This year our family has been growing sunflowers from seeds we were given last August as part of  a seventieth birthday celebration. There is a little element of competition but mainly we are enjoying the spectacle of the plants growing taller and taller and the magnificent flowers opening. At first it seemed that they would all be single blossoms, they are grown from Russian Giant seeds. But there are increasing varieties appearing. Different heights, varied sizes of flower-heads, and some multiple blossoms. 

It has also been a very good year for sunflowers on the allotments. Some folk grow them every year. My neighbour has a line of them marking the edge of the plot. I particularly like his Moulin Rouge reds, which are smaller than the rest but such a wonderful colour. On my own plot there are a few that have self-seeded. On one the main stem snapped, but it has produced side shoots and is providing a great display. Another has over fourteen separate flowers. So many that I felt I could cut three and bring them home. They are gracing our dining table as I write. 

They have been a huge source of cheer in a very trying time. Their big golden sun-burst petals frame a pollen rich dark brown centre. Just looking at them brings a smile. 

Something so bright and beautiful is sorely needed at this time. I have felt overwhelmed at moments by the work-load of being a Trustee during the pandemic and dealing with the aftermath of safeguarding incidents. There have been so many on-line meetings I am nearly reaching that point of being zoomed-out. Escaping from the pressure by watching silly comedy films or reading science-fiction or fantasy has been another way of coping. But the sunflowers are just being themselves, naturally.

I am not alone in feeling the mental stress of these weird days. So we need to spread the rays of hope that the sunflowers offer. 

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