Fields of gold: Enjoying what’s left of sunflower season

PUBLISHED: 08:46 23 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:55 23 August 2018

Heliotropism in action: Sunflowers grow facing towards sunlight

Heliotropism in action: Sunflowers grow facing towards sunlight


The season is starting to come to an end, but Debbie McMorran is still making the most of what’s left of the summer...

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

“One day, you’ll look, to see I’ve gone; for tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

These Beatles lyrics always flit through my mind when I look at sunflowers. A flower which will tilt it’s head to trace the route of the sun across the sky to get the maximum amount of sun within a day is called a heliotropic flower.

Sunflowers will always have a special place in my heart, as I had them for my wedding bouquet, and also they formed the basis for the majority of the decorations at our wedding.

They have always struck me as such as cheerful flower, and although they tend to signal the back end of summer, they are such a splash of colour, that they can’t fail to make you smile.

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

This year I won’t be sad to see the back of the summer. The endless weeks without rain have been incredibly punishing for the garden, and we personally have lost dozens of well established plants, which will leave a sad space behind in the flower borders.

The lawns are all parched and cracking, and although a few weeks of rain should bring some colour back to them, they look so desperate at the moment, that I find it sad to look out of the window onto them.

A few days of rain in the past week has certainly helped to revive some of the trees, which were starting to look fairly sick, but we could definitely do with some more.

Although any rain is helpful for the garden, it will take a good few weeks of rain to really start to make a difference to the garden. If you are hoping to do any planting, or any digging in the garden, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the rain by getting out in the garden the next day when the ground will be a little softer.

Sunflower fans can  pick their own at The Pop Up Farm near Harpenden. Picture: Ian PigottSunflower fans can pick their own at The Pop Up Farm near Harpenden. Picture: Ian Pigott

Sunflowers don’t tend to need a great deal of water, which is why you often see them thriving in hot places like the south of France, and Tuscany.

There are some plants which have actually done really well this summer, with the hotter weather - plants like zinnias and hibiscus, which would otherwise not always thrive, have enjoyed the hotter temperatures, and have done better than they normally do in our climate.

A pop-up sunflower farm has opened near to Harpenden, just off Junction 9 of the M1, and has plenty of parking, and free entry. We haven’t yet visited, but I’m hoping to get there before they go over. There is a straw maze for the little ones, and you are able to pick sunflowers to take away (for a very reasonable additional charge).

I love the idea of this - as a family friendly local attraction which will hopefully be encouraging people to get outdoors and not costing a lot of money for a great day out. If you are looking for something a bit different to do during the summer holidays, or if you don’t have kids and are just looking for a nice way to spend a weekend afternoon - pop along to check it out for yourself. For more information check out The Pop Up Farm on Facebook.

If normal yellow sunflowers aren’t to your taste, there are many different varieties in a host of different colours. S ome lovely deep chocolate brown ones provide a really good contrast to the standard yellow varieties, and although normally we would associate sunflowers with village fetes and ‘tallest sunflower’ competitions, they are not all hugely tall, and can make a small flower arrangement look just as lovely as a huge floral display.

Things to do in the garden this month

* As vegetables finish, you can dig over the garden to break up the earth

* You can lift any onions which you have grown to allow them to dry for storing and use over winter

* If you have been growing runner beans, you can leave any which have gone over on the plant, so that the beans can dry and be used for seed for next year

* You can start to go around and deadhead any flowers which have gone over, and start to try to tidy up the garden - although it’s difficult to make it look particularly tidy when everything is so dry

* If you are planning on planting bulbs this autumn, and you will be ordering from a catalogue or online supplier, it’s best to get this done within the next few weeks, to ensure that they are delivered in time for planting in October before the ground gets too hard.

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