Saturday, 7 September 2013

Let the sunshine in

It is still summer in London, Thursday the thermometer in my garden showed 30 degrees Celsius (86F) in the afternoon and although yesterday was a much cooler day with some rain, my garden really needed those showers and I was happy for the few free drops of water from above.

Here is a my garden yesterday, with the late afternoon sun spilling in. The last couple of weeks my two sunflowers have really shot up in height and they are now around 2.5m tall. So tall that I struggle to cut off spent flowers, although I intend to leave the last ones to set seeds for the birds. But for now I keep cutting off as they go off, there are loads of new buds to come so I don’t want them to slow down in flower production just yet. I planted 12 sunflower seeds in between my roses and shrubs on the sunny side, but with the very late spring we had, most of them did not manage to put much growth on before the shrubs grew tall and shaded them completely out. Only these two survived and are happily growing in between the yellow and the red roses. I think I will do the same next year, plant sunflowers in the same spot, but next year I will totally disregard the instructions on the seed pack and plant the seeds in pots so they can grow tall and strong before planting them out in the ground. Lesson learned!

The sunflowers totally dominate this part of the bed right now, it is such a lovely sunflower, not at all like the single headed, big faced sunflower many people grow. This one has many, many small flowers on strong stems. I love it!

I bought a collection of 3 different sunflower seeds in February, but the two that survived was the same type. To be honest, I am not really sure which type it is. I bought  Helianthus 'Claret', 'Valentine' and 'Vanilla Ice' and I know for sure this is not ‘Claret’ as that is a dark red sunflower. I was so looking forward to having a dark red sunflower so, next year! But looking at the photos, mine looks neither exactly like 'Vanilla Ice' nor 'Valentine' so I don’t know, 'Vanilla Ice' is supposed to be creamy white and 'Valentine' should be bright yellow with much shorter petals. The flowers look like a combination of the two!

Beautiful sunflowers, but have I been sent something different than what it says on the packets?

The sunflowers are growing in between the roses and have completely taken over the rose bed at the moment. Not such a bad idea since my roses are still on a very late schedule, their second flush have just started – it normally takes place in July!

My yellow rose, ‘Freedom’ has just started its second flush too. Better late than never!

Yellow sunflowers with yellow roses peeping through the leaves. OK, so reading on the seed packets, 'Vanilla Ice' should grow to 4’ (120cm) and 'Claret' should grow to 5’ (150cm). These two monster plants are now around 2.5m tall (more than 8') and still growing. I haven’t given them any fertilizer at all, but their roots might have caught hold of some rose feed as they are planted so close to the roses. But still, double the expected size??

Whatever my sunflowers are called I will have them next year too, I have lots of seeds left. And I will have a few of the other two types two. Not sure where to plant them but I will try to find a place. Two of each would be nice.

My sunflower, in the late afternoon sun. I do wonder what you are called :-)

I got my seeds from Sara Raven online shop perhaps you bought the same sunflower seed collection as I did? If you did, or have bought them before, I would be very interested in hearing what yours looked like, and how tall they got. Perhaps you would know what mine are, and if they are called something completely different. Anyway, I am very happy with my first attempt to grow sunflowers, I will do it again! Until next time, take care.

I am linking my post with PlantPostings, Garden Lessons Learned.


UPDATE 13th September:
I have had a reply from Sara Raven Customer Service, they say the following:

Thank you for your e-mail and the link to the blog about your lovely garden.
The flowers look like Vanilla Ice, as they are the correct shape and size and have the multi-headed habit of this variety. They may have grown taller than expected to compete with the other things growing around them. As you say in your blog, you may be better off starting your sunflowers off in pots and planting out once they have grown for a while and the main stem has strengthened. They are also very susceptible to slug damage early on if you suffer from this problem.
I hope this helps and look forward to seeing how your garden progresses next year.

