By BAILEY HEINZERLING
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The sunflowers that stretch over Geraldine Rossignol’s house tower up to 15 feet above her garden, brightening up the area for neighbors.
Every year, the flowers produced in the Jubert Lane garden amaze her, she said. The sunflowers spread across the backyard and are nestled in what she calls “Mother’s Garden,” a space dedicated to her late mother, Lucy Prudente.
“I just love it,” Geraldine said. “It’s amazing to watch them grow, and the birds just love the flowers.”
The sunflowers share a view with Mainely Lobster & Seafood on Military Turnpike. A few of the employees admired her flower patch so much that they asked for permission to visit it one day after seeing Geraldine and her husband, Phil, at the restaurant.
This was the first year Geraldine planted Mother’s Garden nearer to the restaurant because Mother Nature had taken over the original garden plot, which sits just a bit closer to her house.
Neighbor Jessica Breen said she loves looking out her kitchen window and seeing Geraldine’s flowers because they brighten her day.
The couple have tended the garden together since they moved to Plattsburgh nine years ago to be near Geraldine’s twin sister, Marti Rugar.
And the sunflowers offer something more than just scenery, as the driveway is sprinkled with edible sunflower seeds, which fall from the heads of the flowers every day. Geraldine said the seeds are a favorite snack for the blue jays — and her twin sister. The fresh kernels from the flowers are shades lighter in color — and a little less salty — than what’s usually found on the shelf at the grocery store, but they’re ready to eat fresh off the plant without being roasted.
The process begins in mid-April with Geraldine planting the sunflower seeds in peat pots to let them germinate until they’re ready to be moved to her garden. Later, the plants become so strong that Phil has to use a saw to clean up the stalks. Geraldine attributes the flowers’ height to her use of Miracle-Gro potting soil.
The couple’s backyard is also home to grape vines, two apple trees, a walnut tree, raspberries bushes, beets, squash, a bunch of heirloom tomatoes, garlic and other fresh spices.
“It was in our blood,” Rugar said. “We’re Italian.”
After open-heart surgery and a knee-replacement, Geraldine had to take some time away from gardening. When she felt strong enough, she went right back to the dirt. Even though they require a lot of work, she said she loves planting flowers and will continue to do it every year as long as she can.
She credits her green thumb to her father, Charlie Prudente, who maintained his livelihood as a caretaker for an estate and taught her everything she knows about the hobby.
Creating a patch like the one the Rossignols have isn’t difficult, Geraldine said.
“It doesn’t take much space to have a garden at home. Anywhere there’s dirt, you can plant,” she said.
“If you enjoy the soil and you have the time, you can have a little bunch of beauty.”