Photo Gallery: Stow Bardolph’s stunning sunflowers enjoy final fortnight in the spotlight

A field of sunflowers on off the A10 near Downham Market. Picture: Matthew Usher. A field of sunflowers on off the A10 near Downham Market. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Monday, August 4, 2014
4:50 PM

Many of our region’s fields may be losing something of their lustre this month, as farmers harvest their crops, but one corner of East Anglia, is still bursting with colour.

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Acres of sunflowers beam over the hedgerows at Stow Bardolph, near Downham Market.

Yellow heads nod in the breeze beside the busy A10 as the tall plants burst into flower. They turn their faces towards the sun as it moves from east to west.

The colourful crop has been planted by the Stow Estate, to provide food for wild birds through the winter.

Farm manager William Esse said: “We’ve got 11 hectares dotted around the estate.

Sunflower facts

• Sunflowers are normally grown for their seeds or oil.

• They are a popular crop as far afield as Argentina and the Ukraine.

•They may seem easy to grow, if you’ve ever planted them to see how big they’ll get.

• But producing a commercial crop requires precise sowing, with 34cm between rows.

• Despite their size, sunflowers are vulnerable to pests, with slugs, pigeons, finches, mice and even badgers partial to them.

• Sunflowers are planted at the beginning of April and flower for approximately two weeks, before they run to seed.

“They’re part of a wild bird seed mixture we grow, they’ve been put in various places to encourage more wild birds.

“They’re not actually harvested, they’ll be allowed to seed to feed the birds through the winter.”

Mr Esse said the estate first grew sunflowers 10 years ago. He said it also grows other bird seeds, such as millet, and nectar-rich plants to attract bees and other insects.

Oil rich sunflower seeds offer small birds a nutritious winter snack.

They are particularly attractive to greenfinches, siskins, blue tits, chaffinches, and sparrows.

In a week or two the sunflowers at Stow Bardolph will bow their heads as they finish flowering, to protect their seeds from birds and rain until they ripen and are ready for our feathered friends to eat.

• Are you planting to encourage wildlife? E-mail chris.bishop@archant.co.uk

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