Why Do Sunflowers Have Necks?

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Why do sunflowers have necks? The little guy on the left has a tired neck.

The Annual Day of the Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens started at 7:00 am to compensate for the July 1st heat in California’s Central Valley.

Journey Through the Garden With Me

As the temperature soared towards the 102-degree mark, I wished I’d arrived before 8:30 am. Even the presence of Bravo Lake on the other side of the chain link fence did not slow down the upward march of the thermometer bubble.

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One mile walk through Woodlake Botanical Gardens. I’m walking along Bravo Lake, but you can’t see it. Maybe if I was a sunflower and could stretch my neck up high enough I could see the water.

Before I reached the wall of the sunflowers, sweat already poured into my eyes washing away makeup. A stinging reminder that I had forgotten to wear the bandana Olga Jimenez gave me dripped down my forehead.

sunflowersNormally I walk the mile-long path in the 14-acre gardens. Olga Jimenez drove up pulling what looked like a hay wagon. She smiled up at me from her shady seat in the utility vehicle.

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Olga Jimenez drives visitors around the park

“Hop in! You look hot already.”

Before I could dribble all over her All-Terrain-Vehicle, Olga reached into her magic stash of cures and wound a pink and white bandana into a long cord.

“Lean over,” she said and wrapped the cord under my bangs, behind my ears and tied it under my hair in the back of my head. This gringa (white woman) avoided the camera but welcomed the relief in spite of how my bangs stood out at all angles. There are some advantages to carrying the camera and being old enough that you don’t care if you are not in every picture!

All Aboard the Sunflower Train

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Sunflowers were not the only beauties displaying their colors at the Day of the Sunflower.

“I want to drive you to the end of the pathway so you can take pictures of the sunflowers going the other way. Did you know that sunflowers turn their heads?”

She kept talking like she hadn’t just dropped a bombshell of information. I never saw a flower that turned its head. I’ve seen them fold up at night.

sunflowers“First, we’re driving up through the zinnias. I’ll stop,” Olga turned and told the rest of the passengers.

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Woodlake Botanical Garden Founders

Olga and her husband, Manuel have planted gardens all their lives. He specialized in row crops at UC Davis and became a farm specialist for the University of California Davis for many years.

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A beautiful row of cabbage

In addition to sunflowers, the Woodlake Botanical Gardens grows many food crops from corn, tomatoes, and artichokes to apple, pear, peach, fig and banana trees. Only volunteers work in the garden. Most of them are students.

sunflowersOn the way back to the start of the Sunflower Walk, my friend Monica approached.

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Monica Pizura of Wicky-Up Ranch Bed and Breakfast

Cooled down from the bandana, I gave up my shady spot in the front seat and hopped on the hay cart to take unfettered pictures as we drove.

“Hey Monica, “Do you know why sunflowers have necks?” I asked her as she climbed in.

“Is this another one of your lame jokes, Marsha?”

sunflowers“No, Monica. It’s a legitimate question.”

“Ok, so they can stretch them and see over the other plants.”

sunflowers“Good guess, Monica. But no. It’s so they can turn their heads.”

“Really, why do they do that?”

I couldn’t tell her. Maybe I could have Googled it, but I wanted to save what little phone battery life I had left for photographs. As we drove along the walking path, I had a chance to visit with the developers of the Tulare County Treasures website, Shirley, and John.

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Tulare County Treasures members, Shirley and John.

We drove right past rows and rows of sunflowers without stopping.

“You’ll want to take pictures going the other direction, so you don’t have to shoot into the sun,” Olga called back at us as she ambled along going less than three miles an hour.

I could have jumped off and walked along beside the mini-train, but it was fun to sit and visit and dangle my legs as we rolled along. Every once in a while I felt my foot bounce against the wheel.

sunflowers“It’s odd, but the sunflowers do not seem as pretty going this direction,” I said to my new friends.

“They don’t seem very friendly, do they?” Shirley asked.

“No, they don’t.” John agreed. “I wonder why.”

“Maybe they’re shy!” I surmised.

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Hiding behind the blueberries was a grove of peach trees. Some of the group deserted.

Olga stopped the ATV, and we jumped off. Most of us jammed towards the blackberries. The seedy purple berry jettisoned tiny bursts of flavor onto our tongues. A few of the group disappeared.

Blackberries grow in clumps of three. The largest one, the bull, is the prize. So engrossed in the plump blackberry “bulls” I failed to notice that the crowd had moved to the blueberries.

