I saw some beautiful sunflowers this summer, in fact numerous varieties. My favorite — name wise was a variety called teddy bear sunflower (I have always been partial to bears). Looking at the bushier ones (you can see them in the background), the name is most appropriate. Some of the other varieties of sunflowers were both taller than my son Patrick and myself, and we are not exactly garden gnomes. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers of summer. Their name in French — tournesol describes them aptly: turning toward the sun. I have tried planting them in the small yard I have here, but there has never been enough sun. When I did plant some in a planter box on my former landlord’s car port where there was more sun, the squirrels took delight in never letting them reach their proper height, by trampling on them, or chewing off their heads, as well as breaking them off, before they had had a chance to unfold their beauty. My fondness of wildlife — squirrels in particular — at that point was rather diminished by such crude behavior. My cat Calvin can’t keep an eye on them either at all times unfortunately, so sunflowers have been off the summer garden planting list in Oakland since then.
There are some trees that grow in my neighbors’ yard, that are rather peculiar. I keep forgetting their name and wrongly identifying them as beech trees. It just so happens, that from now on, I won’t forget their name anymore. The mystery was solved at Calvin’s birthday party (who by the way turned 4 and was the recipient of a much appreciated can of tuna fish). My neighbor Bill mentioned to me at Calvin’s party, that he had his gardeners over one time, and pointed out that the trees in question, were sending out lots and lots of side shoots. He thought the trees were over-“elming” and needed to be pruned back. So, without further ado, here is another observation about the now properly identified elm trees: they bloom very late in Spring, and from a distance it looks like the trees are getting leaves, when in fact they are blossoms. The leaves come in even later, once the blossoms have dropped. The blossoms are also a favorite treat of the neighborhood squirrels. This morning, while I was sitting outside, drinking a cup of coffee, I saw two of them in the trees, which I would guess are a good 40 to 50 feet tall. One squirrel, of pleasantly plump appearance, was comfortably seated near the top of the tree, stuffing himself full of blossoms to his hearts’ content. The other squirrel couldn’t make up its mind, and first kept looking in all directions, and then started tip-toeing to the outermost end of a branch, which was getting thinner and thinner as it proceeded, and then was put into motion by the weight of Ms. indecisive. A hasty retreat ensued, as a catapult type action was imminent. The squirrel then finally settled on another branch and started eating blossoms too. The scene reminded me of a kid in a candy store.