Helianthus maximiliani 'Santa Fe'
Maximilian's sunflower, sometimes known as New Mexico sunflower, grows throughout my local area. It's a native prairie species that can grow in sandy soil with very little water. You can see it almost everywhere. People plant it as a perennial and it can also seed itself. Range areas are dense with it, surviving wind, hail and heavy rain until the local livestock come along. I know of a large cluster of New Mexico sunflowers growing lushly on the edge of a golf course, untended in a dry gravel patch. Like most things that grow here, they don't mind harsh conditions. If anything, they seem to prefer them.
Currently, I have a large bunch of New Mexico sunflowers in my house. My mother-in-law grew them in her backyard. She lives a few blocks away from us during the summer months and does a fair amount of gardening while she's here. She planted these flowers a few summers ago, to add some color and coverage at the back garden wall, a long stretch of gray cinder block. The sunflowers are a perfect touch there, growing as much as six feet tall and expanding width-wise a little bit every year. For most of the summer, the plant bears only slender, willow-like leaves as the flowers begin to bud. By mid-September, they bloom up and down the long stalks in profusion. My mother-in-law cuts armfuls of these stalks to display in the house, giving me some as well.
I use my tallest vase for them. It's pink and doesn't really go with the flowers. They shed pollen absolutely everywhere (and it's the staining kind of pollen too). I don't typically gravitate toward yellow flowers to begin with. But I'm not complaining, not really. In spite of the mess, and the almost comical feat of displaying them, they're most welcome here. They're fresh and cheerful. They were grown by someone I love. They only happen once a year and they are quintessentially of this place, flowering in brief, exquisite early autumn: cold-morning-hot-afternoon time, chile-smoke time, skyful-of-balloons time.