Helianthus - two Greek words, helios for sun and anthus for flower is the scientific name for sunflower. Under normal conditions sunflowers range in height from 2 to 8 feet. The "Moulin Rouge" (above) from Lola's 2008 garden was 8 feet and 7 inches tall, but the tallest according to the National Sunflower Association is 25 feet and 5.4 inches. The largest head is 32 inches and Melvin Hemker in Michigan grew a branching variety with 837 sunflower heads. The country that grew the tallest is Netherlands and British Columbia is the record holder for the biggest sunflower head. Their source is the 2004 Guinness Book of World records. I have seen pictures of sunflowers that are taller than a two story house but I just can't imagine a sunflower plant with 837 heads. I thought it was a typo but to my amazement, these are indeed the current records. However, there is a contest every year to try to beat it.
Sunflowers that are grown commercially for food and oil are single-stem. The blooms are traditional golden-yellow. Blooms with yellow rays and dark center is known as the classic or the original color of sunflower. Those that are breed especially for the cut flower industry are also single-stem or non-branching varieties in classic yellow to orange colors. Usually these varieties have low pollen or pollen-free which makes them desirable as cut flowers for indoor decorations. But for home gardeners, the ornamental sunflowers' range of size, shape, and color is enormous.
Lola's Garden had a little fund raiser for a local crises nursery during the 2008 TIEG Garden Expo. Besides being a Leo I choose sunflower because of its universal appeal and popularity with children. It's a fast growing ornamental plant with magnificent blooms that produce the delicious seeds for birds and humans. It was the right plant for the job.
The varieties I started from seeds were Ring of Fire, Moulin Rouge Hybrid, Cherry Rose Hybrid, Soraya, Pro Cut Orange, Sundance Kid, Ruby Moon Hybrid Mix and Citrus Twist Hybrid. I ordered the seeds from Jung, and Johnny's.
The seedlings were transplanted in 4" peat pots and were about 6-10 inches tall when sold at the expo. My hope was to sell most of the 200 plus plants but only a hundred sold. Each plant was worth one dollar to the nursery. I suppose raising enough for a few boxes of diapers is better
than nothing but the result was less than satisfactory.
I ended up planting a lot of sunflowers even after begging families and friends to please take some. My son-in-law planted more than a dozen for the birds but the squirrels made salad out of the plants including those that were heavily seasoned with garlic and hot peppers.
Lucky me I had so many sunflowers the squirrels in my neighborhood had more than enough and left a lot of them for me and the birds to enjoy. And like good stewards the birds left some to reseed.
The second and third pictures are volunteers from last year. There were a lot of them around the greenhouse and in the garden. I thinned those that were growing too thick but the solitary ones look too healthy to kill. So once again without trying, Lola's garden is full of sunflowers. The second picture looks like one of the "Ruby Moon" mix. The third is definitely a "Ring of Fire". I am still hoping to see some variation in blooms. Maybe some hybrids and parents of the hybrids. I will update the post if I get lucky.