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Inverness trucker's sunflower power brings smiley faces all round

By Neil MacPhail

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The sunflowers in Derek Mackay's garden Picture: James Mackenzie
The sunflowers in Derek Mackay's garden Picture: James Mackenzie

This summer's weather has been a mixed bag of sunshine and showers but one corner of Inverness is always bright and cheery thanks to a head-turning show of more than 36 huge sunflowers.

People passing the smart bungalow home of Derek and Maureen MacKay in Balnakyle Road, Lochardil, do a double take as they spot the sunflowers bobbing in the front garden, some so tall as to reach the house guttering.

And it is all down to artic driver Derek's unlikely hobby that he started a few years back.

"I just like growing sunflowers," he said. "I buy a cheap bag of seeds and plant then in tiny pots.

"Maureen's mother-in-law has a greenhouse and she kindly lets me put them in there to give them a headstart.

"Then it is just a matter of transferring them into grow bag compost and keeping them watered and well fed with tomato food. Some of them get so tall they have to be staked up."

Balnakyle in bloom...
Balnakyle in bloom...

This year Derek also tried some dwarf varieties that unfortunately some wild ducks in the area took a shine to.

"Being smaller, their lower leaves were close to the ground and the ducks ate them," said Derek. "They still flowered though."

Sunflowers are among plants who mysteriously practice heliotropism meaning they turn to face the sun throughout the day.

And as the sun goes down in the west they will turn and face east again to wait in the darkness until the sun rises again. This continues until the sunflower gets old

Sunflowers keek over Derek and Maureen's fence.
Sunflowers keek over Derek and Maureen's fence.

Sunflowers belong to the genus Helianthus which comprises about 70 species of annual and perennial flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae.

In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Helios was the god of the sun.

Apart from three South American species, the species of Helianthus are native to North and Central America, the best known species being the common sunflower.

Growing in profusion...
Growing in profusion...

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