Belfast Telegraph

So, how does your sunflower measure up against this big yellow beauty (and our Linda, who's little smaller)?

How many Lindas is your helianthus annuus? Can you beat this reader's Bloomin' Marvellous 73-incher?

By Linda Stewart

Belfast Telegraph readers have sown their seeds - and now we want to see the results.

Thousands of free packets of sunflower seeds were given away by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this year at the outset of our Bloomin' Marvellous sunflower competition.

And here's our first entry – a magnificent 73-inch bloom grown by M&S customer assistant Stewart O'Hara (35) in his beautiful east Belfast courtyard garden.

Stewart only grew sunflowers for the first time last year and it didn't quite work out, but this year he has really cracked the technique.

"Last year was the first time I planted sunflowers – it was a quirky birthday present. This year I grew them early and they've become beasts," he says.

"There are about 15 in total. A lot of them are finishing now, but there are some little ones. I'm told if you cut them they keep coming, so I keep cutting them.

"It's hard to get them to stay up because they keep falling over.

"If you plant them in pots they tend to go over – the pots are alright, but they are better planted in the ground."

Sunflowers aren't native to the UK, but they're becoming a key part of our gardens in summer thanks to their huge size and glorious appearance.

Some of us have fond memories of pitting our gardening skills against fellow pupils in our school days in the ubiquitous sunflower growing competition – so hopefully our Belfast Telegraph competition will evoke some nostalgic feelings.

So if you think your sunflower can beat Stewart's, show it off! We want to see how your sunflowers are getting on and how they measure up to the rest of our entries.

Just measure your sunflower, take a photo and send it in. Include your name, address, phone number, email address, the height of your tallest sunflower and a photo.

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson says: "We all love sunflowers because they bring such vivid colour to our gardens and that's why we're celebrating the sunflower in our latest gardening drive. We hope you get the most out of your free seeds."

Either email your entry to sunflowers@belfasttelegraph.co.uk or post it to Linda Stewart at Belfast Telegraph, 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1DN by September 8 – but we do want to see how they're getting on before that so send them in.

The common sunflower (helianthus annuus) is thought to have been domesticated for the first time in Mexico, around 2,600BC, after crops were found at a dig site in Tabasco. The flower has secured fame in the art world as the subject of Van Gogh's Sunflowers series of paintings. And during the late 19th century, the flower was used as the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement.

Send us a snap of your specimen ... and win a digital camera!

Linda Stewart, our environment correspondent, is 5 foot 2 inches tall. The first sunflower entered in our competition featured today measures 6 foot 1 inch — that works out at 1.15 Lindas!

So how does your helianthus annuus measure up? Can you grow a sunflower that is two Lindas tall, or even three? Show us how your sunflower is getting on, including your name, address, phone number, email address, the height of your tallest flower and a photo.

Either email your entry to sunflowers@belfasttelegraph. co.uk or post it to Linda Stewart at Belfast Telegraph, 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1DN for a chance to win one of three Fujifilm Finepix digital cameras.

Linda will be heading out to visit some of the more impressive entries in Northern Ireland’s gardens. The final closing date is September 8 so keep us updated.

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