Prevalent Geek

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When your young son asks you to grow a sunflower “as tall as the house” you do what you can. But nobody expected a plant like a magic beanstalk that kept growing and growing.

Douglas Smith was forced to use a ladder to tend to the lofty giant, which he first planted at the end of March and tended lovingly throughout lockdown.

The 42-year-old’s four-year-old son Stellan certainly got his wish. The gardening project turned into a 20-foot high monster plant that almost dwarves his two-story home in Stanstead Abbotts, England.

The current record for the tallest sunflower in Britain is held by Richard Hope, of Wigan, Greater Manchester, who set the record in 2012 with a whopping 26-foot tall flower.

But product manager from East Hertfordshire says his sunflower is now worthy of the ‘honorable mentions’ list on the website Giant Gardening.

Douglas’ flower stands in a large wooden container 20 inches tall, and three foot in length by two foot in depth.

And Douglas has to climb to the top rung of a ladder propped against his house, where he lives with wife Piper Terrett, 44, in order to just about reach the flower at the top of the stem.

He said, “I had high hopes that it would still be growing – but I am glad that it’s topped out a bit now.

“I think it’s probably got maybe another inch or two left in it to grow, but it’s pretty much done.

“I’ve had to rig the flower up on something that’s a little bit like a flagpole, attached to the top of the wooden stake, so that it doesn’t curve down too much under its own weight.

“It’s flowering at the moment – there’s probably another week or so of flowering left, and then I’m hoping to leave it standing for as long as I can, to collect most of the seeds.”

And the sunflower started off with a fighting chance of growing this tall because Douglas was given the seed in a swap with John Butler, who holds the current record for tallest sunflower in North America, growing one that is 26 feet 8 inches.

“I’m not sure specifically what variety of sunflower this is, but it’s a bit like a thoroughbred horse – it came from a good start in life.”