Herculean Annuals

Gardens are for people
February 5, 2010
Has spring sprung for you?
March 5, 2010

Finally I have banished the giant stems of our long faded sunflowers from the borders, a hugely satisfying experience which went something like this. Heave out the erratically swaying monster dead plant (with banshee like wail), put a boot over the rootball, snap hollow stem away from the roots, revel in satisfying almighty crack, then chuck roots into wheelbarrow (ready for the base of the hedge), and stems on the burning pile. Repeat, seemingly ad infinitum.

Last year Archie (my 5 year old) and I grew a sunflower forest, planting ‘Giant Single’ and ‘Velvet Queen’ at the base of a sleeper retaining wall, their towering mightiness to inspire awe from the lower garden whilst easily enjoying the flower heads from the higher green oak deck above.

Never wanting to do things by halves, we planted dozens and dozens of home grown seedlings to give impact to the newly planted sparseness of the perennials growing at their feet, and to disguise the sleeper retaining wall behind them. And whilst their growth rate was astounding to both Arch, myself and all of our friends (they pumped skyward from the ground with such force and power you could almost watch them gain height in front of your eyes), keeping them upright through the gales of last summer was an ‘interesting’ challenge (much running around in blind panic at night, armed with canes, twine and a head torch). And though I should not have been surprised, the obvious fact that each ‘Giant Single’ only produced one, albeit huge, bloom which took an age to arrive, still left me feeling somehow cheated. Though Archie enjoyed his first success growing gargantuan plants, i revelled in the shorter, more generous, multi headed, deep wine red blooms of the sublime ‘Velvet Queen’, which Archie did not care for a jot.

Time gently passed in the way summers do, and the sunflowers passed over, turning from green leafy giants into wizened, bleached sticks marching through much of the bottom garden. However, though not much to look at in themselves, there’s no doubting that my laziness prevailed in the end, and leaving them insitu through autumn and winter made our garden’s bird population extremely happy (watching birds strip the heads of seed was a wonderful distraction whilst I washed dishes at the kitchen sink).

But being a firm believer that plants should deliver maximum interest to warrant inclusion, especially in a small garden, this year I shan’t bother with the giant yellows, but will grow lesser numbers of glamourous Helianthus annuus ‘Moulin Rouge’ mixed with ‘Chianti’ instead.

I just hope Archie will forgive me……