by Steve Guntli
They’re called Russian mammoth sunflowers, and in Wayne Dent’s backyard, they’re living up to the name.
Dent has been growing sunflowers, either in his yard or in the yards of friends, for around six years. In his experience, the sunflowers don’t usually reach more than 7 feet tall. The ones growing in the backyard of his 4th Street house are growing to around 20 feet high, and that’s late in the season. Dent estimates that over the summer, the flowers peaked somewhere around 30 feet.
“It’s got to be some kind of mutant strain,” Dent said. “That’s the only explanation I have.”
Even in the late September, the flowers are going strong, literally overshadowing the beans and dahlias growing in Dent’s garden. He’s had to tie the thick stalks to his garden fence with twine to keep the massive flowers from falling over, since the flowers keep reaching towards the sun.
He was worried for a time that the flowers would get tangled in the power lines hanging just slightly over the top of the blossoms.
Dent, a longtime Blaine resident who worked for the British Columbia government before retiring 11 years ago, doesn’t claim any particular gardening skill, especially when it comes to the sunflowers.
“All I did was drop the seeds,” he said. “Once they’d grown out about 3 inches, I watered them. That’s about it.”
Sunflowers are known for being tough, low-maintenance plants. They are tolerant to high levels of heat and can resist dry conditions. Dent speculates that the amount of sunlight hitting his yard over the summer contributed to the unexpected growth.
“We had a really hot, dry summer,” he said. “I’d be amazed if I grew them this big next year.”
Once the cold season finally claims the giant sunflowers, Dent plans to harvest the seeds and dry out the heads to feed to local squirrels.
“I wish more of these were edible for people,” he said with a laugh. “We could eat for a year off of these.”