The Mighty Sunflower!

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Although I grew up in a farming area of Missouri I did not pay much attention to sunflowers. It was not until years later when I went off to take a cooking glass in the central part of France that I fell in love with the fields and fields of Turn Sol  ( meaning turn to the sun- the french name for sunflowers) that their big graphic faces began to fascinate me. Perhaps seeing the huge volume of brilliant yellow in fields after field is what finally caught my eye. I could envision the  slightly mad  Vincent Van Gogh  gazing out at those same fields and expressing  his fascination in his iconic painting of them. Whatever,  since that time they have been a part of my gardening and flower decorating  lexicon. I used to grow lots of different varieties but as I started to spend late summers in Aspen it seemed a waste to grow something that I never saw bloom. Until this year, when  I decided that once again I would plant them because along with old fashioned hollyhocks they just belonged  in my garden even on a limited bases. I have  recently changed my travel pattern a bit to see my summer garden as well and when I was there last week they were just starting to bloom. The  focus of my gardens at Weatherstone  these past years have been  spring and early summer blooms when I am there.  But these last two years I have once again started planting my beloved dahlias, sunflowers,rudbeckias, cosmos and zinnias which I encourage my mother to take to the local retirement center in CT. Then I feel that these livery summer stars are not going to waste.

I think I have written about the fact that I do not have a garden in Aspen—-Weatherstone is so labor intensive that I want to be” garden free” in the mountains and I merely let mother nature be the gardener –other then a few wild flowers my friend Simon sprinkles out amongst the aspen forest directly next to the house. So where do I buy my flowers?—– at the local grocery— so pickings are slim unless the summer farmers market occasionally has something.


Above is mother nature’s garden of sunflower type blooms in the mountains of colorado.


My new small crop of sunflowers in the vegetable garden at Weatherstone—the brown ones have not started to bloom as yet but I love how tall they get —-makes me feel like a kid!!


The veggie garden in CT. when I arrived home last week.



I took this photo of the back of a sunflower-isn’t it beautiful the detail on the back as well as the front –nature is the best designer ever!!!!

In Aspen I love using sunflowers for easy and instant decoration—here the grocery story specials for a late August dinner in the mountains IMG_0430


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Above  and below the big room at Westbury in Colorado.



While I normally use sunflowers alone they mix well with other flowers as well. To create some large volume in the double height ceiling living room at Westbury I mix a sprinkling of sunflowers with the changing Aspen leaves for a September party.


A matching big bouquet on a side table flanked by apples and leaves.


Above and below: for the dining tables, two 60″ rounds, I mixed sunflowers and gerber daisies from the grocery with dahlias which I did get from a farmer in Grand Junction. Then surrounded these bouquets with Meyer lemons and lemon leaves also from the grocery.



Besides the obvious use of the sunflower in decoration the mighty sunflower has been a source of inspiration for painters, textile designers, and jewelers. One of the most beautiful               objects designed by the incredible Jean Schlumberger is the magnificent sunflower in a terra cotta pot. I wish I had a side view photo to show the beauty of the movement of this amazing piece but you can view it on line.

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Sunflower in a terracotta pot designed by Jean Schlumberger 1960

And finally ” my ” sunflowers as I am trying learn to watercolor by copying  from the master botanical painter Alexander Marshall( c. 1620-1682).


c.roehm after A. Marshall


c. roehm after A. Marshall

Artist from all time have learned by copying the masters—now I am getting ready to spread my wings and do an original painting of sunflowers from my garden -wish me luck! —-cr

Off to Charleston next week to do finishing touches to Chisholm House  finally the chinoiserie fireplace surround is installed and being painted—- so news on that front to come–see you soon.














38 thoughts on “The Mighty Sunflower!

      • I too would love to see & purchase your botanicals. I just recently feel in love with Sunflowers when I received a bouquet during my chemo treatment. CR, you are a gifted spirit! Thanks for sharing. With gratitude, Katie Mahaney

  1. As ever,glorious photos of wonderful and exquisite arrangements that brighten the day.

  2. I am so “in awe” of your brilliant talent. Your blogs are so inspiring. I just purchased three of
    your books. They are nothing short of incredible works of art. Bravo to you and your extreme
    talent. Thank you for sharing your many talents with all of us who view your work.

