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Sunflower Project

Filed in:Alexandra

Sunflower Project

June 23rd, 2006  · stk

Alex gave me a sunflower seedling for Father's Day. She 'made' a card too, with a cut-out of a neck tie, sprinkled with glitter. I don't think I've worn a tie since Rachel and I got married, nearly 5 years ago. (Gosh, has it really been five years already? Wow!)

Her caregiver at day-care, Bea, was very insistent that we plant it and take Alex's picture beside it, after it has fully grown. We're not sure if it's because Bea is sweet on Alex, or if it's because most of the other seedlings didn't fare as well as this one. (We noticed that many other seedlings were bruised, bent, broken or were showing signs of "toddler abuse". Toddlers can be a tad rough on things!)

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.

It's what sunflowers do.

- Helen Keller

We brought the spindly, sunlight-deprived seedling home and set it in the flower garden, to be transplanted later. Well, wouldn't you know, it rained cats and dogs that evening and pelted the poor thing, which was tied to a Popsicle stick with some string. We let it "recover" for a day, before transplanting it.

A sunflower is an appropriate metaphor for how rapidly Alex is changing, right under our very noses. Each day, her vocabulary expands, her capabilities are greater and unless we pay very close attention, we never really notice the changes, until - BAM - how our little girl has grown.

We thought we'd honor Bea's request and file progress reports on Alex's little sunflower, during the course of the summer months. Follow along with Alex's "Sunflower Project" ...


June 2nd to June 18th: "Seed to Seedling"

Alex planted her little seed at day-care, on June 2nd and gave it to Dad on the Friday before Father's Day, June 16th. We're not sure when the little guy poked his head out of the ground, but when Alex brought it home, it was bent over, nearly touching its toes and tied off at the waist to a Popsicle stick with some string. It was desperately in need of sunshine and well behind Paul's volunteer sunflower, which was already 2 feet tall.

The problem the sunflower posed for us was - "Where are we gonna put the thing?" Our backyard doesn't have many garden spots, especially ones with full sunlight and way from toddler traffic. In the end, we decided to transplant it into the small garden off our patio. We set it back, away from the edge, to make sure that it wouldn't be accidentally trampled upon.

Dad and the Oop dug a small hole and gingerly placed the sunflower into its new home. With all the rain we've been getting, moisture isn't a problem. We've tied it off with a bit of grass and are hoping for the best.

The seedling made it into the ground on June 18th, Father's Day.


June 28th: "Kissing the Dirt"

It's been 10 days since Father's Day and it looks like Alex's sunflower is not going to wilt and die! (Some project that would be, eh?) The sunflower had a rocky start. As you know, we were in a bit of a quandary WHERE to plant it and we opted for a spot with maximum protection (from the cat, but mostly Alex). Unfortunately, it was soon overgrown by surrounding, established plants, and we realized while protected, the poor thing wouldn't get the sunshine it needed.

So, we moved it!

Nothing quite like being uprooted for the second time. :-/

Good news! The sunflower is thriving in its new spot and with the warm sunshine we've been having, is growing like crazy. It's tiny stem still isn't strong enough to support all the foliage and every once in a while, the grass tie-off slips down and the sunflower isn't supported against the stick. When this happens, the sunflower droops nearly to the ground, its neck bent at an odd angle, so it can keep its face to the sun. We tie it off again and it's upright, for a while. All these gymnastics means that its stem isn't too straight. Hopefully, it'll get strong enough to stand on it's own.

Meanwhile, Alex has discovered the joys of blowing and chasing bubbles, learned to poo in the potty, gotten a fever and cough (keeping her at home from day-care for two full days) and is busy growing herself. We look at the sunflower, on a daily basis, and she's quite eager to point out to anyone that will listen, "That's my sunflower! See my sunflower?"


July 10th: "Straighten Up & Fly Right"

It's been 22 days, or so, since Father's Day and it looks like Alex's sunflower is growing! It's standing straight and on its own, as it's grown much taller than the twig that was originally supporting it. Three cheers for Mother Nature.

The only question, at this point, is will it blossom before the end of August, when we will be moving to Vancouver Island? I've had a chance to compare it to Paul's sunflower and the several plants that are growing over at Dan and Jen's, where I'm working on the fence. I must say, poor Alex's plant looks like it's a tad behind on the growing endeavor. All the others have started to form their heads and Alex's isn't even tall enough, or strong enough, to start that phase.

Meanwhile, Alex is oblivious to these pondering questions. Her focus is on more immediate things: "I'm hungry", "Can I watch Piglet?", "I poo-poo in the potty for you", and "I need to go swimming" seem to occupy most of her thoughts.

