“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of Magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden—in all the places.” -Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden)

Here is the perspective of Heather Durkel, Four Winds social media coordinator:

You can create your own magical secret garden for the little ones in your life. Children. Grandchildren. Daycare or summer camp kiddos. Ours is growing and evolving this very moment, even as I write. I hope this post inspires you to create your own! 

Truly, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approach to creating a sunflower house- it will be special no matter what! That said, I am going to share with you one approach just to get you started. 

You will be creating a rectangle or square out of sunflowers and climbing flowers. The sunflowers provide the structure for the climbers to vine onto, but we like to add some additional support in the form of stakes or branches. 

Here’s what you will need: 

  • Some fertile ground. As little as 4’x4’ or as big as you have room to spare! 
  • Posts, tall strong branches, bamboo stakes 
  • Sunflower seeds or starts 
  • Morning glory seeds or starts 
  • Scarlet runner bean seeds or starts
    • All the plants above (sunflowers, morning glories and scarlet runner beans) are fast growers! This means that you will have a happy sunflower house by the end of summer, surely. BUT if you want to hurry the process along, support a local farmer and purchase some seedlings from them to get a head start on things. 

Here’s what’s next:

  1. Begin by making sure the site of the sunflower house is weeded, the topsoil loosened slightly (you could use a tiller, broad fork, shovel, etc..) and amended (we use composted manure.)
  2. Pound the stakes or branches into the ground, forming a rectangle or square. This will be the perimeter of your sunflower house. 
  3. Plant the sunflowers around the perimeter of the rectangle or square, following the outline of the stakes. These sunnies will become the wall. Make sure to leave a small opening for the door! 
  4. Plant the morning glories and / or scarlet runner beans between every second or third sunflower. 
  5. Water well and continue to water well throughout the summer. 
  6. Weed and water on repeat 
  7. We like to take the mulch from our lawn mower and put it on the ‘floor’ of our sunflower house. This makes a nice, soft spot to sit throughout the summer. 
  8. If you want to make the house super special, you can tie twine between the posts to create a roof. When the climbing flowers reach your roof, they will climb length-wise and create a colorful ceiling.
  9. Enjoy the process!! 

Throughout the summer, my boys and I care for our sunflower house together. We add grass clippings. Water it. Watch the sunflowers emerge and then observe them as they grow taller and taller and taller. 

We notice everything. The color of the leaves, texture of the sunflower stalks, the first buds and blossoms of the morning glories. We bring snacks and lemonade, books and blankets out to our house throughout the season. We sit and watch and feel the embrace of the tall sunflowers and colorful flowers. We love when the sunflowers start to bloom, and when the petals fade and the seeds appear, we watch bird after bird after bird land on the open faces and feast on the seeds. When the whole sunflower begins to die and the leaves turn brown, we feel the dry leaves and crumble them between our hands. 

We experience the whole cycle of this little magical place. Creating it. Nurturing it. Celebrating its growth. Enjoying it in its full summer beauty. Then watching it fade, change colors, shift purpose and shape and eventually become compost and soil. 


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