‘Off with their heads!’ Jen Wilson jokes as she surveys the damage to Mount Denson’s iconic sunflower maze.
Wilson says she feels like she is doubling as the Queen of Hearts these days as she tidies up what remains of the expansive sunflower garden at the farm.
She sets the freshly plucked head of seeds aside; it’s ready to be dried. This winter, she’ll be making a lot of herb-infused sunflower oil.“It hurts a little,” she said, grabbing another lopped off sunflower head, running her hand over it, pausing only for a second to admire it before feverishly pulling the florets off.
“You work so hard all year round and then the wind comes along,” said Wilson, trailing off.
“They were my babies. I grew them from seed. I watched them grow. I loved them when they were blooming,” adds Wilson.
The entrance to the maze was flattened when Dorian, a severe storm system that saw sustained high winds, substantial rainfall and left more than 400,000 customers in the dark Sept. 7, rolled into town.
She smiles wryly as she tries to make the best of an unfortunate situation.
Post-Dorian, that’s all many Maritimers can do.
Wilson, who operates the sunflower maze at Dakeyne Farm with her husband Ken Wilson, spent much of Sept. 9 and 10 cleaning up.
The weather event decimated much of the sunflower crop, scattering the petals and snapping the stalks of the cheery flowers.
Despite the hardship, Wilson said her heart goes out to the farmers who had their crops completely destroyed.
“What I feel bad for is those farmers down the Valley that lost those apples because this is not the first year that they’ve had troubles,” said Wilson, referring to news reports of farmers losing upwards of 50 per cent of their apple production.
“And then you have the blueberry producers who had a hard year last year and this year, they were down 40 per cent production and now they’ve got nothing.”
Wilson said the sunflower maze is an add-on to Dakeyne Farm’s operations. Their hay is fine, she noted.
While it’s hard to witness the storm’s devastation, Wilson said it serves as an important reminder.
“It’s sad to see a field of sunflowers that’s down but I think it’s a wonderful lesson that our food system is so fragile,” said Wilson.
“People see them as a pretty flower, (a field)... to get your photos in. But what they really are is a food crop – not just for us but for the birds and the bees, and the cows will probably eat these,” said Wilson, holding up a large sunflower head.
Wilson and her family planted about 400,000 sunflowers this year, spacing out the planting times so that the flowers would bloom throughout August and September. The storm impacted that plan, toppling the majority of sunflowers already in bloom.
But at the top of the hill, with the picturesque shoreline of Avondale and Summerville in clear view, there is still a field of plants on the cusp of blooming, even if they droop a little.
“The bees don’t seem to mind,” Wilson said, as the popular tourist destination buzzed with pollinators, not people.
The maze, which opened mid-August, will reopen this weekend for people to explore the remaining flowers, fly a kite, and get lost in the area’s natural beauty.
The maze has always been about making memories, Wilson said, and she hopes people will get lost in the moment when they stop by this weekend.
“It’s not really about the flowers; it’s about the moment of beauty that lasts just for a second and then it’s gone. I think people forget, nowadays, to stop and enjoy that brief moment because it will be gone,” said Wilson, heading back out into the maze to look over the plants that are still growing.
“We’ve forgotten, I think, to cherish that moment because we’re so busy living our lives and looking forward to the next big thing. Enjoy the moment.”
IF YOU GO
What: Dakeyne Farm Sunflower Maze
Where: 1137 Highway 1, Mount Denson, Nova Scotia
Contact: 902-790-0542; Sunflowers@DakeyneFarm.com
Cost: $10 per adult; $5 for children ages three to 12 years; free for children under three years of age. Kite rental is $5. Cash only.
Note: It is best to call ahead to ensure someone will be on site.
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