Sunflower dame Carol Beekman, right, and activities staff member at Stanford Place Mandy Truman enjoy the 16 varieties of sunflower planted in Stanford Place’s north courtyard this Spring, and celebrated with an event called Sunflower Symphony on Thursday, Sept. 7. — Adam Kveton

Sunflowers from the heart in Parksville

Senior’s passion becomes social event at Stanford Place

There were about 100 people at Stanford Place on Thursday, Sept. 7, beaming at sunflowers small and tall (some over 10 feet) during the residence’s Sunflower Symphony event.

“It never fails — when people see the size of them (the sunflowers), everybody smiles,” said Carol Beekman, honorary sunflower dame and the inspiration for the occasion.

The display featured 16 varieties of sunflowers, planted by Beekman and cultivated with the help of volunteers and activities staff at Stanford.

The plants were celebrated with a harp performance, art created by residents, a school group that attended the event, and more.

Asked how the event got started, activities staff member Mandy Truman, pointed to Beekman — the lady wearing the sunflower crown.

Beekman said she’s been a gardener for decades, and just isn’t comfortable without some dirt under her fingernails.

Sunflowers in particular hold a special place for her, she said.

“They are such a great flower. Everybody recognizes them,” she said.

The different varieties planted in Stanford’s north courtyard served to expand some people’s idea of what the plant can look like.

Some of the plants had flowers so big, they required a stalk several inches thick to keep them up, and still some needed extra support.

Another variety had bright orange petals rather than yellow.

The seeds were sown on May 3, and after Beekman put some buckets in the hands of onlookers, she had a group of volunteers to help out as well , she said.

Despite being in a wheelchair, Beekman said she wasn’t going to let the device keep her from gardening.

“I swore to myself I would not be defined by my wheelchair,” she said.

Asked what she thought of the event she inspired, Beekman said, “I think it’s terrific. It’s one of the nicest socials I’ve ever been involved with.”

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