By Connor Beach
Outside of Manor Farm there is a sign for a sunflower maze. Those who approach from Manor Road will soon see a half-acre of towering sunflowers planted by Rich and Elisa Brundige.
The Brundiges, who live in the historic house on the Huntington property, have been planting the sunflowers by hand for four years. Each year the sunflowers are planted in May, and with the help of a dedicated core of volunteers, the maze begins to take shape in the first week of August.
Rich, 40, originally from Queens, said the number of people who stop at Manor Farm to walk through the maze has been steadily increasing over the last four years.
“On any given day, I’d say we should get 30-40 people here,” Brundige said. This year the maze has attracted children and adults from as far away as Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester.
“It’s nice to see that the word is finally getting out there to people,” Brundige said.
Maintenance for the maze is an ongoing task that the Brundiges spearhead with the help of high school students from the county Department of Labor’s summer program and Boy Scouts looking for community service.
“Mainly we have two types of sunflowers here,” Brundige said. “We have the lemon queen, which is yellow, and the orange velvet queen.”
The sunflowers grow to an average of 6-8 feet; the tallest reach nearly 14 feet.
The maze provides several environmental benefits to local area. Sunflowers require minimal water to survive. “We really only need to water them in the beginning to get them going, after that you don’t really need to water them anymore,” Brundige said.
The maze also provides the perfect environment for countless bees.
“They are perfect for the pollination, you can see all the bees flying around,” Brundige said. “The bees will fly in here from almost a mile radius.”
The Brundiges are motivated to replant each year by the happiness the sunflowers bring to others. The maze’s logbook is typically filled with visitor messages reacting to the thousands of giant sunflowers.
Elisa Brundige remembered a particular woman who visited the sunflower maze with her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Before leaving the woman approached the Brundiges and thanked them for a wonderful day.
“She told us, ‘The sunflowers brought my mom back for the day,’” Rich Brundige said. “After that we decided that we had to set up the maze every year.”
The couple hopes to continue to expand the maze by increasing the number of flowers and adding new learning elements.
“Our goal is to work with another scout troop to help us get the maze to be more interactive,” Brundige said. “Hopefully by next year we will have activities that stimulate the five senses.”
Access to the maze is free, although there is a box in front for donations that help purchase the seeds that will eventually become next year’s sunflowers. The maze is open to anyone, seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset through the summer. Come fall, the maze is filled with pumpkins.
More information is available online at the Manor Farm Sunflower Maze Facebook page or at Starflowerexperiences.org.