Our neighbors, Diane, Wayne, Grant and Candace, gave Alex a giant shoe, recently. It was something that they had in their garage, left over from a grand-child's visit, and they were on the verge of tossing it, when they thought, "Alex would like this!" Surprise! She does!! It's kind of a folding, tent-like structure that you can crawl inside, but it has hoops and sticky balls with games attached to the front and back. It's colorful and quite fun for Alex. We're grateful to have received another large toy to transport, when we move to B.C., later this summer. :|


August 5th: "Standing Tall"

It's been 65 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care and now the darned thing is nearly as tall as she is. That's some fast growing! Of course, having 17 hours of daylight around summer solstice didn't hurt. Daylight is waning fast now, as we notice the dwindling light in the evening. Here comes the Fall.

It looks like it's going to be a race between the Sunflower and the changing seasons, to see which blossoms first. Let's just hope we don't get a freak September snowfall, like we did the first year we lived in Edmonton. It would be nice for Alex to see a bright, sunny, yellow flower head on her plant project.

In a way, it's good news that our move back to British Columbia, has been delayed by our home purchase. (We won't be taking possession until mid-October). We'll get to see what happens to the Sunflower! Although, on the flip side, Rachel is currently scheduled to start work on September 18th, which means she'll be moving out ahead of Alex, Scott and Tuxedo. :(

When it comes to moving, Alex and the Tuxedo are on the same wavelength - neither of them worry about it too much. In fact, I don't think they're even AWARE it's even going to happen. Alex enjoys her days at "play-care", going to the park, swinging in the swings, running through the toddler wading pool, playing in the backyard, and exploring her world. Meanwhile, Tuxedo explores the living room sofa with his eyes closed, although sometimes he becomes adventurous, migrates outside and sleeps in the warm sun, under the shadow of the sunflower, nestled in tall plants. ;)

We think that both the cat and the kid will enjoy their new "Five Acre Woods", in Yellow Point. There won't be any dogs or cats to bother Tuxedo and Alex will have access more rocks and sticks than she can possibly organize. There's even an old "play house" there. It needs a tad of TLC, but she'll enjoy it!

September 11th: "Heading On Up"

It's been 101 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care. The plant is nearly twice as tall as Alex and the flower head has fully formed. We're hoping to see some bright yellow petals, before we leave for Vancouver Island, which will be a fitting end to Alex's botanical experiment.

The daylight hours are waning, temperatures dropping and the sunflower really needs to step it up a notch, if it wants to bloom before the snow flies. Sadly, the sun has moved much lower on the horizon and there's an apple tree, garage, pine tree and our own house, all shading the plant, which limits the amount of direct light it's now receiving.

Scott couldn't figure out why the flower had its head turned to the north, but then quickly realized that the flower is receiving so much more reflected light, than direct light, that it's turned to face the source: light reflected off the side of the neighbor's white house.

Poor sunflower! :(

The good news is that the flower head has fully formed and appears to be just days away from bursting forth with glorious yellow petals. It's quite amazing to look straight into the flower head, with all of its spikes and whorls. A couple of ladybugs have taken up residence in the folds of the flower. We hope they're busy eating any parasites and pests, protecting Alex's plant.

We held Alex up and told her, "Sniff the flower, Oop!"

She got a tad too close with her nose and recoiled at its prickles, laughing.

Just as the plant is maturing, so is Alex. She's now fully potty trained, though she's still not quite gotten the hang of "doing the paperwork required to finish the job". In fact, she's so well potty trained that she'll often just get up from what she's doing and go to it. (This creates a tad of a problem for us, as there's no "announcement" that paperwork is required and we don't find out about it till later, when we notice a tiny 'present' in the portable potty. A sore bum is the result.)

Alex's vocabulary is also expanding, though she's still failing the "Tom Cruise" day-care test. (Scott asks her, when she returns from day-care, if Tom Cruise stopped by to say "hi". The answer is generally, "yes", which provides some insight into her comprehension.

Last night, she distinctly said, "Dammit!", which caught Scott a tad off-guard.

"Where did you learn to say that?" asked Scott.

"From Daddy," said the Oop, matter-of-factly.

"Great," said Dad, who holds himself only partly to blame.

"It can't be from me," Scott tried to convince Rachel, later, who was chastising him for this undesirable turn of vocabulary events. "I rarely say 'Dammit!'"

"Oh, is that right?" asked Rachel.

"I usually opt for 'God-dammit'," he said, which didn't exactly earn him any points with Rachel.

We really have to be careful what we say, because the Oop has turned into a little mimic. Pronunciation is still an issue and many people, besides ourselves, have a difficult time understanding what she says. No worries, because the bad words are usually very distinct and loudly spoken, however. :|

Our Oop is growing up.

September 24th: "Blow Me Down!"

Alex's "sunflower" has taken a dive!