The blueberries fell off the vine into our hands as we tickled their bellies with our fingers. Some of the berries tasted sweet, some a little more tart. Before we left the fruity oasis, some of the party walked back to the wagon train with peach juice dripping off their chins.

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San Joaquin blueberries, I think.

We got to the end of the trail, and she turned the hay wagon around. My face was cool as a cucumber.

“You’re getting pretty brave sitting in the sun back there. How’s that bandana working for you?”

“It’s magic! I need one for my nose, too! Olga, what do you mean, the sunflowers turn their heads?” reminding her that she left me hanging at the start of the path.

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The bees love the sunflowers.

“When sunflowers grow, they face the sun. As the sun changes position during the day, the baby sunflowers turn to face it and follow it 180 degrees. That’s called heliotropism.”

“Helio for the sun,” Monica added.

“And tropism means that a plant or organism turns in response to an outside stimulus,” Olga finished.

sunflowers“It doesn’t look like they’ve moved any since we got here. Sunflowers are still not very friendly.” I said.

“As they get older, their necks get stiff just like ours, and they quit turning. Then they face east,” Olga said.

“Thanks, Olga, I’m feeling a little stiff-necked looking all directions to see all the gorgeous things growing here,” I said.

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How to Use Sunflowers

Almost everyone has eaten roasted sunflower seeds. Did you know you can make sunbutter? It’s similar to peanut butter but better for you.

I haven’t tried it. I hope it’s not like Vegemite. HGTV says you can use it like a jam or even as a substitute for cream in pasta sauces. Some people use it as a dipping sauce.

All you need are four cups of raw seeds, a stove, food processor and some oil (I’d use olive oil) and light seasoning like salt and possibly something sweet like honey. A doctor told me about Truvia, so I use that whenever I could use sugar, at least in amounts under a quarter of a cup.

Don’t buy pre-roasted sunflower seeds. Roast the raw seeds in a skillet for about 2 minutes. Tossing them keeps them from burning. Grind them into a powder for about 10 minutes. They start to turn to oil. Add a sweetener and keep going until the mixture looks like peanut butter. If it is not oily enough, add from one to four tablespoons of olive oil until it reaches the consistency you like.

Be sure to visit these two Photo Challenges for more exciting journeys.

Related Posts

Where to Find a Window Wonderland

#NaBloPoMo Day 22,#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #4 #A Lingering Look at Windows #Monday Windows

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Week 47: Windows

Grandpa was crippled. All day he reclined by the front window at 1420 N. Denny Avenue staring out at the aging neighborhood. Grandpa rarely talked as my Grandmother kept a constant stream going. He stared out the window.

The tiny window on the left was the living room window.
The tiny window on the left of the little yellow house was the living room window.

The only thing that has changed over the past 60 years is the color of the house and the size of the tree. He must have watched the grass growing.

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. Dale Carnegie

My mother’s cousin Hal, however, in September 2016, at age 91 and nearly blind, directed me to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA and where we found our Window Wonderland at Longwood Gardens Conservatory. We started our self-guided tour outside. After we passed through the first ivy covered archway, we found a creek with a wrought iron gazebo.

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While the roof structure wasn’t a window, we felt like we were inside looking through a fancy window.

As we meandered by the river, we huffed and puffed past a meadow with some chairs meant for someone else who wanted to sit in the blistering sun. Unable to resist its call to my camera, I started walking towards a many-windowed house at the edge of the meadow under a large leafy tree.  Hal made a beeline for the shady bench.

Did you see Hal waiting on the bench while I went inside to take pictures? The Canopy Cathedral is actually a tree house.

What you really want for yourself is always trying to break through, just as a cooling breeze flows through an open window on a hot day. Your part is to open the windows of your mind. Vernon Howard

Just so you know, even though there was a breeze blowing, it did not bear any semblance of coolness. If you have never been to the midwest and east in the summer and early fall, you may not have experienced 75% humidity.

WJLA in Washington DC explains the sensation.

“For example, if the temperature is 86° and the dew point is 70° it will actually feel like 91°! The reason it feels hotter is because it’s harder for our bodies to cool us off when there is higher humidity. Our bodies use a process of evaporative cooling, so if there’s a lot of water vapor in the atmosphere, it is much harder for our bodies to cool off, as compared to a day when there is less water vapor and lower humidity.

Hold onto your companion’s arm as you watch this next video. As I look at it with objective eyes, it seems like the videographer is a ghost floating through the unoccupied tree cathedral and not me. Turn the sound off, of course, and shut off the lights for added effect.

Sadly, once I got inside the treehouse, it felt like a hothouse and not a spectacular set of windows in a treehouse.

