A sunflower paradise only a short drive away at Bowden SunMaze
By Cassie Weiss, Features Editor
There is nothing more telling of the end of summer than the big yellow blossoms of looming sunflowers. Growing tall over fences, popping up in grocery stores and flower shops alike, these glorious plants stand tall and force their way through the wind and rain that begin to signal the transition into autumn.
Sunflower season is my favourite season — not just because these flowers add brightness to the gloomy autumn days, but simply because they are one of the last living pieces of plant life to survive the frost that inevitably comes as winter approaches. They also make great backdrops for anyone looking to improve their Instagram game.
Calgary is home to many plots of sunflowers, but my favourite selection of flowers actually isn’t even in the big ol’ city — it’s just an hour away in a small town called Bowden. Last weekend I made the short trip, music blasting, windows down, to get lost in a maze of the gentle giants and watch the sun set on their yellow petals.
Boasting over 100,000 smiling sunflower faces, the Bowden SunMaze — traditionally called Eagle Creek Farms — has been in the area for generations. Although they haven’t always planted sunflowers, that is one of the attractions the farm is most known for today.
Featuring acres of both vegetables and flowers you can pick yourself, you could spend hours with your hands in the dirt. Carrots, peas, beans, potatoes, beets — you name it — can be harvested by your own hands and purchased to take home.
If you have ever harvested your own veggies to take home and roast up to serve to your family, you know how delicious and underrated this simple task is. And the best part? Eagle Creek Farms is completely certified organic, so not only are you physically seeing where your food comes from, but you can be certain it is free from herbicides and pesticides, too.
Okay, so you’ve driven out to the farm, you’ve filled a plastic bag with carrots and potatoes, you’ve quickly stopped by the petting zoo to give some love to the pigs and the goats, and now you are onto the sunflowers — or the corn.
Did you know that Eagle Creek Farms does not harvest its mazes for feed? According to their website, www.sunmaze.ca, they use the corn stocks to mulch paths around the farm, and they leave the sunflowers in the fields to feed the birds. Kinda neat and wholesome if you ask me.
But until about late September, when the morning frosts have finally done their damage, these sunflower fields hold pathway upon pathway that children and adults alike find themselves wandering — looking for that perfect flower blossom to take a photo or two in front of.
Heck, I took so many photos of sweet little bumble bees on those perfect blossoms, that I could create a photo book of that alone. To be honest, I spent more time talking to the bees and the flowers than I did to the people I went to the maze with. They still had fun though, so I wasn’t too worried.
The thing about sunflower mazes — be it Eagle Creek Farms or ones closer to Calgary like the Calgary FarmYard — is that they all have a unique aura about them. Everyone there is in their own little world, frolicking from flower to flower, making friends with the bees and getting lost among the yellow and green.
It may not be specifically an autumn tradition, but it still calls out to autumn just the same. People want to find sadness in the cooling of the summer days, but sunflowers are proof that the end of summer doesn’t have to be a negative thing. And once the sunflowers have laid their heads to rest, corn mazes stand strong even into October — although they have a less flowery vibe and more so just make you think of the turkey you’ll be eating at Thanksgiving.
Maze or no maze, sunflowers are magnificent flowers, and taking the time to drive out to Bowden for an afternoon will be one opportunity I can promise you won’t regret.