Archive for Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunflower field east of Lawrence in full bloom

August 25, 2013


The Grinters lined up a few rows deep into their sunflower field Saturday morning to take their annual family photo. It was the ideal time: Around 8 a.m. the sun was glimmering off the yellow petals, but the air still was cool.

Dozens of other families had the same idea.

“This morning I got up about 6 a.m. and I looked out the window,” Ted Grinter said. “I looked out and there were already people out there.”

This summer, Grinter planted 47 acres of sunflowers (23,000 seeds per acre) surrounding his home on Stillwell Road just off of Highway 24-40 between Tonganoxie and Lawrence. He and his wife, Kris, open the field for people to take photos each summer. They also allow sunflower enthusiasts to pick a few at a price of $1 per flower.

Grinter’s father, Jim, started the tradition the summer of 1975. Thirty-eight years later, Ted still is planting the black oil sunflowers, cutting them down and selling them for bird feed.

“Dad started doing it when I was a kid,” Grinter said. “It’s been almost 40 years, and I’ve been doing that ever since.”

Grinter planted the seeds in late June. For a while, it seemed as if it would be a repeat of last summer, when the farmland experienced 17 days of 100 degree weather with no rain, resulting in a meager, short-lived crop.

Kris posted updates about the sunflowers to her blog, and near the end of July, the Grinters still were concerned about stunted flowers because of the lack of rain. But the heavy rainfalls at the beginning of August helped the flowers to pop up, and Grinter said some may even be blooming a bit longer than normal.

“It worked quite well,” Grinter said. “It looks pretty good.”

People started showing up to take photos on Thursday, when the sunflowers were in bloom and facing east. Grinter said the flowers should make it to Labor Day before they start to wilt and die.

“Whoever said ‘beauty is fleeting’ must have had a sunflower field in mind,” Kris wrote on her blog as a warning to those wanting to see the flowers at their best.

Cars lined Stillwell Road into late morning Saturday. Professional photographers snapped senior pictures and family photos, people stopped by to take photos on their cell phones, and kids took turns breaking off flowers (avoiding the ones with bees) to take home as souvenirs.

Other peoples’ appreciation of the plants is why Grinter enjoys it; he said he would keep a sunflower crop for years to come.

“It’s a feel-good plant,” he said, simply. “And they’re pretty.”


Ken Lassman 4 years, 9 months ago

Prairie Park Nature Center prairie is full of blooming perennial sunflowers as well--check them out at 28th and Harper.

This native perennial sunflower field is not as big as the Grinter one, but if you think about how it's been blooming there probably continuously for more than 5,000 years since after the last ice age, it's kinda impressive.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 9 months ago

There are two main types, but many species, of sunflowers. One is the perennial variety that you have pictured, and it grows wild all over Kansas. As a crop, it is worthless since the seeds are so small.

The crop that is grown for confectionery and oil purposes has much larger flowers and seeds, and requires cultivation to grow in Kansas. I believe that is because the seeds cannot survive the winters here. Interestingly, there is a variety available that has red instead of yellow petals, but it has no commercial value.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 9 months ago

My father raised sunflowers on the family farm for a field crop for a few years. It's surprising how quickly they become boring when they're just a crop to be raised for money.

There are some difficulties with raising sunflowers. They deplete the soil very quickly, and the stalks take some time to break down. There are still blasts from the previous year's crop when the new crop is planted. And, it takes a good year in western Kansas before the crop is of sufficient quality to be sold for confectionery purposes. Otherwise, the price that the crop brings is quite low, since the only thing they are good for then is the oil.

And, when working the fields, the plants do quite a lot of damage to the tractor and other implements. For instance, when I was driving the tractor, right away the headlights were broken off from striking the sunflowers. Then, they just hung from the wires and looked terrible. And of course, the paint job on the tractor was ruined.

We didn't raise sunflowers for very many years before it became quite obvious that in western Kansas, wheat is a much more profitable crop to raise. And if you're a farmer, you're into profits, and not appearances.

As for me, I'm done with sunflowers. And farming.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 9 months ago

Back in these parts, before more farmers used as much herbicides as they do today, this time of year the kids went out to the milo and soybean fields and cut the annual sunflowers down with a hatchet, machete or ax. The stalks got quite woody, so I preferred the axe and can relate to your getting your tractor shredded by the stalks! Cutting giant ragweed and sunflower stalks in the late summer heat was our side of the state's version of building character for our youth!

But I was just as blindly patriotic as the next Kansan and defended the sunflower's virtues when Nebraskans listed the annual sunflower as a noxious weed. I guess you gotta be kinda tough and woody to survive the Kansas climate, no? And the birds love you.

photographylover123 4 years, 9 months ago

In the morning does the sun hit the flowers face on or rise behind the field? I am planning a shoot there and don't want the sun to hit the models face harshly. Would like to have the sun behind her --so trying to decide if it would be better to come at sun set or sun rise.

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