People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It would be VERY DARK to be in the Canopy Cathedral after sunset. Who knows, the wood used to build the quaint treehouse, gathered from other locations might exude some misplaced spirits. We did not stay to find out.  The mid-afternoon sun was hot, and Hal and I gravitated towards where we might find some air conditioning. I do not remember finding any.

Longwood Conservatory
Longwood Conservatory

This view and added humidity took my breath away. Even with failing eyesight, Hal enjoyed more of life than Grandpa Morris. Longwood Gardens is iconic to this area.

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Wherever we looked, we saw views made more spectacular by the windows that framed them.

Windows not only helped the plants.
Windows not only helped the plants.

In spite of the window and the 83-degree day, the room seemed dark. Maybe I felt dark and sad inside after hearing the amazing two concluding minutes of the piano concert!

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After missing the concert, we got lost wandering through the many rooms under the glass roof windows of the gigantic conservatory. Windows in this room filtered the light for these plants. By the way, you can find out the names of all the plants on their website IF you remember which room you were in. hehehe (You knew there would be a catch, didn’t you?)

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The tropical room may have been one of the hottest. You can see that birds have dropped by this room hoping to swoop down to enjoy a bit of banana heaven. I doubt that birds like windows very much.

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I’ll end with this chenille plant. I know you should not shoot into the sunshine, but the sky smiled it’s bluest grin and captured my heart.

Hal made sure I saw every exhibit in the conservatory. Exhaustion made my sandals feel like they had steel weights embedded in the soles by the time we went full circle and exited the conservatory.

Related Posts

 

To take part in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge click here.

To post in Dawn’s Lingering Look at Windows click here.

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake?

Woodlake Chamber Member “Woodlake Pride”

#blogboost #Woodlake Chamber

Garden Reception, October 8, 2016
Garden Reception, October 8, 2016

Gayla Event Scheduled

Mark your calendars for October 8th for an entertaining Woodlake Pride evening at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Starting at 4:00 pm.

That sounds fun!
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake

Woodlake is a foothill town of about 7,000 nestled in the center a circle of foothills on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bravo Lake occupies a large chunk of the heart of the town. In 1912 when Gilbert Stevenson purchased the acres to build the city, he envisioned a beautiful tourist town.  BUT Stevenson built a levee around the town’s primary landmark, obscuring it from view.

Whaaaa?? Was he shortsighted or something?

Maybe, but Olga and Manuel Jimenez had some great ideas to beautify the levees.

And the City of Woodlake agreed to it?

You bet. They bought the land.

Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens

Worse than that, the area around it was vacant or worse – a weed haven. Manuel and Olga Jimenez change blight into bright and created Woodlake Pride, a service organization to perpetuate the beautiful park setting they created.

Manuel Jiminez hard at work on his visionary project
Manuel Jimenez hard at work on his visionary project

A student narrates the story of Manuel Jimenez’s vision for a student community service organization which he called Woodlake Pride in the video Woodlake Pride’s Wonderful World.

The real plan that Olga had was to “grow kids by planting gardens.” They started planting gardens in 1989, but eventually the city purchased 13 acres to turn into the beautiful gardens that we see today. The 1,700 rose bushes alone make this a wonderful world.

Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden
Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden

“It’s not like Disneyland,” Manuel Jimenez states.

Although it does not feature the number of varieties of roses found in famous gardens like the Boston Rose Garden, everyone marvels at the many varieties of plant life the Woodlake Botanical Garden on the way to the Sequoia National Park. It has become a major draw for sight-seeing.

Woodlake Botanical Gardens
Woodlake Botanical Gardens

It is that inspiring tale of what one person, or in this case a couple, can do in a community if they put their heart and soul into it.

Manuel and Olga Jimenez
Manuel and Olga Jimenez.

“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.

Tulare County Treasures Project.

What a beautiful world Manuel and Olga Jimenez created.

Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.
Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.

So if you want a ticket for the Woodlake Pride dinner, see Rudy Garcia at the Valley Business Bank.

Rudy Garcia on the left
Rudy Garcia on the left

For more information about Woodlake Botanical Garden click here.

See you on Saturday night.

Related articles about Woodlake Botanical Gardens:

 

September Garden Challenge

#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #2

Flower portraiture – capturing the beauty of a single bloom

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Yesterday Woodlake and Hockessin temperatures both registered 84 degrees. Don’t be confused. In Woodlake that temperature is perfect. Delaware sun and humidity mixed to make salt water spring like a national park geyser from my forehead and nose.

