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For the Birds: Sometimes, it's all about how the seeds blow, by Chris Bosak

For the Birds


A goldfinch visits a sunflower plant for a snack.

Toward the end of last summer, I purchased a few coneflower plants at a greatly reduced price from a hardware store. I planted them in a large flower box on my deck and the plants flourished into late fall until a storm sheathed the fading blooms, leaves and stems in ice.

While in bloom, the plants made for a photogenic setting as birds perched on them before heading to a nearby feeder. Once the flowers died and went to seed, the plants were visited frequently by goldfinches, chickadees, titmice and other small birds. When the seeds were all plucked, the plant continued to provide shelter and perches for birds.

Since coneflower is a native perennial, I was looking forward to many years of similar success from these $2 wonders. Unfortunately, the plants did not come back this spring. I never transported them out of the flower box and the winter’s hard freeze killed the roots.

But something else popped up this year in that flower box — at an even better price. You can’t beat free.

Remember I had mentioned the nearby feeders? Well, a few of the sunflower seeds that got knocked or carried into the box sprouted. I noticed them in the spring and recognized the tiny stems and leaves as sunflowers.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they grew to become full plants, I thought. Fast forward a few months and I have three healthy, flowering sunflowers.

They are not towering plants by any means, but that’s probably a good thing considering their location. If they grew too tall, they’d likely topple over. I remember several years ago when I had to use an old hockey stick to serve as a splint for a sunflower stem that had buckled under the weight of the head. Hey, it worked.

The birds are already using these new sunflower plants as perches. Chipping sparrows, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches and chickadees are among the birds I’ve seen on them.

Now I can’t wait until later this summer and fall when birds start picking out seeds from the flowers. I’ll be posting plenty of photos to my website when that starts to happen. Talk about getting your money’s worth out of a bag of sunflower seeds.

Has this or something similar happened in your garden? Drop me a line and let me know.

For the Birds runs Mondays in The Sentinel. Chris Bosak may be reached at or through his website

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