You can see why Vincent Van Gogh was so enchanted by sunflowers that he painted seven versions of them. For him the colour yellow was an emblem of happiness and in Dutch literature the flower was a symbol of devotion and loyalty.
The Hellianthus to give it the correct name can grow to a height of over 300cm and during growth, sunflowers tilt during the day to face the sun, but stop once they begin blooming. This tracking of the sun in young sunflower heads is called heliotropism. By the time they are mature, sunflowers generally face east
I visit Hitchin Lavender twice a year, once in early July to photograph the vibrant colours of the lavender fields and again in early August for the sunflowers. The sunflowers can be a challenge because at the time of the year the schools have broken up and so there are queues of people waiting at the entrance, so my advice is to get there at 10.00am when it opens.
Another challenge can be the bees but I have never yet been stung by any, which is quite a surprise considering the fact that bugs normally find me tasty but I guess if you don't annoy them they will leave you alone.
The lavender was grown initially for agricultural purposes only with the intention of selling on the essential oil from its harvested flowers. After several years it became apparent that within the local area there was growing interest in the project and in recent years they have begun opening up each day in the Summer for the public and it now get tens of thousands of visitors every year. The sunflowers offer an additional attraction for photographers to capture some beautiful images.
There are two kinds of sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil which is used in cooking and in margarines is made from black seeds and snack food is made from the striped seeds. The seeds can also be used as bird feed. The sunflower is native to the America's and was used extensively by Native American Indians for food, as oil, in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.
The sunflower is a large inflorescence, this means the flower head is actually made of many tiny flowers called florets. Central florets look like the centre of a normal flower while the outer florets look like yellow petals and together they make up a "false flower". This natural design helps insects and birds to easily see the sunflower and after pollination every little flower or floret produces a seed.