After meandering through Pierce’s Woods and visiting his 1730s home, stifling in the tropical section of the Longwood Gardens Conservatory in Kennett Square, PA, we came full circle in the huge conservatory and found this perfect chenille plant. Better known as Acalypha hispida, conservatory designers saved the best of the 1,100 varieties on the 2,000 acres for last.

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OK, that may just be my opinion. By the time I found Princess Hispida, I had already taken 177 pictures, was dripping wet, ready to get out of the Conservatory, and stop somewhere for ice cream. I apologised to the princess for my abruptness, bowed low and snapped pictures for the Streaming Thoughts News.

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Accustomed to thousands of daily admirers, she took my blubbering in stride. Her red dreadlocks stood out among the competitors and I circled around to capture the exquisite luxurious locks of her highness in numerous shots.

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With so many competitors, you often forget their names, or where they sat, as I did with Princes Hispida. If you know the name of the plant, you can find where it is on the Longwood Garden’s website. I did not remember her name. Lucky for me, Google located a long red fuzzy plant in about .5 seconds. In Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Princess H’s beauty is exotic. In Papua, New Guinea, she and her hardy zone 10 sisters are one in a million.

I wonder if I would look exotic if I moved to Papua, New Guinea. I’ll see if hubby wants to relocate.

For more entries in the September Garden Challenge click here.

Travel theme: Seasonal

#Delaware Trip Winterthur Gardens #2

A Summer Stroll

In Winterthur Garden visit #1, we visited began our tour in the Enchanted Woods. I arrived in Delaware on September 1, too late for spring flowers, and too early for fall trees. Did I enjoy it anyway?

You bet. I hope you will, too.

“Let’s start at the very beginning…A very good place to start.”

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Chandler Farms /Winterthur Gardens

Too Many Choices!

I did not worry about getting lost with all these signs. - I should have!
I did not worry about getting lost with all these signs. – I should have!

Down by the Quarry Garden

On the first day we walked, we headed towards the Quarry Garden. We walked mostly in the shade which meant that we walked for hours in about 75-degree weather. This is heaven for me because it is 75 degrees where I live for about two hours, four days a year.

Down by the quarry
Down by the quarry

We had not walked too far when Hal informed me that when he walked with his young Chinese friends, they took off and left him to take pictures while he checked out the various benches. I was quick to take a hint, and I headed off to the Quarry.

Henry Francis duPont wanted the view kept open forever. It's easy to see why.
Henry Francis duPont wanted the view kept open forever. It’s easy to see why.
Could I be on the yellow brick road? It felt that magical.
Could I be on the yellow brick road? It felt that magical.

As you can see, the gardens were not crowded. We ran into another couple out on their morning walk. A couple of families, thousands of crickets, birds, and other noise makers were there, but other than that we had the entire 1,000 acres to ourselves.

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Stones are everywhere in Delaware: streets, houses, churches, fences, and pathways. The quarry must have done a lucrative business. I could not wait to get closer to the stream.

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I maneuvered myself along the stone path by the water without falling one time. Since I can fall just standing still, this is quite an accomplishment. I never stand near cliffs or on tall bridges without railings.

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Focus on Flowers

Age is not the reason I struggle with names of plants, in fact, names of almost anything. Details escape me. I’m too busy taking in the vista. I hope you’ll forgive me and just enjoy these summer flowers also.

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The delicate purple tips fit perfectly on the mild summer day. I traveled light on this trip so I took all these pictures with my iPhone.

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The garden was more natural, not groomed like Longwood Gardens. Hal said he would rather have a job here.

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The water trickled down the rocks into a larger stream eventually winding down to the quarry lake. As a child, I would have dipped my feet into the water and squished muddy sand in between my toes. I contented myself with admiring flowers.

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Time slipped by quickly. I did not worry about Hal. What I really mean is that I forgot about him, but eventually I came back to reality and headed up the hill towards the Enchanted Woods where he waited on a bench watching the kids playing. As I ambled back, every flower along the path called out like a child, “Look at me, Marsha. Take my picture.” So I did.

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They did not stay segregated like they were at Longwood Gardens but mingled freely together.

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Some of them looked large in the picture but do not be fooled. They were tiny.

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If these were children you would rumple their heads, they’re so tiny and sweet. Since they are flowers, I let them be.

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As I approached the top of the knoll, I could see Hal enjoying a bench, but I still did not hurry. He seemed to enjoy the fact that it took me so long to get back. We came back for another walk two days later.

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Thanks for joining us on our seasonal stroll. Thank you, Hal for such a wonderful day.

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Be sure to visit Alisa at “Where’s my backpack?” if you have some seasonal pictures you would like to post.