Gary, Jill, Harry, Hayley, Ellsie and Paddy the dog

The Beck family live in Bradford, West Yorkshire and have taken part in the project on two occasions because Harry has myotubular myopathy. Gary says:

I forget exactly when we planted them but we put three seeds in yogurt pots in the kitchen, covered with cling-film. They started growing within a couple of weeks and when they reached around 10″ or so we put them outside in pots. We were all amazed how fast they grew and within a few weeks they had outgrown the pots, so we again uprooted them and put them into a wooden planter outside the back. Luckily this is in the sun for several hours a day so we couldn’t wait to see them actually flower.

The main question in our house each day was “Has anyone watered the sunflowers today”? I think they were probably over-watered several times! Due to the high winds we were having I had to put canes in to tie the sunflowers to. Then one day in early September I came home and saw a beautiful sunflower in full bloom – I was so excited that I ran in telling everyone to come outside to see it and how amazed I was that it had flowered in one day but all I could see was everyone in stitches laughing at me.

Eventually they stopped and asked me to go outside and look again which I did but at first I didn’t see the fake plastic sunflower that Jill had tied to the real one!!! Luckily within a week or so the tallest of the flowers did actually bloom and it was a ‘belter’. I stand just short of 6ft and the flower was a couple of feet above me. Within a week the other two had also flowered but were slightly shorter.

Sadly when we had some real strong winds the shortest of the flowers snapped and died but we enjoyed the other two for a while before they too wilted. We were all amazed at the number of bees and other things that were attracted to the flowers and would happily grow them again next year. We all thoroughly enjoyed growing the flowers and listening to our visitors commenting on the size of them.

The second time the family took part, they decided to have a family competition to grow the tallest one. Gary says:

I planted six seeds in identical cardboard pots for myself, Jill, Harry, Hayley, Ellsie and Paddy the dog, with each person/animal’s name written on it. The intention was that everyone would lovingly tend and water their own pot. Sadly this didn’t happen as planned as the water soaked through the pots and virtually destroyed the names plus nearly all the watering and caring was left to yours truly each day.

Even in their tiny pots there were front runners in the tallest flower stakes, the lead changing hands several times between Harry and Paddy. By the time they grew to around a foot or so I moved them into larger containers and moved them outside. Being a little upset that I had done all the watering and nurturing, my plant was by several inches the smallest one on show. This meant that my flower merited it’s own outside pot – the other five sharing two pots. The tallest plant changed between Paddy, Jill, Harry and grandaughter Ellsie – mine being a consistent last place.

It was quite obvious that none of the flowers would reach anything close to our previous efforts – some of this was due to the incredibly strong winds which actually snapped one of them. My flower – as well as being the smallest was the last to actually bloom but because of this was also last man standing when all the others had wilted away. I did however have the last laugh as my large flower also sprouted three other flowers all from the one stalk. I had never seen this before and was feeling particularly proud of my ‘late starter’ until I saw that Darran from Doncaster had eight flowers on one of his. Oh well – here’s to next year. Even though they weren’t as tall as before, several people commented on our display and we even gave some seeds out to our neighbours and family ready for the next year.

Gary and family

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