Can you outgrow last year’s record-breaking bloom in 2024’s sunflower showdown?

A South West garden centre business is sending out a challenge to green fingered children across the region to beat the winner of last year’s sunflower growing competition.

Otter Garden Centres is once again providing free packets of sunflower seeds to encourage children to have a go at growing their own sunflowers at home. But outdoing 2023 winner Lucy Randall’s towering flower is going to be quite a task. Last year Lucy, from Ottery St Mary grew a sunflower to an incredible 4.48 metres, taller than a double decker bus!

Otter Garden Centres MD, Jacqui Taylor says “Lucy’s achievement blew us away; her sunflower was so impressive and grown from such a tiny seed! Last year we gave away around 500 packets of seeds. We hope even more children will enjoy taking part this year.

“Sunflowers are relatively easy to grow, and you don’t need a large garden - but you’ll need to think about supporting the stems when the flowers start to get tall.”

The record for the tallest sunflower grown in the UK is currently held by Richard Hope of Wigan, whose plant grew to just under 8 metres, whilst the tallest in the world to date was grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer from Germany, whose monster flower reached 9.17 metres.

Jacqui adds “Wouldn’t it be great if one of our seeds grew into a UK or even world record winning sunflower! We’re looking forward to seeing the results later in the year. Even if they don’t get super-tall, sunflowers are great for wildlife, especially bees which love their pollen. And they’re a beautiful flower to have growing in the garden.”

Getting hold of a free packet of Thompson & Morgan sunflower seeds is easy; visit Otter’s website and fill in a simple form to receive an e-voucher. The seeds must be collected from one of Otter’s seven branches in Ottery St Mary, Plymouth, Torbay, Bishopsteignton, Lymington, Taunton and Wincanton before June 2.

Each packet contains around 15 sunflower seeds and the website gives plenty of tips on how to make sure the sunflowers grow healthy and tall. Anyone who has signed up will be invited to send in photos of their sunflowers to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

The seeds are totally free, but a collection tin will be located nearby for voluntary donations of spare change, which will go to the relevant branch’s local charity of the year.