Celebrate sunflowers - and add to your gardening to-do list

PUBLISHED: 14:28 04 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:16 09 August 2017

Heliotropism in action: Sunflowers grow facing towards sunlight

Heliotropism in action: Sunflowers grow facing towards sunlight

Horsche

Summer’s well and truly here - and the sunflower’s cheerful presence has brought a smile to Deborah’s face.

Sunflower stems are so tough and bristly that they can be difficult to arrange in a vaseSunflower stems are so tough and bristly that they can be difficult to arrange in a vase

Heliotropism. A big fancy word meaning a flower starts the day facing the sun. Sunflowers are one of the plants to do this, and it’s an amazing thing to watch - if you can find videos online of time-lapse photography of a sunflower field, you can watch as these incredible flowers trace the route of the sun across the sky.

Sunflowers are the firm favourite of lots of people. They are so cheerful, and brighten up a room instantly, it is easy to see why. For me, they will always hold a special place in my heart - they were the flowers that formed the majority of our wedding flowers, and were so cheering in the autumn rain that they will forever make me smile when I see them. My parents had planted dozens of the plants later in the year than usual, in the hope that they would be flowering at the right time for the wedding, but otherwise they would normally be naturally blooming around now.

There are many interesting facts about sunflowers - not least that their seeds form in a spiral. The seeds are not only a favourite amongst health foodies, but also with finches - particularly goldfinches. Sunflower oil is an increasingly popular alternative to olive oil - often a more budget friendly alternative, and just another reason why these plants are so wonderful. You see more and more sunflower crops around the UK, as they obviously take well to the British climate. Locally you can see a wonderful crop of sunflowers at Hitchin Lavender in Ickleford - better known for their wonderful lavender crop, the sunflowers are equally as impressive.

Sunflowers are not just limited to the stereotypical tall flowers with the brown centres and yellow petals - there are varieties which can suit any requirement. There are some short varieties which are suitable for containers or patio gardens, and of course a range of different colours ranging from the darkest brown petals to light yellow. Of course the ones that I love the most are the traditional ones that you might imagine when someone says “sunflower”.

Village flower shows and fetes up and down the country will see competitors attempting to grow the tallest sunflower, and some absolutely whopping ones are registered year on year. The stems of the plants are so tough and bristly that they don’t make a particularly good flower for arranging with, but they give such good structure in an arrangement that they are definitely worth purchasing a strong pair of secateurs and a pair of gardening gloves for!

Some short varieties of sunflower are suitable for containers or patio gardensSome short varieties of sunflower are suitable for containers or patio gardens

Things to do in the garden this month:

Although many of you might be going away for your summer holidays, there are still plenty of jobs to be getting on with in the garden during the summer.

* Make sure you don’t cut your lawn too much during the hot weather.

Now's the time to remove the leaves from strawberries and take �runners� for new plantsNow's the time to remove the leaves from strawberries and take �runners� for new plants

* For summer fruiting raspberries, cut out all of the brown wood, and tie in the growth which will produce next year’s fruit.

* Remove the leaves from strawberries and take “runners” for new plants.

* In order to keep plants flowering longer, make sure you dead head them as the flower heads go over - this is particularly true for plants like sweetpeas, which will grow more, the more you cut them.

* If you haven’t already sown sweet williams, or wallflowers and want them to flower next year, this will need to be done this month.

* Due to the seasons this year, many birds will still be nesting in trees and hedges, so if you are planning to cut these back, do make sure you don’t have any resident birds or animals making their home there! If you do, wait until they’ve gone before cutting back.

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