    Donna Chappel
    Donna Chappel Interiors

    • Donna you are so kind to say that I always wish I were better at everything that interest me—-thanks for the words of encouragement–carolyne

  3. I too am fascinated with the back of flowers! They are often just as wonder some as the faces! I took some beautiful shots of the backs of candy pink hibiscus when I was in Florida last year. As always, your photos are gorgeous!

  4. Beautiful! And you’re adding watercolorist to your already extended resume; that is amazing Carolyne! I was in Charleston few weeks ago and I noticed some blue ceramic or porcelain pots decorating the Chisholm House garden; and I’m looking forward to those pictures.

    Cheers and Stay blessed as always.


  5. Just beautiful. I have a special affinity for sunflowers. They remind me of my mom who passed away 7 years ago. Each sunflower face reminds me of the happiness in her eyes. She loved them. too. Your copies of the master are wonderful. Congratulations!!

  6. Just love your sunflower arrangements. Such a pop of happy colour. I too have seen the fields of ‘happy yellow faces’ in France and marveled at their beauty, especially in abundance. Enjoy the end of your Summer, here in Sydney we are happy to be at the end of our Winter! Look forward to more Charleston pictures and your wonderful inspiration.

  7. Dear Carolyne,

    Wow for the red animal print couch,
    double wow for the explosion of sunflowers and golden aspen leaves,
    and triple double wow for your glorious watercolor paintings!

    I enjoy so much how you weave together the threads of your growing up and the things that inspire you with your creative designs and willingness to try new things — like painting.

    This is a very happy and exciting posting. Thanks for sharing the end of summer with us.


  8. Love the sunflower photos, I have a large bouquet in my kitchen, and In my garden I have a texas native perennial sunflower that is called Swamp Sunflower that is 10-12 ft tall covered in those lovely blooms……..

  9. I cannot wait for your posts because they are so spectacular!! I love all you do. Your style is a perfect combination of elegant and comfortable all at the same time. I want to walk into the photos of your rooms ,cozy up in a chair and slowly let colors, textures the sheer beauty of it all sink in. Thank you for taking the time and putting forth all the effort to bring us so much beauty and happiness.
    Terry Benske

  10. This post made me smile. Your observation was spot on; the back of a sunflower is a visual delight in itself. Your arrangement of the sunflowers, aspen leaves (?) and apples on the console invites contemplation. In my youth I used to ramble the woods and fields in the fall and bring home such priceless treasures and set them upon my hearth. Thank you for sharing.

  11. …there is simply nothing better than to open a new post from you…it’s such a lift….bright and beautiful…how very girted you are, Carolyne. M Goldenberg

  12. This is an absolutely gorgeous post! Such inspiration in these beautiful blooms. I saw some at the market this week and walked right past but your arrangements have inspired me to create an arrangement for my kitchen table. Thank you!
    And I second the motion…you should sell prints of your watercolors, they are divine!

  13. Carolyne,
    Once again a wonderful post. I think what I like best is that you start with one subject and yet inspire others with other objects or photographs that you include in them. I am never going to have the freedom of planting these in Arizona. Roses are tough enough. But, I was inspired by the rooms you showed in your home and the choice of colors. I particularly liked the “red leopard print sofa” and the sofa which is covered in brown materials with fern leaves setting off the green in the chairs. Would you mind telling me who the manufacturer is. I do not plan on choosing the same fabric in can lead me in the direction of knowing where to look i.e. manufacturer.
    Your water colors are beautiful. Please say you’ve been painting since a wee child of two? You have steady hands mine would result in “what does this image say to you/”.
    Thank you again. Adrian C. Markocki

