Sandy's Garden - Success with Sunflowers

Towards the end of April I began my column with the following words about sunflowers.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 8:49 am

“When I was a customer in Morrisons in Falkirk a couple of weeks ago the checkout operator drew my attention to a smallish basket containing a fair number of small green envelopes.

“Seeds of Hope,” she explained – three words which, I confess, meant nothing to me.

“Please take one,” she added. So I did, learning, when I had a look at it, that I had a small packet of the seeds of Helianthus annuus ’Sunspot’, a dwarf sunflower which thrives in a sunny spot.”

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

I finished that same column with these words. “Well, my Morrisons sunflowers have sprouted and are stretching by the day as they enjoy the April sunshine in their pot in my south-facing back garden. I have never grown sunflowers; and I look forward to being cheered up by my Seeds of Hope all summer long.”

My sunflowers have all grown to maturity and have all flowered bar one, a single example which revealed what appears to be a flaw in nature’s design.

As the bud … which is a complex cup shape … developed, it did what cups are designed to do; it collected water. But then, although its siblings were able to cope with this situation by tilting to one side, the bud of this particular plant always remained upright and just rotted.

That was the sole failure; and I have enjoyed many wonderfully bright, seriously large flowers for several weeks now, although they are starting to pass their best. Each plant produces a single bloom, so there is no point in dead-heading sunflowers to encourage them to produce more buds. When they are gone, they are gone.

It is a near certainty, gentle reader, that a kitchen near you contains a bottle of sunflower oil - I know that there is one within a few metres of where I am seated typing these words.

For a concise, yet comprehensive, summary of the uses of sunflower oil, which is pressed from the seeds, I shall quote from the website of Encyclopaedia Britannica on that topic.

“The common sunflower is valuable from an economic as well as from an ornamental point of view. The leaves are used as fodder, the flowers yield a yellow dye, and the seeds contain oil and are used for food. The sweet yellow oil obtained by compression of the seeds is considered equal to olive or almond oil for table use. Sunflower oil cake is used for stock and poultry feeding. The oil is also used in soap and paints and as a lubricant. The seeds may be eaten dried, roasted, or ground into nut butter and are common in birdseed mixes.”

That’s an impressive list of products from one plant family.

The health benefits associated with sunflower seed are equally numerous.

Sunflower products are said to be useful in regulating blood sugar levels, improving cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cancer, reducing depression and reducing the risk of suffering a stroke among many medicinal uses.

But, having enjoyed success with my first-ever sunflowers, I shall just dispose of the spent plants in my garden refuse bin.