The sunflower! Who doeasn't love sunflowers? Cheap, easy, fast growing, drought-hearty, invincible, cheerful, and self-sowing.
The first spring after we bought this house there were some sunflower self-sown starts in the garden, and a little problem of the big low deck needing something around it to keep a new toddler from thinking he could walk off the edge. Perfect! Our deck is surrounded now by sunflowers, self-sown, and they grow around the sand pit, too, making it a shady little hidden place all summer. Along side the driveway, where nothing was growing and I never water? Sunflowers, cheerful sunshine faces bobbing along in the breeze, peeking over the fence, saying hello to all who pass. There's always one or two who make it through in the veggie patch, and they are always mammoths, with stems I can't get a hand around, and huge flowers, bobbing over everything like massive, benevolent scarecrows (and at least as effective as the straw and overalls variety!).
Their charm doesn't end with summer, either. As the seeds ripen they become a forest of standing, waving, living bird feeders. Even after we pull them from the ground the fallen seeds attract birds, all winter long. And somehow, beyond amazement, there are always still way too many popping up again in the spring, pushing eager heads up and out, searching out the sun with us winter weary citizens. Because of sunflowers we've been able to delay rebuilding the deck, installing irrigation, rebuilding the fence, doing all kinds of more expensive landscape fixes!
Unfortunately my efforts to harvest the seeds have ended poorly, but still there is hope, and my own nest full of hungry birdie-mouths eager for "homemade" sunflower seeds. Maybe this year!