.com.