Amateur gardener Claire Peat is leading the way in a fun competition to grow the tallest sunflower in Keswick.
Claire, 40, has lovingly cultivated a plant that is already nearly six feet high – with its distinctive yellow head still to bloom later this summer.
She is among more than 100 local residents spread around the town who are taking part in the Great Keswick Sunflower Summer. It is part of the nationwide Sunflower Project 2020, which encourages people to grow their own at home, in the garden or on the doorstep.
“It has been a bit boring in lockdown for a few people so this has helped cheer up the town and put a smile on some faces,” said Claire, of Lake Road. “This year we have been lucky with the weather. I planted my seeds at the end of March and we had constant sunshine for about six weeks,” added the housewife, whose tallest sunflower is just under 1.8 metres (5ft 10 ins).
Participants have been measuring their sunflowers on a daily basis, with the more experienced gardeners sharing tips and hints via a Facebook page. Problems have included seedlings being lost to hailstones and heavy rain, with survivors then having to be protected from high winds and scorching sunshine. Others have creatively re-potted their flowers in wellingtons, toy wigwams and forts, while some have named their flowers after singers (Dolly and Kylie or Olivia Newton John) or Harry Potter characters (Buckbeak and Aragog).
Claire has enjoyed the challenge so much that she has even created a sunflower handbag and crocheted a mini version of the plant to give away as prizes in the competition, which has different age categories. The hope is that by mid-August, Keswick’s front gardens and doorways will be festooned with beautiful sunflowers.
So what Claire’s secret for growing towering specimens? “Buy good seeds, keep them inside for as long as you can and get a big pot. Obviously they need water and compost but it’s certainly not down to me. I could kill a cactus!” she joked.