Belfast Telegraph

Tom blows us away with this windswept wonder from east

Sunflower success in very exposed location

Belfast Telegraph's Linda Stewart with Tom McClean
Belfast Telegraph's Linda Stewart with Tom McClean
Linda with Margaret Hanna's bloom
Linda with Stewart O'Hara's bloom
Linda with Stephen Melville's bloom

By Linda Stewart

It's a lofty, windy location overlooking Belfast - yet reader Tom McClean has done the impossible and reared a huge sunflower in his exposed garden.

The retired schoolteacher first tried growing sunflowers last year, but with nothing like as much success.

This year his tallest sunflower has soared to a massive 8ft 11ins despite the exposed nature of the garden in Gilnahirk.

And these are the first sunflowers in our Bloomin' Marvellous competition to get exposure on YouTube, adding to around 50 other videos posted by social media fan Tom.

"They were grown from seed and I planted them in a wee tray - and after they got to about a foot tall, I planted them out," he said.

"You have to stake them and you have to tie them, otherwise they'll get blown to bits.

"It's a very, very windy site. It's not the best site in the world for sunflowers – I should have grown them up against a wall, but I never thought they would grow so high.

"I have a bit of a vegetable garden and I use well-rotted cow manure, so that seems to have worked.

"They're bright and colourful and everybody remarks on them. And they're good for the goldfinches when they go to seed – I also grow teasels and they attract the goldfinches as well."

Self-confessed YouTube fanatic Tom has posted a number of videos of the sunflowers alongside a host of eclectic topics ranging from rare motorcycles to school closures. "I filmed the sunflowers at various stages and there were some snakeshead fritillaries which were growing close to them," he said.

"I do the videos for a few friends. But on a dark winter's night when its pelting down with rain I can go on YouTube and see what my summer was like!"

This is one of the tallest we've seen so far, but we have seen a taller one that reached 9ft 6ins.

If you think your sunflower can beat these recordbeaters, 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 photograph.

Either email your entry to 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.

Sunflowers are 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 great status 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 to enter

So how does your sunflower measure up? This one is 8ft 11ins, 45 inches taller than our environment correspondent Linda Stewart, who is 5ft 2ins – making it 1.73 Lindas! So can you grow a sunflower two Lindas tall, or even three? For the chance to win one of three digital cameras, show us how your sunflower is getting on, including your name, phone number, email address, the height of yourflower and photo. Linda will be out over the next few weeks, measuring the best specimens.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph