The sunflower was a surprise.
It grew up tall and fast in the perennial patch in our front yard; too confident to be a weed, so I let it grow even though I had no idea how it got there or what it would become.
When it bloomed, it was magnificent: each flower a honey-colored face framed by brilliant-yellow petals, as warm and bright as the suns my 4-year-old draws in pictures.
And then one morning, we walked outside to find the whole plant sprawled face-down in the dirt, its roots yanked rudely by the wind.
I tried to replant it, but it was gone. So I cut the two biggest flowers free and put them into water on the kitchen table, where they hung their heads, lost without their height and grace and the rest of their parts.
I suspect my attachment to the sunflower is rooted in the back yard, where my vegetable garden is having its last hurrah, and I'm already in mourning.
This spring, I decided to test my theory that you don't have to be a gardening guru to grow some food for your family. I planted a small vegetable garden, using cheap seeds and a few plants from a local greenhouse "" and reaped the benefits all summer long.
In fact, I'm surprised to admit how much I enjoyed having a garden. It was easier, more satisfying and more productive than I ever imagined.
There were a few disappointments (scrawny carrots, no watermelon and a woodchuck that sabotaged my broccoli and cauliflower.) Yet, my little plot has produced 62 cucumbers, 10 butternut squash, 86 tomatoes, 20 bell peppers, 293 green beans, one broccoli crown and two months of baby greens picked almost daily. And the garden isn't finished yet. Last time I checked, there were still a few peppers and at least 100 plum tomatoes in various stages of ripening.