Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beautiful Sunflowers in a Field

Bastille Day, July 14, the French Fête Nationale, was a beautiful day in the Vaucluse. We checked with Bruno the congenial proprietor of Café des Sports and my go-to-source for information about Sablet and surprising to us, no celebration was planned for our village.

So we decided it would be a perfect day to drive to the Metairie Neuve, the small family farm near Viane in the Tarn region in Southern France. On the way to the freeway, we came upon a large field of sunflowers. Now you know there is nothing that wife Shirley likes more than a field of sunflowers, except maybe a field of purple lavender or red poppies, so we had to stop and take pictures.

You may not be aware that despite the fact that you find postcards, photos and paintings of sunflowers all over Provence, they are actually native to the Americas. Sunflowers seeds were brought to Europe by Spaniards in the 16th century where sunflower oil became a widespread cooking ingredient.

Sunflowers, tournesol in French, have rough, hairy stems, and what most people call the flower on a mature sunflower is a flower head of numerous small flowers crowded together. The outer flowers are sterile and the flowers inside the circular head mature into seeds from which oil is extracted.

Sunflowers generally grow to between 5 and 12 feet tall and bloom from late June to the end of July with harvest occurring at the beginning of August.

A common misconception is that sunflowers track the sun. In fact, mature sunflowers typically face east and do not move. The leaves and buds of young sunflowers do change their orientation from east to west during the course of a day; once mature the movements stop.

Wife Shirley and niece Leslie face the morning sunshine from the east along with the sunflowers that surround them.

Most of you have probably seen one or more of the paintings of sunflowers by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh or other photos or paintings by lesser known artists. None of these paintings can compare to the beauty of a field of sunflowers, faces to the sun, along side the road.

You will have to come to Provence to see for yourself. Bonne journée mes amis et à très bientôt.


  1. I love the sun flower fields...and poppy fields...and the fields of lavender. So many colors here in Provence.

  2. Beautiful - the flowers and the ladies...

  3. Sunflowers are just the best when the field are full of the smiling faces. I have a few in my garden, but although the flower looks the same there are several flowers on a stalk. I have no idea what species they are! Your photos are beautiful.
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  4. Lovely sunflowers - what a great way to enjoy the 14th. We had fireworks and a BBQ here - such an exciting time of the year!

  5. Meredith - The colors of Provence are the best imo.

    Barbara - Thanks for the sweet feedback.

    Diane - Thanks for checking in. You have had a most interesting life.

    Tuula - I thought there would be fireworks or a ceremony at least but we were happy to see the sunflowers.

  6. We saw so many sunflowers when we took the train down south last month. I wondered what they could be being grown for in such large quantities. Cooking oil perhaps?

  7. Camille - The seeds inside the sunflower are pressed and oil is extracted and sold in France as huile de tournesol - sunflower oil.