Common Name: Teddy Bear Sunflower
Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus ‘Teddy Bear’
Family: Asteraceae Genus: Helianthus Species: annuus Cultivar: Teddy Bear
Additional cultivar information: (aka Sungold Dwarf, Dwarf Sungold)
This unusual member of the sunflower family is very different from the regular types and is grown locally by our Flowers Vic Grower of the Month The Road Stall, read more about them here. It has a cuddly-looking flower head made up of 4-5 inch fully-doubled yellow flowers that are held up on sturdy dwarf plants that grow between 2 ½ to 3 feet tall. They are not too dissimilar to a giant golden chrysanthemum! Grown from seed, the flowers are planted in November and have a 14 week turnaround, taking twice as long to yield as the other members of the sunflower family. They are generally picked out over a 2 week period late Summer/early Autumn (once their green floreted centres have unfurled and become yellow) but their grand, fluffy heads are worth the wait!
Originating in North America, the sunflower is thought to be one of the first crops to have been grown in the Americas. It has been suggested that the sunflower was even domesticated before corn. They were traditionally picked by hunter gatherers as a natural source of fat and their seeds could be ground up and mixed with flour to make bread much like the pita variety we eat today! It is estimated that over five thousand years ago, the sunflowers were farmed in the south-western parts of North America, now Mexico. As they were cultivated over the generations, the plants were encouraged to produce ever bigger seeds, so the sunflower we have now bears no resemblance to how it started, given the human race has interfered with its characteristics for all these thousands of years!
The Cherokee and other Native Americans also began to farm sunflowers which formed an important part of the diet as a good source of fat – which hunter gatherer societies needed to supplement the lean meat they would eat. In Mexico the Aztecs were also cultivating the plant which they also worshipped. In their temples to the sun, the priestesses would wear headdresses made of sunflowers to give themselves the air of the divine.
It was not until the eighteenth century that the sunflower gained huge popularity as a cultivated plant after making its way to Holland. Peter the Great of Russia became so enamoured of the giant flower on a visit to Europe, that he took seeds back to Russia which led to the extraction of sunflower oil in the third decade of the nineteenth century on a large and highly lucrative commercial scale.
Caring for cut Sunflowers:
- Fill a vase with tepid water and add one packet of commercial floral preservative to the water.
- Hold the ends of the sunflower stems under running water and snip off the bottom inch from the stems with the scissors. Cut the stems off at a 45-degree angle.
- Remove foliage below the water line & check water level in vase every day, fill up to the rim to keep vase full.
- Place the vase of sunflowers in a location out of direct sunlight. Choose a location away from cool drafts and sources of dry heat, if possible
Images Top Left to Right: A beautiful Teddy Bear Pomander style centrepiece via Bollea.com, Simple Sunflower via Design Sponge, Bouquet mix with delphinium and Easter Daisy via Think Bridal / Bottom: Beautiful centrepiece mix with hydrangea/silver suede via Duke Photography.