When I cruised through the catalogs last year, I did not stop on dwarf sunflower pages. A lot of the varieties I saw were those I had planted before. Then I forgot about dwarf sunflowers until it was too late to order from a catalog. While at a local nursery, a rather expensive one (are there really any inexpensive ones?) I picked up (yes, it was purchased) a packet of Little Dorrit. There was nothing little about them.
First, I find during writing this post that Little Dorrit was a serial novel by Charles Dickens about debtors prisons, reversal of fortune, and newfound wealth. Not so with the sunflowers.
They were planted in the usual sunny spot along the front walk to the house. They ended up taller than most dwarf sunflowers of my past experience at 4-feet in height (120 cm) when they were upright. The flowers were a whopping 11-inches in diameter (30 cm). This puts the blooms at a normal sunflower size. So, the plant height was dwarf, but not the flowers.
Each stalk produced one bloom - no multiples on this one. They grew fast, flowered, and were done. When the flowers reached their full size, they bent downward, preventing anyone from visually enjoying them. The flowers were balanced atop a large central seed head, with small petals arranged around it. The head of seeds will definitely end up feeding the cardinals, but did not make a great visual impression. Unfortunately, you must take my word - the photo was taken after Little Dorrit bloomed.
I found that some dwarfs will produce multiple blooms, and some do not. The ones with the most attractive blooms and larger petals tend to have the smaller seed heads, while the others are for the birds. Here is a quick trip through the varieties tried and written about in past years.
|Burpee Big Blush|
Multi-bloom, attractive bloom
Great blooms, multi stem
Inconsistent height, bloom
Truly dwarf, good bloom
Large seed head
|For The Record:|
Well drained soil with organic amendments
Small amount of fertilizer
Leaves ravaged by grasshopper or slugs
Blooming: cosmos, echinacea, mexican zinnia, zinnias, lavender, rudbeckia, phlox, cleome, nicotiana
Harvested: 1 pepper, 6 cucumbers, 1 zucchini