    • Hi Adrian,
      Once again thank you for your email. The fern fabric is from Scalamandre in NYC. It comes in linen which is what the slip covers are made of ( The leopard is the winter version and for the summer I had slipcovers made in the fern pattern) but it also comes in an outdoor fabric that I make table cloths out of for out door entertaining. It comes in three color ways the tan I used inside, I used the green combo for outside and there is a white background that I love but with six dogs bouncing around on the furniture it will never work in my house. best carolyne

  14. Sunflowers, the happy flowers! Our daughter was recently married on a ranch in Ojai, California. The welcome dinner was a souther BBQ bedecked with red checked table cloths and huge clusters of sun flowers. The seats were bales of hale covered with super colorful Aztec blankets. It was a happy and fun! Thanks, once again, for your stellar presentation of life’s simple pleasures.

  15. As always, love your posts and fabulous photos. And, am impressed with your watercolor too! I have a question about your sofa though. Last year I bought a Century sofa, in a similar style. I had it filled with down around foam cores, but the top cushions always looked like they didn’t have enough fill in them. The cushions flattened, creased, and sort of folded up on themselves. I was not happy with the response from the company. Your sofa looks so full and plump! What’s inside the cushions?

    • HI Diane —I wish I could answer your question but I really don’t know. My sofas were custom made over 20 years ago by a company called Deangeles ( not sure this is how to spell their name or if they are still in business because now I use a man named Luther Quintana) Anyway, one always groans at the prices but both companies sofas and chairs last a life time. Are the seat cushions separate? If so you might be able to have them opened and make new fillers. just a thought sorry I cannot be more helpful.

  16. Love LOVE the sunflowers mixed with Aspen leaves and apples! Such saturated color for an autumnal dinner party! I eagerly await each post on your blog!

  17. Carolyne, is there anything you cannot do to perfection? What an inspiration you are to all who love the beautiful and the genuine. In a world of spin and illusion, you are the real deal, a genius spinning her inimitable illusions. Bless you for your endless encouragement of example. Italians have that word, sprezzatura, the art of making the difficult look effortless. Please keep your sprezzatura going.

    • Hi M.T.
      That is one of the nicest things any one has said to me. You made my day!!!! I now have a new favorite word

  18. Your watercolors are amazing – no one would believe that you just started trying this out. My Mom is a 93 year old popular Missouri artist and I’ve been showing her some of your books recently re: decorating and cooking but this will interest her even more. She worked @ Steinberg @ Wash U. in the 70’s and questioned her own talent while there. Thank goodness she got back to believing in herself as an artist after that. Can’t wait to see more of Charleston. Kim in Webster Groves

    • Thank you, I spent four years and endless hours in Steinberg Hall in the early 70’s as well. Unfortunately, for my newly found interest in watercolor I never lifted a paint brush as I studied fashion there. Wish I had started painting much earlier! cr

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  20. If, as Diana Vreeland once said, “the most important thing in life is the continual renewal of inspiration”, then clearly
    this blog is the place where it can be found.

    The fearlessness of your Charleston Project tops the list of course–who else on this planet would have the daring to adapt a chinoiserie chimney piece from Claydon House?—but the list of visual stimulants covers a very wide range. Your approach to floral arrangement is in a class by itself. In this instance, sunflowers are taken into another realm—juxtaposed with unlikely
    materials such as silver or pewter. Staggeringly beautiful. But what really bowled me over was your watercolors. Knocked me flat.

    • Dear Toby, Thank you so very much for your generous comments, I am working on a new flower/ gardening book and I m including some watercolors of my flowers, so thank you for the encouragement—-i keep asking myself should or shouldn’t I put them in best carolyne

  21. I love the way you captured the beauty of such an understated flower. So beautiful as always. What kind of camera do you use Carolyne? I have a Canon Rebel and enjoy photography. Just curious.
    Love how your livingroom in Aspen looks with the vibrant flowers.
    Love it!
    Lisa Mercado-Fernandez

    • Hi Lisa,
      for the blog I use my point and shoot camera which is the cannon G15. for my books I use a cannon 5d Mark ll.. best, carolyne

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