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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Just can’t curb enthusiasm of intrepid sunflowers, neighbors

By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

Suzie the Sunflower has some new cousins!

Back in 2017, Cindy Hval wrote about Suzie, a sunflower that was growing out of the tiniest of cracks between the curb and asphalt on the east side of the South Hill. Nearby Suzie’s unlikely garden spot, Ed and Georgia Merz had – and still do – gardened a plot where they raise sunflowers among other things.

They believe that either a bird dropped seed or one washed into the tiny crack that had enough soil for it to sprout. Caring for Suzie became a neighborhood project through the summer as the Merzes traveled and other neighbors stepped in to water her. She grew to 7½ feet tall.

Well, after five years. Ed and Georgia decided it was time to bring Suzie’s legacy back to the crack in the curb. They planted a seed in the original hole in the asphalt and searched out another a few feet away. Both seeds sprouted and even in the cold June weather began growing. It helped that they were warmed by the asphalt that absorbed the sun’s heat. The Merzes carefully tended the growing plants until it was time for them to depart on a long-delayed road trip to Alaska in August. As was the case in 2017, the neighbors stepped in to help care for the sunflowers through the rest of the summer. By the time the Merzes got back, the cousins had grown to about 7 feet and both had big heads full of seeds ready for the birds to feast on. “It is amazing that nothing happened to them,” Georgia said. “No one kicked or vandalized them.”

Well done, Merzes, and kudos to the community spirit .

I’ve seen lots of sunflowers planted around town. Some of them I’m sure were planted by people who love their bright show in late summer, but I think many of them were also planted in support of Ukraine. We all know how that is going.

As the growing season winds down, the sunflowers still have a job to do. Gather up the stalks with their flowers attached and tie them up where the birds can pick them clean over the next few weeks. The birds need the fuel to build reserves for the coming cold. By supporting our local birds, maybe we can wing our hopes to the Ukrainians who will be struggling through the cold winter. If you know of reliable aid agencies that are taking humanitarian donations, help them out.

Last week’s rain was a perfect way for Mother Nature to take over watering duties. As I write this, my rain gauge is showing over half an inch in the area south of University High School. The temperatures are cooling and plants are starting to go dormant, so they need less water. Water in any new plantings you do and get your irrigation system, timers and watering tools drained. Make sure you drain pressure washers and spray tanks because ice will damage them.

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