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Sunflowers and hoverflies
For me, the competition to grow a giant sunflower is over. My six sunflowers are either in flower or just about to bloom, which means they’re not going to grow any taller. They look good, particularly the two that are providing support for the rogue sweet peas that ended up in the border, but they’re no giants.
I’ve succeeded in my personal mission to beat Adam Pasco in the height stakes, as did our our colleague Ross, who managed to grow his sunflowers to a respectable 2m. Others weren’t so lucky – David’s were all eaten by slugs, while Tamsin’s disappeared overnight (probably also eaten by slugs). Despite all the attention I lavished on mine, including extra watering and a weekly nettle feed, just two of the six made it above 2m (2.24m and 2.35m respectively).
While I’m not going to enter the record books for growing the tallest sunflower, I reckon I’m in with a chance of setting a new World Record for The Greatest Number Of Hoverflies You Can Squeeze Into A Four-Metre-Squared Garden. Everywhere I look there are hoverflies, all engaged in some sort of mid-air traffic jam to get their nectar fix. A cloud of them rises suddenly whenever I brush past the hebe, and they’re taking full advantage of the basil, rocket, coriander and watercress that bolted. Happily, they don’t seem to mind that my sunflowers are not record breakers, and are gorging on those, too.
A quick scout round the garden this morning revealed just two species, Eupeodes luniger and Episyrphus balteatus (the latter is sometimes referred to as the marmalade hoverfly). Both of these are supposed to resemble the common wasp to deter predators, and are completely harmless. They lay their eggs on plants and their larvae eat aphids.
Having abandoned hopes of growing the world’s tallest sunflower, I’m now content that the plants are providing a late source of nectar and pollen for bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. Soon they’ll be plenty of seed for the birds.
How are your sunflowers coming along? Have they reached the dizzy height of 2m or more? Do let us know, and don’t forget to email us your photos and details.
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