33 comments:

  1. Thanks for joining in, Helene! Those Sunflowers are just right--tall and bright, strong stems, and definitely healthy. They look perfect in your garden. I think they must be excellent cut flowers, too? Have you cut some for arrangements in your home? I love Sunflowers--they make me smile. :)

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    1. They make me smile too! When I go out in the garden they are the first thing I see and they put a smile on my face every time. They are supposed to be excellent cut flowers with long vase life, but with the spider mites possibly still lurking around, sorry, wasn't supposed to talk about spider mites in this post (!) I haven't dared taking them inside - I am afraid of infecting my house plants. I think I will just enjoy the sunflowers outside. Maybe next year :-)

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  2. Could the seeds have been sown by birds from you bird feeder?

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    1. Not very likely, I marked every spot where I sowed sunflower seeds with a stick, brushed away the bark and had some grit over – the only places I got sunflower seedlings were exactly where I sowed. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised I don’t have any seedlings around my birdfeeders at all, it means the ‘no grow’ birdfeed mix I bought actually worked and wasn’t a gimmick after all. In addition to the seed mix I use sunflower hearts for the birds, not sure if they actually can germinate or not. I haven’t got any seedlings growing in my garden that I didn’t put there myself, except for those pesky ivy seedlings, I must remove around a thousand every year and they happily grow in the bark mulch. Many of my neighbours have huge ivy draped over their bottom garden wall, I suppose the birds eat the berries and bring the seeds over here.

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    2. take a photo and send it to sarah raven and ask if she can identify the variety.

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    3. Yes, I am thinking of writing an email to her and include a link to this post, the photos here should be enough to identify it I think.

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  3. Hi Helene
    Giant sunflowers! What a terrific surprise. Isn't it interesting though that yours bear no resemblance to what the packages described? Oh well - it just proves that gardening is truly and adventure :)
    I really love your Freedom rose - the loveliest shade of yellow.

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    1. Thank you Astrid, I do wonder how tall the sunflowers are going to get before they finally stop, they probably will go on long into November or so.

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  4. I love them! We sowed lots of seeds of the giant sunflower as we like to munch on the seeds-a healthy snack ;) but I totally adore your plant-great for cutting and bringing some home, I will need to do it next year!

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    1. I love sunflower seeds too, but I must admit I like the flowers on these smaller sunflowers better - and these seeds are not much for eating, they are tiny.

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  5. I love these sunflowers, they are so cheerful and full of blooms. We have two native sunflowers with similar blooms and habit which grow wild on the roadsides each summer. I keep meaning to get seeds and you have reminded me to do that.

    It will be interesting to learn which seeds you have planted and what the differences are.

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    1. I am a curious person, I like a mystery – besides, I like to know what’s growing in my garden, I need to find out what these sunflowers are called :-)

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  6. These sunflowers are definitely not Claret or Vanilla Ice, because I once had them in the garden. Nevertheless your sunflowers are gorgeous, they give a beautiful vertical structure to your garden. Also lovely with the roses, I certainly should sow them again next year.

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    1. That’s interesting to know you have had Claret and Vanilla Ice, I am going to send off an email to where I got the seeds from and ask if they can identify the sunflowers for me. I will give you all an update if I get an answer!

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  7. I love sunflowers. They always bring a smile to my face. Such cheerful flowers. Yours look wonderful in your bed, no matter what kind they are! Even though I can understand your frustration at not knowing their name! Hope you figure out the mystery.

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    1. I will certainly try! But I am definitely sowing some next year, and I will sow some of the dark red ones too, Claret, they look gorgeous on the photo. But they might come up just as described, 5' tall, so they will be just dwarfs next to these ones!

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  8. Great photo's Helene...cheered up a gloomy day here xx

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    1. Good to hear, sunflowers are cheery flowers for me too! It's been pouring down all day here, but it's good for my garden so I am not complaining :-)

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  9. I think they're beautiful regardless of what kind they are. I like it when a plant gives a happy surprise. :o)

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    1. This was a nice surprise, good I have the vertical space available at least!

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  10. Hi Helene
    Sunflowers are for me Smile-Flowers... they always put a big smile in my face looking at them. I haven't them in my own garden, because the colour wouldn't fit in, but I love the big fields we've got in our countryside. My roses are still in second bloom too... but that is not unusual here. Sometimes I've got rose flowers until Octobre and during a very late winter one rose even flowered at Christmas...hmm I guess it isn't necessary to write that this rose died that winter.
    Hey, how is your project with the garden of your son going on?
    Have a good start into a new week.
    xxx Alex

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    1. I can just about see my garden from my kitchen window, if I lean over the sink – and all I see now are the sunflowers, lots of them. I have to have a look every time I go out in the kitchen as they make me smile too!

