A Sunflower Shelter

Words by
Fiona Chandler
Images by
Fiona Chandler
| January 17, 2014

From our very first cubby house under the kitchen table to a treehouse later on, the need to create a shelter is something visceral. A pull from deep within.  Along with this comes the need to dig and grow. To nurture and build, no matter how haphazardly.

As soon as children are able to amble they will create homes under trees. The bush is full of natural dwellings – shelters concealed beneath bottle brush, grevillea and banksia plants. The dense growth of lantana, with its purple and yellow flowers, allows small bodies to squirm their way underneath. Children do not notice the spiders, bits of rubbish or the scratchiness. Nor do they care if it’s a weed. It is claimed as a home for the short while they are there – The length of a brothers’ football game or a quick play in the park.

Children gravitate to trees. As they grow the dwellings move from the ground to the branches. The tree dwellings begin with ancient frangipanis flowering in summer – not too far from the ground and easy to spot. From there they move on to gums with lengthy lower limbs, fig trees in the botanic gardens, camphor laurel and pine trees in back yards and lanes.

Nature and shelter are intertwined. We feel in control, creative and safe when amongst the leaves and the branches. Even now I covet a potting shed. A place that is always sunny and warm. I desire a small space of my very own, not a grown up place but a place to sit and contemplate. So, sometimes I build a sunflower shelter in my backyard. It is not a potting shed, but it’s easy to achieve and glorious in its evolution.

How To Make A Sunflower Shelter

  • Find a patch of earth in the sun (or a couple of tin cans if you only have a balcony)
  • Plant sunflower seeds in a in a circular shape large enough to lie inside (leave room for an entry)
  • Water often
  • Take a favourite towel and some cushions, lay inside and watch the sunflower heads follow the sun
  • Take a book. I bet you won’t read it
  • Once the flowers start to droop snip their heads off
  • Put them on a windowsill and let them dry in the sun
  • Pick the seeds out and packet them for next year

Wouldn’t it be lovely if all shelters were this simple…

The collage is a collection of homegrown seeding herbs…plus bits too interesting to ignore. I usually paint and illustrate but am finding so many treasures that my nature table is overflowing and I need to incorporate them in my work. The collages only last the length of time it takes to shoot them and then they head of to the compost or are blown into the garden. I love the transience of each piece.