Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Sunflower cultivation a growing industry, so here's another tall tale

How many Lindas is your helianthus annuus?

So, did our stunning sunflower competition yesterday inspire you?

Well, here are some impressive specimens, grown at Tubby's Farm near Hillsborough by Vanessa and Michael Magowan.

The pair have been growing the gorgeous flowers for five years now and the blossoms are the inspiration behind Sunflowerfest, which will be hosted by the farm later this month and will be headlined by The Orb.

Bees were hard at work round the glorious blossoms when we visited, taking advantage of a hot burst of sunshine after torrential rain.

And one sunflower has reached an impressive 63 inches in height, just one inch taller than the Belfast Telegraph's environment correspondent Linda Stewart.

Vanessa says they have been growing the beautiful blossoms in order to sell them as individual blooms or to restaurants as floral arrangements.

"We used to sell them out of the back of a van in Holywood – they were a big hit on the Lisburn Road and in Holywood," she said. "There is an international guerrilla sunflower planting day on May 1 and we gave out free seeds for people to get involved.

"The instructions just say 'throw and stand back'!

"People like them – they are really quirky.

"The idea was to bring this symbol of health and happiness to our urban areas."

Linda Stewart (left) admires Vanessa Magowan's sunflowers at her farm outside Hillsborough
Linda Stewart measures the sunflowers at Stewart O'Hara's home in Belfast

Sunflowers aren't native to the UK, but they're becoming popular in our gardens 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 sponsored sunflower competition – so hopefully our Belfast Telegraph contest will evoke some nostalgic feelings.

If you think your sunflower can beat Vanessa'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.

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 go ahead and send them in.

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson said: "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."

Background

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.

How many Lindas is your sunflower?

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 over the next few weeks to visit some of the more impressive entries in Northern Ireland’s gardens.

The final closing date is September 8 so keep us updated.

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

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