"Please don't take this personally," I quietly implored my tall, slender, tousle-haired companion as we stood together in my garden, "but I doubt I'll be bothered to go and see Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers (1888) when it's here in Canberra later this year".
As The Canberra Times is always breathlessly reminding us, Van Gogh's celebrity painting is coming to the National Gallery of Australia. It is to be the superstar of the exhibition Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London, opening on November 13.
There was some chance my companion might take offence at my thinking of not going to see Sunflowers because she herself is a sunflower plant. She might have thought, unless I made myself clear, that I thought sunflowers uninteresting things for artists to paint.
"No, I find everything about you sunflowers wondrous and can see why Van Gogh found you irresistible," I gibbered to my gaunt but beautiful chum.
"It's just that there'll be queues of tourist-bogans jostling to see the painting and take selfies with it. Ugh! It'll be just a bucket-list thing for them whereas sensitive poetic aesthetes like me look to art to be deeply meaningful."
All true gardeners talk to their plants but of all the plants a gardener feels drawn to talk to, the tall sunflowers have the most magnetism.
The obvious reason for this is that, looked at anthropomorphically, tall sunflowers are superficially rather like us. Some of my present ones are about my height (I am a petite, but perfectly formed, 173 centimetres).
Then of course traditional, tall, single-flowered sunflowers are crowned by one big flower head that is easily imagined as a human head perched on the plant's neck-stalk and crowned by an unkempt aurora of tousled golden-yellow hair.
If you blur your eyes a little and use some wild imagination (of which this columnist has a superabundance), a sunflower's flower head can look uncannily like one of Andy Warhol's famous portraits of Marilyn Monroe with her mane of canary yellow hair. Then, too, for there are sunflowers with flower heads of orangutan red-orange that from a distance and through a haze can look like the head and face of windswept former prime minister Julia Gillard or of Little Orphan Annie as portrayed by spectacularly gingery child star Aileen Quinn in the classic 1982 film.
Then, too, still being anthropomorphic about sunflower plants, there is the way in which the sunflower's heliotropism (its intelligent turning of its head to follow the sun) suggests a slower, more meditative version of the ways in which humans turn their heads. When we swivel our heads at courtside to follow the back-and-forth flight of the tennis ball we are engaging in a kind of sped-up heliotropism.
A little obsessed with sunflowers (this summer I am trying to grow 11 varieties of them, for I can see sun-enduring sunflowers playing a big part in our climate-changed gardening and landscaping habits) I am reading all about them. I've just read D.J. Cashmere's ripper new essay, Coming In To Bloom, a true story of love and sunflowers, just posted online in Guernica magazine.
"At the time of writing," he rejoices, "there are 35,857 pieces of 'sunflower art' [based on Van Gogh's famous sunflower paintings] available on Etsy: paintings, posters, prints, pendants, pillows. [And the sunflower] has also carved out a place for itself within our most ubiquitous form of twenty-first century visual expression. The sunflower is one of only five flowers - along with the tulip, cherry blossom, hibiscus, and rose - that has its own emoji."
But back to my beginning, to my speech to my angular, mop-haired garden companion.
It had seemed to me (although at the time I had dismissed it as the effects of a breeze) that she had given a rustle of leafy disapproval of my haughty attitude to sharing Sunflowers with the masses. Now, suddenly, heliotropically turning to me so that we were face to face, she gave me a piece of her horticultured mind, accusing me of having too many arty-farty tickets on myself.
She referred me to an influential piece by the grand writer Julian Barnes in the London Review of Books in which as well as explaining the profundity of Van Gogh's relationship with sunflower subjects he, Barnes, has a scoff at snobs like me.
He says that to go to see Van Goghs today in museums is to mingle with "an urgent, excitable crescent of worldwide fans, iPhones aloft for the necessary selfie with Sunflowers, and they [the fans] are to be welcomed: the international reach of art should be a matter not of snobbish disapproval but rather of crowd management and pious wonder".
"Where's your pious wonder, Ian?" my floriferous interrogator wondered, looming above me now, like a scowling Marilyn Monroe.
"I think you should think again about boycotting the blockbuster. Everyone, everywhere, should leap at any chance to ogle a Van Gogh. Listen to what Barnes trumpets about him. 'No one did colour more blatantly and more unexpectedly than Van Gogh. Its blatancy gives his pictures their roaring charm. Colour, he seems to be saying: you haven't seen colour before, look at this deep blue, this yellow, this black; watch me put them screechingly side by side. Colour for Van Gogh was a kind of noise.'"
Chastened, educated, my mind opened by dialogue with nature, I have after all begun to count the sleeps until I can queue with others to marvel at the roaring charm of Sunflowers.