🌻Sunflowers🌻

Sunflowers have always been a favorite of mine. They are strong, but delicate. Bold and beautiful. Tall or short. Big or small. The beautiful hues of yellow and orange against the green leaves and stems has always been so attractive. They light up a room, dress up a mantle and still have a rustic feel. They are the perfect summer and fall flower. They go with everything!

Thanks to COVID wrecking havoc on normalcy this year, I decided to turn two planting beds at our house into sunflower beds this year. I had time to water them and care for them…not that much was needed. Early May (the 3rd to be precise), I weeded, raked and mixed compost into a triangular planting bed next to the driveway. I added ~75 sunflower seeds to it, covered with compost and cedar mulch and began watering every day. About a week and a half later, I planted another ~25 sunflowers ina bed out back, around a rock and near the vegetable garden. I was worried at the beginning, day 6 of the first bed being planted brought a freak snow squall to us in May, and I so worried my seeds wouldn’t come to life.

First bed of sunflower seeds planted in 2020

Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I do is water these two beds, along with a bed of dahlias and the vegetables. It didn’t take long for the sunflower seeds to germinate and start growing. As they grew, I continued to water the, weed the beds and cut off dead leaves from the stems. Early August treated CT with a Tropical Storm and some crazy winds. In prepping the property, I dealt with the vegetables first and almost ran out of string. As a last minute attempt to try and protect the sunflowers by the driveway, which happen to be about 4’ above the driveway at the top of a retaining wall, I looped my last bit of string around every other stem and lashed them all together hoping they’d be strong enough as one unit to survive the storm. Once the storm passed and the winds died down, I went out to check on them, and the rest of my plants. The storm only took out ~10 sunflowers, so I consider us lucky to have survived with power, most plants surviving and the only tree damage being a few tree tops falling on the edge of the property.

Many of the early blooms from 2020

Tropical Storm Isasis also brought the first sunflower bloom of he season. On August 8th I cut the first yellow sunflower to bloom from the bed by the driveway, along with a dahlia and allowed them to be the centerpiece of the mantle. Since then I’ve harvested about 15 more sunflowers and have a few more ready for harvesting in the morning.

I have learned a few important things this year growing my own cut flowers…

  1. Plant more than you think you need. You will loose some and deer will eat some. There’s always room for a base in another room and no one says no to a bouquet of fresh cut, home grown flowers.
  2. If you plant out back, do it inside a fence. Just because you don’t see the deer doesn’t mean you don’t have them. I know they moved out of the backyard when we moved in, but they have come back. Maybe I didn’t notice because I wasn’t always home. Or maybe it’s because they only seem to be out back in the dark, but they are here and sunflowers with no fencing are a nice snack for them. Next year the vegetable garden will be expanded to include room for more flowers.
  3. You don’t get privacy from a sunflower bed alone. Sunflowers by the driveway are pretty, but don’t provide the privacy you hoped they would. It’s also to open and winds can be damaging. Next year I’ll be building a lattice fence on the 2 back sides to offer privacy from the street to the yard, and to provide a wind shelter for the sunflowers.
  4. No matter how hard we try, getting a 4 year old cat to pose for pictures with flowers is much harder than when they were kittens…

Charlie ‘posing’ with some sunflowers

Memorial Garden

I already learned that it’s still hard dealing with the fact my mom isn’t here….I realized that the 2nd year without was a lot harder than I anticipated. Even knowing all that, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would hit me today returning to my middle school. As soon as my sister and I were out of middle school, my mom became an Algebra teacher there. Today they dedicated the Patricia Gotimer Memorial Garden in her name. The garden came about as an Eagle Scout project for one of her students in her last year of teaching; even leaving school at Thanksgiving, my mom made a profound enough impact on this young man that he took the initiative to build a garden for her at her school.

Even knowing that I’d see her friends, colleagues and some former students, I wasn’t prepared for all the feelings – and that became abundantly clear as I couldn’t even get through my short speech I had prepared without tears, lots of tears…

Mom, this one’s for you. You always loved seeing your students succeed and watch them do amazing things…well Tommy knocked this one out of the park. The old beat up courtyard that used to just be used by skateboarders, well now it’s a permanent place for you at ERMS.

It has been said, “Being a good teacher is a lot like being a good gardener. Good gardeners are optimistic and patient. They are able to see the potential in those struggling young seedlings and enjoy watching them grow, develop and bloom. They give special tender loving care to those few plants that are struggling and not thriving.”

East Ridge was a second family to my mom; both the staff and students. My mother’s best friends were some of you here today. You were her friends, confidants and family when Sarah and I grew up and moved out. For about 1200 Ridgefield students, she was their math teacher who loved to teach Algebra and she was so fiercely passionate about her students’ successes. For 15 years, she started the school year by decorating her classroom with students’ favorite numbers covered in pictures of things that were important to them. I imagine if she created her own, it would be the symbol for Pi, adorned with math symbols, a deck of cards, a picture of Sarah and me, a Yankees’ logo, pictures of the beach and flowers. When she wasn’t preparing class plans or grading quizzes and tests, she always loved to garden.

I can think of no better way to honor my mom than through this garden. It is comforting to know that there will still be a little place in Ridgefield for her even though she is gone. On behalf of my sister, Sarah, myself and our entire extended family, we want to thank everyone involved in making this garden happen. We would especially like to thank Tommy for his idea and hard work to create this lasting memorial for my mom and thank the entire community for the love you have shown us over the past few years.