They are back and nearly at the peak of their pulchritude. Grab your cameras and set your sights on the fields of sunflowers lending their brilliant color to northern Harford County.
The perky yellow blooms that dominated vistas throughout Jarrettsville, Norrisville, White Hall and Madonna last year have returned. Sunflowers are standing tall across about 300 acres of farm fields, and, if last year is any gauge, hundreds will stop and take in their beauty.
"There is already a lot of yellow showing," said Nancy Rose, matriarch of the family that sowed sunflowers across their Clear Meadow Farm. "The hot weather this summer has brought the flowers on quickly. They are really coming up everywhere we planted them."
The Roses harvested wheat in early July and replanted several fields with sunflowers. Sound farm practice means planting in alternate fields from a year ago, but all are in the vicinity. The flowers typically bloom within a few months into long yellow petals encircling deep brown, seed-filled heads.
"They are so pretty that it is hard not to stop and look," said Rose, or, as she is known to neighbors, Mrs. Sunflower. "You can't just ride by. Sunflowers are just energizing, like sunshine."
Sunflowers are native to North America, but planted around the world. The latest crop records in the U.S. show a harvest of 3.42 billion pounds. Harford's fields are strikingly visible on well-traveled roads and seem to go on for miles.
All too soon, the flowers droop and dry. By December, the family will harvest their last crop of the season, the one that yields oil and as much as 1,000 pounds of seed per acre.
After a story and captivating photographs ran in The Baltimore Sun a year ago, "people just went nuts," Rose said.
"We had calls for directions from across the country, hundreds of hits on our website and more people than I can count in our driveway," she said. "Photographers started calling again in January to see when was the best time to shoot."
One woman called a Sun reporter at Thanksgiving, asking for directions to the sunflowers, but it was far too late for a thing of such fleeting beauty.
Now it's sunflower reprise and Mrs. Sunflower is offering a heads-up. The most florid fields are at Jarrettsville Pike and Hess Road, Baldwin Mill Road at Route 23 and Route 439 about three miles east of Interstate 83, she said.
"I don't want anyone to miss them," Rose said.
By all accounts, mostly from neighbors, sightseers and photographers are already flocking to the area. There are also disappointing reports of sunflower snatchers. Neighbors have spotted them leaving the fields with armloads of pilfered flora. Photos are fine, but poaching is prohibited, she said.
"This is a farmer's crop, not something people can cut down," Rose said. "I wouldn't go into your yard and pick flowers."
But, she added, "By all means, come and look. Sunflowers will pamper your subconscious."