Once upon a time there were five seeds who each had the potential to grow up to become tall and handsome sunflowers. This was during a pandemic and a time when an entire nation was locked down; its population was getting weary and worried. But these five sunflower seeds had power. They had the golden opportunity to grow … And grow smiles on admirers’ faces.
So beginneth the tale of the Littlest Sunflower.
Back in April 2020, my friend Emma held a sunflower competition via a WhatsApp group called Battle of the Plants. We were all sent five sunflower seeds (I received mine on May 1) and a recording form and we took it from there.
There were ‘spot’ awards throughout the growing period and prizes for the tallest plants. Photographic evidence and vital statistics were needed. There was no entrance fee but a donation to our chosen charity. I met Emma while volunteering at The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall – a charity which would be desperately needing funds at this time – so I donated to them.
Contestants came from all over, Lancashire, Somerset, Devon, Wales, Portsmouth, near Heathrow. Romania was the furthest. There was humorous banter about the judges. Unfortunately Mr Titchmarsh declined the opportunity to join the judging panel but Charlie Dimmock’s brother Charles, along with Monica Don and Tom Attorney, joined the judging panel! 😉😂
One contestant started her sunflower’s life in a yogurt pot. Another had a M&S egg carton for hers. Then there was a milk carton, cut in half. I lovingly sowed mine in five colourful pots, trying to make sure I used proper compost so there would be no intruding weeds.
The first prize was for a seedling at least four inches tall. Some contestants’ seeds were doing well, with most sprouting. Others were still waiting for their first seedling. Like me.
Tips were given to fellow members such as: “I think mine were a bit dry and cold, have given them extra water and warmth and it seems to have done the trick.”
Some contestants got quite technical – and it paid off. The first spot prize went to “the lady who is using ‘aquaphonics and channelling the power of the super moon”.
There were disasters and near-disasters. Fellow contestant Linda told us: “I had to repot ours as we had a cat disaster. I carry them in from the conservatory at night when it’s chilly and put them on the kitchen window sill. Agatha our cat knocked them all down (on purpose I think). There were shoots everywhere and mud. I managed to find nine shoots from the carnage and repotted”.
And one day, lo and behold, I got seedlings! I happily sent a photo but was told that, alas, those pesky weeds had sneaked in after all and were busy posing as sunflowers. But these imposters were found out – their stems were too weedy to be sunflowers.
It was disappointing but I learnt a tip and that was to move the seeds further up, nearer to the top, so they wouldn’t drown.
But there was one seed which had promise, for this one had become a true sunflower albeit a tiny, feeble one.
All my hopes were on this guy now.
Other contestants boasted of great heights, already! Their seedlings were already growing up and getting moved out into the garden. Mine was a mere baby, still needing to be mollycoddled and even then ….
And even then a major disaster in June – my one hope, my only hope had snapped, breaking in two.
That was me out then. But kind Emma gave me another chance and I received five more sunflower seeds. Will these do any better?
While my five seeds started to sprout and grow, there was drama aplenty with the other flowers.
Some were murdered by slugs (Mr Dimmock recommends broken egg shells, cut hair or coffee grounds), others pelted by rain or blown by the wind. Mine were still indoors, carefully propped up in their pots with mini stakes.
My tallest was now 14cm. Then, like its predecessor, it snapped but its nearest sibling was now at 13cm. The smallest withered away but one continued to grow…
And then one day in the middle of October the little sunflower, the last one remaining of his siblings, woke up and started to flower.
A late bloomer indeed! Not long after, I received a certificate to celebrate my little sunflower!