Daphne Ledward, Garden Planner, Gardener, Author and Broadcaster



Spalding Guardian Gardening 15 September 2011 I had an e-mail last week, enquiring whether it was unusual for a sunflower to bear multi-headed blooms. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Although the giant forms, usually planted to see how tall they will grow, generally produce one big flower, sometimes the stems will divide to give a head of several smaller ones; if the growing tip is damaged or pinched out before the main bud forms, you can often achieve this effect.

For ornamental purposes, the single stemmed, giant sunflower has largely been succeeded by one of the large number of multi-branched cultivars, not only in yellow, but also in shades ranging from lemon to mahogany. Next year, if you’re not trying to break the record for the tallest sunflower (currently standing at 25ft 5.4in), try growing ‘Evening Sun’ or ‘Black Magic’, but if you’re looking for something of a more modest height, consider planting ‘Sunburst Dwarf ’or ‘Little Leo’. If sown early under glass, they will flower at the same time as other bedding plants, and, if dead-headed, will continue their display well into the autumn. They also make excellent cut flowers, as those of us living locally will know from the crops now grown in South Holland.

The other bonus of growing sunflowers in the garden is, of course, for bird seed. Although you won’t be able to supply all the needs of all your garden birds throughout the winter, there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in hanging up a sunflower head you’ve grown yourself and seeing how ornithologically popular you’ve become almost instantly.

The last week or so, many of us in Surfleet have been putting their thinking caps on to produce the most weird and wonderful scarecrow for the competition to be judged this week, ahead of the Celebrate Surfleet Village Fete next Sunday where the results will be announced. A relatively new venture, Celebrate Surfleet promises (weather permitting) to provide a day of fun for everyone from three to a hundred and three (and beyond); this year there is a new feature in that Fen Bank Greyhound Sanctuary have relocated their autumn show to this event. This is a fun dog show that all doggy shapes and sizes can enter at £1 an entry; there is also a special section for greyhounds after the main judging. The judge is Mr Alan Redpath, one of the vets at the Kirton Veterinary Surgery – if I know Alan, the show will be hilarious.

Please bring along your gardening queries – I shall, not surprisingly, be found amongst the dogs!

Daphne Ledward

This piece originally appeared in the Spalding Guardian