Another huge group of plants for late flowering, when almost everything else in finished. They're all North American natives, so just choose whatever you can find.
But here are a few facts: The Kansas State Flower, Helianthus annuus, is the granddaddy of them all, and the ancient plant that Native Americans found so useful. They used every part of the plant. And this historic species is not the giant we see in today's vegetable garden.
The “Mammoth” Sunflowers with 10 ft. tall stems and huge flowers are all hybrids. The original one grows like a small bush with flowers that look a lot like large black-eyed susans. We all know the birds love the seeds of sunflowers, but those huge seed-filled centers you see on the garden giants are another result of hybridizers at work. Most sunflowers have normal-sized centers, not gigantic dinnerplate-sized centers of seed.
Of course, there are some qualities that are common to almost all sunflowers—the golden flower, the sand-papery leaves, and a late blooming season. But the big divide is annual and perennial. The original species and all the garden giants are annuals. Most meadow gardeners prefer perennials so they'll “come back” year after year. And there are plenty of those, too.
Maximillian's Sunflower (Helianthus maxmilliani) is one of the best, but be careful. Don't plant them all over your meadow or you'll have a forest of plants that hide everything else. Plant them in clumps in the back or side of the meadow. (We sell the seed.) They'll spread by underground roots, and you'll have a lovely colony in no time. The flowers are smaller than most sunflowers, and bloom in sprays. You'll love them.
There are others, and to get a clump going, it's like the asters. You need to ask your local garden center for a recommendation for perennial sunflowers. Put them in, and you'll have a really lovely finale of color each fall forever.