Next year is The Year Of The Sunflower throughout Europe and the flower seed companies are introducing some exciting new varieties. I know it may seem a little premature to be discussing them almost a year before they flower, but the best may sell out so it pays to get your order in soon – even though you won’t be sowing until spring.
The most intriguing and potentially exciting of this year’s new sunflowers is the only one developed by a home gardener and not by a plant breeding specialists. ‘Giraffe’ was developed by Victoria Wakefield who gardens at Bramdean House in Hampshire, and has been a diligent member of a number of RHS committees for many years. She has developed a number of other plants including the highly scented blushed white sweet pea, ‘Bramdean’.
Described recently in the Daily Mail as a “pensioner”, emphasising her horticultural expertise would have been more relevant! Victoria told the paper: “In September time there wasn't a lot to see, especially for children, so I decided to start growing sunflowers.
“As each year went by I used the seeds from the tallest one and planted them again the year later. I did this for 30 years until they consistently reached 17ft (just over 5m). The main reason for the plant's dependable growth is that it doesn't flower until late August or early September. People are amazed at the size of them.”
Sow the seeds in April in a sunny place and grow the plants about 60cm (2ft) apart.
You can order seed of the ‘Giraffe’ sunflower from Suttons Seeds.