It's been 114 days since Alex planted her sunflower seed at day-care. It suffered a bit of a set-back, after Edmonton got its first taste of winter this past week.

Where are those glorious "Indian Summer" days that Alberta is famous for?

This next week will be our last in Edmonton. Scott will pick up the U-Haul truck this coming Friday. Rachel is flying back, from Vancouver Island and we'll be loading up the 26-foot truck on Saturday. We'll probably leave on Sunday, taking 2 days over the 1,300-kilometer drive from Edmonton to Vancouver.

Hope is rapidly fading that Alex's sunflower will bloom before we hit the highway. Right when the sunflower needed warm, sunny weather to polish off the last of its growing season, the weather Gods have turned nasty and have been giving us a taste of winter. Rain, clouds, cold, and wind seems to have been the daily fare for the past week and the sunflower took it in the shorts, getting blown over a couple of nights ago. After propping the thing back up and tying it off with survey tape (it now looks like a wounded soldier), it was greeted, the next morning, to temperatures hovering just above freezing.

Poor sunflower! :(

While we're busy eating down the larder, packing up our possessions, and stacking boxes upon boxes in the house, the sunflower is struggling to bloom. We'll take our final update photos, right before we leave (but it will be a while before we can post them ... the computer will be off till late-October, after we take ownership of our new property, move into the house, set up the office and get back online again).

Keep your fingers crossed for sunflower blooms (and a crush-proof, no-shattered-glass, accident-free drive and ferry ride to our new home).

September 30th: "At the Bloomin' 11th Hour!"

Alex's sunflower has bloomed in the nick of time!

Exactly 120 days ago, Alex's tiny fingers poked a single sunflower seed into a soil-filled Styrofoam cup, marking the beginning of "The Oop Sunflower Project". The plant has been through a lot, since then. It germinated in the Styrofoam cup, at day-care and since been transported, planted, transplanted, trampled by a cat, pummeled with rain and hail, suffered through hot sun and cold winds, been tied to a stake (twice) and after all that ... it managed to bloom - the day we moved from Edmonton!

The "Oop Sunflower Project" is a success!

We weren't too sure how the sunflower project was going to end. When we last reported on the sunflower, it was doing a horizontal Mambo in the back yard, a victim of an early winter storm. Scott had to prop it up, tie it to a stake and cover it with a ladder and sheet (one night) to avoid a killing frost.

Alas ... Good News!

Petals began to unfurl, slowly, just days before the impending move. Scott waited till the last possible moment, just before leaving our home of 2 years, to capture the bloom on film.

It's still not 100% unfurled (petals from 3PM to 5PM are still unfolding), but it's enough to satisfy the Oop, who was quite happy to see the large flower.

"It's pretty," she said, glancing up a the bloom and then racing off to play with boxes, tape and unpacked belongings. (When you're three years old, you're easily distracted, because there's always something infinitely more exciting, just beyond the bend).

Having the flower bloom, before we left Edmonton, was a fitting end to both the sunflower project and our 2-year stay.

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Updated: 17-Jul-2008
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1.flag Gran Comment
I sure am watching Alex's sunflower, or should I say Scott's sunfower, with great interest. I'm also looking closely at those wonderful pictures of my grand daughter, who seems to be growing up so fast.

Cannot wait for you guys to be closer to us!
2.flag stk Comment
Hey, that's great! (Someone reads what I write!!) LOL

We're definitely in the moving mode (as we're already anticipating the drive "home"). Less than two months!!

Now ... if we can only find a place as nice as the one we're in here (for a similar price).
3.flag Ann Sutthery Comment
Hello Everybody!!

Hope I am not too late to wish you a safe journey from Edmontoon to Vancouver Island!
Dang it, I have been meaning to write is Monday and I think you left yesterday. Oh well, here is some mail for when you get back on-line.

Write soon with your new address.

4.flag Heather Pederson Comment
Thx for the great story! It gave me a great idea to the sunflower garden I already had in mind for this coming fall. I bought 5 diffrent types/colors of sunflowers for my project!
5.flag stk Comment

I'm glad that the post inspired you!!

Will you be posting project updates online? If so, I'd be curious to follow along.

6.flag Val Comment
Hi there,

I'm rather glad I stumbled upon this site! I have a project for my painting class where we have to depict the growth of a sunflower. Unfortunately my sunflower never even poked up from the earth. But with the wonderful pictures you made of Alex's sunflower, I'll be able to easily complete my project anyway! Thanks ^_^

I hope the family is thriving in your new home!
7.flag stk Comment

I'm glad our sunflower project helped you!!


Scott (and Alex)
8.flag Dale Comment
Thank you for posting the sunflower project webpage. I googled sunflower to try to ID my seedlings vs. weeds (my first time growing sunflowers). Your pictures came up in the search and were the MOST helpful! It looks like your project with your daughter Alex was a great success! Her innocent wonder was heartwarming.

9.flag stk Comment

Thanks for taking the time to write. The sunflower project was done with my (then 2.5 year old daughter) and yes, it was a fun project. (I'm not sure who was more "into it" ... me, or her!!)

It's refreshing to see the world through innocent eyes, for the first time, all over again.

10.flag Lisa Comment
I really enjoyed reading your progress reports on Alex's sunflower. Very well written, I thoroughly enjoyed it and as I have a great love of children I thought it was really great how you took so much time and effort to show Alex that what she does is important.

Well Done! and I hope your move went well and you will be able to grow many more fantastic sunflowers.

Regards Lisa
11.flag stk Comment

Hello 'down under'!

It was a great project and we're happy that you enjoyed reading about it.

The move was a success and we're happily exploring new projects at the Hutton House property. (No sunflowers, yet, but if we do grow them ... we'll have to work at keeping the deer from eating the whole project).

12.flag Alliyah Comment
That is a very good project for just a young child can do. That is a good project!!!
13.flag Heather Pederson Comment
Well, it was too windy and I didnt stake my flowers...needless to say it didnt turn out BUT that was last year! This is sunflower garden part II for me! wish me luck....
14.flag stk Comment
LOL ... good luck Heather!

(For our part, sunflowers are a tad difficult to grow in the rain forest, so we're off of sunflowers now and the Oop has turned her attention to geraniums and colorful, hanging flower baskets, which are out of the reach of deer).

Cheers - the Kimlers
15.flag Jenny Comment
Thanks for the story! Hope things are going well in the rainforest! Your pictures gave me the best hint that the "accident" sprouting in an empty pot under my bird feeder is, indeed, a sunflower, so now my own transplant adventure will begin!
16.flag stk Comment
Jenny - Glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for taking the time to comment (and the trip down memory lane, as I hadn't read the story in ages).

Boy, has our little girl grown up since then! (Standing on the counter, back then, was she! LOL)

I trust your sunflower transplant will be a success and I hope you have as much fun, watching your sunflower grow, as did we!
17.flag ERIKA Comment
Thanks for taking us along on Alex's sunflower journey. I stumbled upon your blog while googling "sunflower seedling photos." My 18-month-old Ali also planted a sunflower in daycare and brought it home. I'm trying desperately not to kill it! Right now it's about 12 inches tall so judging from your experience I ought to transplant it into the garden soon. Thanks for the tips!
18.flag Austin Comment
Thank you so much for all the information, and pictures. I have been doing a report on sunflowers, and you just gave me all the information that I need to finish it!

I am glad that her flower bloomed in the nick of time!! What a tantrum saver! Ha Ha good luck in the future!
19.flag stk Comment
ERIKA - LOL @ "not killing it". Good luck with your sunflower. :D

Austin - I'm glad the sunflower project story helped with your report.

However ... I must say that you don't know the Oop very well, as she'd NEVER toss a tantrum over a sunflower not blooming. ;)

(Asking her to turn off the T.V., or put on her PJ's might be a different story, depending on how tired or hungry she is) :p
20.flag Johna Lindsay Comment
ha ha this is so precious. Alex is beautiful. She reminds me so much of my lil grandbabies. Stevie is 3 and his sister Adyson is 16 mos. For the past 2 months we have all been planting flowers and veggies in the yard (we live in TX) for springs enjoyment. We planted claret sunflowers along our North fence line and along the east wall of our house. I took the babies out yesterday to show them their sunflowers had popped their lil selves up from the ground and they were most exited! It will be fun to watch them watch the sunflowers grow. This site truly made me smile! Thank you Alex for giving daddy a very special gift. It is an experience Im sure none of you will ever forget. Cherish your little Angel Scott and Rachel, she is the greatest gift you will ever recieve. Best Wishes and please send us some snowballs from Canada!
21.flag stk Comment
Johna - Thanks for the comment. You're right, Alex is precious (made even more so because she's our only child). We continue to enjoy watching her grow up and this year - at five - she just started kindergarten!

Can't believe you're planting sunflowers at this time of the year, even in Texas. I lived in Dallas (Farmers Branch) for 5 years and remember some hallacious winter ice storms. Must be a tad further south, or out toward the coast?

Have fun with your grandbabies!
22.flag Chris Comment
Like one of the early commenters, I found this site whilst looking for a way to differentiate my sunflowers from suspected weeds.

A nice little story, and I hope I'm as successful in growing mine as you were. I planted some back in May. then when I found a giant pot under a hedge in the garden yesterday, I put another one in that too. Never having grown any, I have no idea what the seedlings look like!