Anyone who has read my previous blogs will know my plan to have had a sunflower bed this year. A plan that I’m pleased to say saw some success in it’s realisation.
I wanted to grow my own from seed rather than buy young plants, I think perhaps I was trying to recapture my childhood or something, but anyway, grow them from seed is what I did.
I found a fantastic mail order seed company (www.seedaholic.com if anyone is interested), and I ordered a massive amount of seeds, including several varieties of sunflower. These were:
- Helianthus Annus “Kong”
- Helianthus “Giant Single Yellow”
- Helianthus Annus “Prado Red”
- Helianthus Annuus “Autumn Beauty”
- Helianthus Annuus “Big Smile”
- Helianthus Annuus “Giant Sungold”
- Helianthus Annuus “Ruby Eclipse”
I had no idea what to expect, but had chosen the varieties based on colour, eventual height and differences. I wanted various heights, I didn’t want everything to be a monster. I wanted flowers that had different looks and different colours, not just a bed of yellow. With this selection I made a good choice it turns out, there was plenty of variety.
I planted 8 seeds of each variety at the beginning of the season and waited. The first to show through were Kong, as expected this was the one that grew the fastest, it wasn’t however the first to bloom. I had various luck with Germination, all 8 of the Kong germinated, and 7 of the 8 Prado Reds, however the rest were about 50-60% success rate, apart from dwarf ones, Big Smile, where only two germinated, And Ruby Eclipse, where 4 germinated, but 3 of those withered away within a few days leaving only 1 healthy plant.
However I still had 32 plants in total. I was happy with that.
I waited for them all to grow to about 6 inches plus in height and then I planted them out in to the bed.
I lost two straight away to slugs, but amazingly all the rest survived.
The pleasure of the first bloom went to Prado Red. Reaching a height of around 1.2-1.5m in height, these were classed as dwarf sunflowers. All six of these reached maturity and in early June they started to flower. Even our neighbours commented on the striking colours. They really stood out amongst the green foliage of the larger plants growing around them. I dead headed through out the season and currently they are still flowering. The flowers are smaller and coming out on the lower, thinner stems, but they’re still going.
Next up came Giant Sungold. For a while I forgot what this one was called and kept calling it Teddy Bear, but I was wrong. It is similar in looks, but it is much taller in height coming in at nearer 2m. These were a lovely addition to Prado Reds, and gave strong bursts of bright yellow to the bed, contrasting with the reds and the green foliage. Again, they are still in flower through September and have a few more buds still to open. Like the Prado Reds, it is now the lower blooms that are in flower, but there are still some of the bigger main flowers out in full, though I suspect they don’t have much more life in them.
On to the giants – Kong. The biggest Sunflowers I have ever grown. Ok, so it didn’t reach the record breaking height over 7m, the tallest one I’ve got, which is only just about to flower now has come in at 3m 30cm. The rest were all around 2.5-2.8m, so still not bad. I did lose a couple of these. I hadn’t really thought about the stems and how thick they would be. I used bamboo canes to support them and tied them on. It took me a while to notice that the stems had gotten so thick that they had grown over the ties, I had no choice but to leave them in. On those that hadn’t, I removed the ties and added new ones around the thicker stems. We get strong winds in our garden, I have learnt that bamboo canes with 2.5m sunflowers on them don’t do very well. On a night of really strong wind the plants that had engulfed the ties all snapped in half at the point of where the tie was, the others survived but at a 45 degree angle as the canes just didn’t support. The leaves on Kong are like elephant ears, they are enormous and act like sails in strong winds. So I had to pop out and get some proper tree stakes – happy to say that these have held them up even through the horrendous storms we’ve had recently. Kong is magnifent – the main flower heads are immense – bigger than my own head (photo included below to prove this), I’ve deadheaded through the season, and again, it is still flowering and still has buds to open.
I’m not going to talk about all of the sunflowers in detail, but I do want to talk about
Ruby Eclipse. This is possibly the only one I won’t do again next year. I have liked it, but it isn’t what we want in the garden. It’s a very pretty Sunflower, very striking and does stand out. However, the point of our garden is to attract bees, that was always are goal when we set out on this journey. So, not only did only one of these survive after germinating, it turns out that this is a pollen-less sunflower. It has stood unloved by insects. If you are looking for pollenless flowers I would recommend this as a beautiful plant, but for us it’s taking up space that something else could have. So I will be replacing this with another variety next year. It was my mistake, I didn’t read the description thoroughly. I wanted to point it out though as I did love it’s colouring.
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of Autumn Beauty, I’ve got five that haven’t yet come in to flower, but the buds are just beginning to open.
The show that I’ve had from the sunflowers has given me and my husband so much pleasure throughout the summer and into Autumn. I imagine that some of these will still be in flower in to October, although with the dead-heading they are losing height somewhat, but that’s ok.
This whole bed was done on a budget. The Sunflower seeds cost me £10.35, and then I paid a further £5 for four packets of wild seeds for Bees & Butterflies. So this bed cost me just over £15. The other planting around it was all from last year, such as the perennial sunflowers, chrysanthemums and marigolds.
Seriously, for £15 what more could you want?
And just to prove the size of the Kong flower head vs a largish human head…