I’ve been studying and studying the list of sunflowers on MinnesotaWildflowers.info, trying to identify a very tall sunflower that grew in our yard this year.

Looking up at many medium-sized yellow sunflowers against a blue sky

I don’t remember buying it, and there is no tag, which suggests I didn’t. It it could be a volunteer plant, like so many others in our garden, though there are at least six stems, so that seems unlikely. Last fall I collected seeds while on a hike, and this plant may have been from a packet that I labeled “giant sunflower.”

green shoots and a sunflower bud

It has leaves like Maximilian sunflower

Looking down at several open sunflower blossoms close to the ground

…but petals more like Jerusalem artichoke.

One medium-sized sunflower blossom, fully open

I’ve been calling it “giant sunflower” all summer – but that is the common name of an actual plant, and this one does not have the characteristic hairy stem or toothed leaves.

Many sunflower blossoms in sunshine, from several angles

This is as close as I got to taking a photo of the flower’s bract:

Closeup of two open blossoms against a blue sky

I’m not exactly tall, but even still, this plant towers over me:

A woman standing next to a very tall sunflower

Well, whatever its name, I enjoyed watching it grow and bloom. And so did the bees and bugs.

three open sunflowers, one with an orange beetle and one with a bee

Now, it’s time to collect seeds (this time, to make sure it doesn’t take over the entire garden).

a stalk of many seed heads, and a hand with seeds and half a seed head

I’m going with Maximilian sunflower, with petals that grew thinner than normal, until I learn otherwise.

a bumblebee in a sunflower

The purple coneflower attracted many butterflies this summer.

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly from the right side

I am certainly not a butterfly expert, but I’ve done my best to identify them. Let me know if I’ve made a mistake!

Eastern tiger swallowtail, female and male:

two pictures: female and male Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies

Red admiral:

red admiral butterfly on top of a flower

White admiral:

two pictures: white admiral butterflies, one from the left side and one from the top

And, of course, monarch:


The entire weekend was as close to perfect as it gets, weather-wise. High 70s, sunny, no clouds, low humidity.


It may have been the best weekend of the summer, and it came after Labor Day. The bees and bugs were enjoying the weather as much as I was.

grasshopper on black-eyed susan

This year, I’m finding it incredibly hard to leave the garden. I can’t even glance at the flowers in the morning unless I plan to be late for work. We end up eating dinner really late every night because I’m checking on the day’s progress and watching the bee activity. And I’m usually outside late enough that it’s too dark for pictures.

bumblebee climbing out of a turtlehead

Oh, who am I kidding? This happens every year.

bee climbing on sedum

It’s been three months since I’ve remembered to cut flowers for pressing. Somehow I thought of it Sunday afternoon.

cut flowers on tissue paper: zinnia, liatris, coreopsis

I chose several pretty blooms, arranging some to lie flat with the blossom showing and some with a side view. Three new pages of flowers are now pressed between tissue paper in an old college textbook.

cut flowers on tissue paper: calendula, cosmos, hollyhock

I’ve set a reminder on my calendar for January 10, 2015: “Unwrap the pressed flowers.”

a textbook that won't close because of three layers of pressed flowers

What a fun memory of today’s weather it will be when the holidays are behind us and we will most likely be freezing under several feet of snow.

bouquet of cut flowers waiting to be pressed

We’ve never exactly appreciated the squirrels that live in our neighborhood, but this year they seem especially mean.

This sunflower already had its top bitten off, and the rest didn’t last long after this photo.

sunflower sprout

An entire evening primrose was pulled out of the ground, stem by stem.

four evening primrose stems lying on the ground

This white coneflower, which bloomed this year for the first time, was snipped off near the ground.

a wilting white coneflower with three blossoms lying on the ground

I was especially annoyed that the squirrels were damaging our flowers for no good reason: they weren’t even eating them. But then they turned to the vegetables, and I wasn’t any less upset even though the food was being eaten.

A chicken-wire fence, which stopped the rabbits, wasn’t enough to deter the squirrels from picking the tomatoes. So we had to add another fence to the top to the garden, which makes it a challenge for the humans to harvest the tomatoes and kale.

half of a green tomato, and a whole green tomato lying on the ground

Earlier this summer, when the squirrels were ripping up the squash and gourd flowers, we fenced them all in, which stopped the damage – but we eventually had to remove the fence because the vines were too constrained.

At one point, we had two acorn squashes. One disappeared completely, and the other ended up with a good chunk eaten off the top.

acorn squash with lots of little bite marks on the top

Same thing with this yellow squash. They also got two zucchini, but I don’t have the photo evidence because I was too busy rescuing the untouched zucchini to document it.

summer squash with a hole eaten out of the top, with chunks of the rind lying nearby

There were at least five gourds at one point, each distinctly different in appearance.

a small, round green gourd

Two disappeared, one is now just a fraction of a rind, and a few scattered “crumbs” were all that remained of the fourth.

the remains of a green gourd

After this week’s gourd and squash damage, we re-fenced our one pumpkin and one remaining gourd. Without a top to the fence, though, I fear it’s just a matter of time before they’re gone too. At least we have tomatoes and kale!