Belfast Telegraph

My mighty sunflower down to magic beans, says little Sarah (4)

By Allan Preston

"Magic beans" found by a four-year-old girl are the secret to giant sunflowers turning heads in Belfast.

Sarah Baines took sunflower seeds to the Castlereagh home of her grandfather Maurice Turner (74), and after just adding water the plants have reached a towering 8ft 4ins.

"She brought the seeds round and in the ground they went; it's beyond my belief how they've grown," said Mr Turner.

"I might need a saw when I eventually have to cut them down.

"I have to look up at them and I'm just short of 6ft. She picked a packet of seeds up from a supermarket and said 'we have to plant these Granda', and that was it, away they went.

"The rest was just adding water on a regular basis. It must be magic beans she found!"

He added: "I wouldn't say I'm a gardener, definitely not, as long as the grass is short and the watering can is handy, that would be about it.

"Maybe it's our imagination, but we've seen a couple of cars go past the house slowing down and the odd person pointing at them. We had about six or seven flowers at the start, but the size they were getting, we had to take some of them out."

Sarah's father Brian Baines said: "I couldn't believe it myself, it's amazing just to see the size of them. She's been so excited."

Gardener Alan Mercer from Hillmount Nursery in Belfast said: "It's absolutely incredible for Sarah to get her sunflowers so high. I've actually seen a lot of this generational gap where grandparents and grandkids get involved in gardening together."

Passing on his tips for the next sunflower season, he said: "Probably the best thing to do is to start with the seeds in March or April, plant them in small pots and just grow them on your kitchen windowsill till they're about 12 inches tall.

"It has to be warm enough outside to wear a T-shirt before you move them to the garden, around May.

"I would feed them with tomato feed every week if you want them to grow really tall.

"Getting a nice sheltered spot and a support stick will also help them along."

In August 2014 the Guinness Book of Records verified the world's tallest sunflower at 30ft 1ins, grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer in Karst in Germany.

But at a hardy 8ft 4ins, is the impressive effort by Sarah and her grandfather currently the tallest sunflower in Northern Ireland?

If your blooms have reached even higher, photos can be sent to

Belfast Telegraph


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