Reaching for the sun

Altona resident Len Schieman, standing in the shadow of the giant sunflower growing in his back yard. LORI PENNER/Red River Valley Echo

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When Len and Lil Schieman noticed a volunteer sunflower growing in their small, backyard garden on 1st St. NW earlier this spring, they decided to leave it right there and see what happened.
Little did they know that this small, inconspicuous plant would soon rival the height of some trees.
At the last measurement earlier this week, the plant measured about 10 feet, four inches tall, and is still growing. The leaves are the size of elephant ears, and it’s starting to grow a small head with a few yellow petals.
“It’s growing about six inches every four or five days now. They don’t typically get this tall,” says Len, who used to grow sunflowers on his farm near Rosenfeld.
“Maybe it’s the soil or all the sun we’ve had this year, not sure. I had no idea it would take off like this,” he says.
“The neighbours are joking, and asking me, ‘Where’s Jack?’”
Len started staking it when it grew taller than him, to brace it from the wind. “Other than that, I didn’t give it any special treatment. I’m curious to see how tall it gets, and if it actually produces any seeds.”
The timing is interesting, he says, right in time for the Sunflower Festival.