      My roses flower all year round, except the first 8 weeks after I have cut them down in February every year – and in very cold and late springs like this year it takes even longer. So it is not unusual to have roses at Christmas here and they survive just fine, but I don’t have as many roses on each bush in the winter, perhaps just two or three at the time. I usually have a first flush in April/May and then a second flush in June/July and then they all continue with a more sparingly flowering the rest of the year until pruning in February. But this year nothing has been like usual, I thought my garden would catch up eventually, but it doesn’t seem to, everything has just been equally delayed, whilst other things, like my primroses never stopped flowering! A most unusual summer indeed, but I think the good summer weather has made up for the bad winter and spring, it has for me anyway :-)

      I haven’t been over to my son’s garden since July, the project is on hold for now while they spend money and time on fixing a million things that is needed with the house, much more important for them right now so we will get back to the garden probably next spring. The main thing was to clear it so they could use it and I finished that - they have been using it all summer, next year we’ll decide what to put in it.
      Hope you have a good week too!

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  11. Your sunflowers are so cheery! Perhaps they are taller than expected because they're so happy in your garden. Surprises in the garden like these are always welcome.

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    1. I hope they are happy in my garden but they seem to get taller and taller, not sure where it will end! I will have to climb on a stool soon to cut off flowers at this rate!

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  12. Whatever your sunflowers are called I love them, Helene! I have some very similar and I don't know what variety they are either. Mine are perennial, so will come back every year. They tend to be aggressive growers, so I have them in large containers -- I love them, but don't want them to take over the whole garden. P. x

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    1. Oooh, I hope I haven’t got wild, perennial sunflowers in my garden, can’t really see how that could have happened, I am quite sure they grew from the seeds I sowed, I am just not sure that the seeds I sowed where the ones described on the packets. They grow too close to the roses so a fast-growing perennial sunflower is definitely not on my wish list, I am emailing the company where I bought the seeds from tonight so I’ll see what they reply and will report back to you all if I get an answer.

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  13. I agree with you -- the multi-flowered sunflowers are so much better in small gardens. Whenever I see suburban plantings of the gigantic single flowered kinds, they always look a bit lost. Like they would much rather be growing along the French countryside -- where I've seen miles and miles of huge fields all tilted to the sun.

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    1. My sunflowers look very at home in my garden, I will have them next year too!

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  14. Helene, I'm delighted to find and visit you. I love your combination of sunflowers and roses. Both beautiful, they make a perfect pairing of cheer and elegance.

    On the weather, your mention of heat somehow makes more bearable the brutal summer here in America's Deep South, where my becoming-garden in Georgia is having to endure temperatures in the 90s Fahrenheit.

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    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog, always nice with new visitors. I have had a quick browse through your interesting blog and looked up Marietta, Georgia. I love to see where other people live and garden. It is interesting to note that although your summers are on average a bit warmer and your winters a bit colder, on average you get more than twice the precipitation than us here in London. The myth about always needing an umbrella here in London is just that, a myth! Alas, it is raining today so no gardening for me, a much needed rain though so I am happy, don’t need to get the hose out today.

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  15. Love your sunflowers Helene. Every year I plant sunflowers and most of the seedlings end up dying due to slug damage or other issues. I plant an excessive amount of seeds due to this problem. That way I usually end up with enough sunflowers.

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    1. This was my first year with sunflowers, next year I will definitely plant the seeds in pots first, that will help with any slug damage too. This year I have hardly seen any snails or slugs at all, first it was too cold and in June and July it was too hot. I wonder if most of the slugs have died or emigrated because they are not back yet. Long may it last!

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  16. Growing sunflowers to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. Learn more at http://centronuclear.org.uk/theinformationpoint/pages/the_big_sunflower_project.html and if you would like to join our project, please get in touch.

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