Every year we choose one community seed in our Seed Library Membership program. In addition to getting discounts online, our members receive a kit with a special Art Pack of community seeds and a seed saving envelope. This year's seed is a mix we call Van Gogh Sunflowers after Vincent's famous still-life painting of sunflowers in a vase. One of the reasons we just save one variety for the library per year is to be able to focus our seed saving education. This year, with our dwarf sunflower mix, we're teaching about the creativity of saving seeds and creating new varieties through cross-pollination. Have fun!
Now that you've grown the seeds in your membership pack and (hopefully!) you've got some blooms, it's time to paint your sunflowers! But all you need is some ribbon and a paint brush- no paint. You pallet is the many colors, shapes, sizes, and textures of the plants themselves.
Take your brush and ribbon out into the garden and look at your flowers with the eyes of an artist and gardener. With your artist eyes choose the flowers you think are the most beautiful, unique, alluring or captivating. Mark them by tying a ribbon loosely around the stem near the blooms you choose. With your gardener's eye choose the plants that look the healthiest, sturdiest, have the least disease, have the most (of fewest) blooms depending on your preference. Mark those by tying a different color ribbon around them at the base.
Now it's time to take your brush and blend your artistic sensibilities with your gardening skills. Did you find a certain color bloom you love but you'd like it to show up on a sturdier plant? Collect pollen from one and spread it to the other with your brush. Mark this bloom with a third color ribbon so you know that' the one you pollinated. Did you find a multi-branching plant that you'd like to have fuzzy instead of smooth petals. Collect pollen from the one and pollinate the other.
Of course, the bees have been doing this as well and they have their own ideas. But this is just for fun. A kind of long drawn out fun where you have to wait until next year to see what happened. The more blooms you pollinate the better chance you have of creating something new. Maybe you'll create a new variety that could become a future heirloom!
After the seeds are mature save some for yourself and send a bunch back to the Seed Library. We'll grow these out next year and see what new beauties bloom.
Next up: How to save seeds from sunflowers.
To beat the bees choose flowers that are just opening and cover them with row cover until you can get to them.
Pollinate flowers that are mature enough to be producing pollen. You can see the pollen collecting on the brush.
For ribbon we use flagging tape as it doesn't fade and we can write on it with permanent marker so we record the characteristics we were saving for.