“Turn Your Face to the Sun” – Giant Sunflowers an Uplifting Display at BRHS

The giant sunflowers next to the demountable building in the McKean St car park, behind the hospital. Photos: Jake Lynch/BRHS


“Te tiro atu to kanohi ki tairawhiti ana tera whiti te ra kite ataata ka hinga ki muri kia koe.”

This is an old Maori whakatauki, or proverb, that says “turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”

Such a wonderful philosophy is the guiding force behind the sunflower, that satellite dish for sunshine, whose face turns to follow the path of the sun across the sun, from rise to fall.

Staff and visitors to BRHS lately may have noticed our new row of towering 6 – 7ft sunflowers, planted on the edge of the McKean St car park by our botanical maestro, BRHS Gardener John Cantwell.

“It’s been lovely to see them every morning, and to watch them grow over the past couple of months. Thank you John!”

And while John’s caring and committed toiling around the grounds of BRHS often goes unnoticed, the sunflowers have been the source of much joy and appreciation for those that pass them.

“Aren’t they wonderful?” said Mardi McLaughlin on Tuesday, as she passed the sunflowers on the way back to her office in the People and Culture department. “It’s been lovely to see them every morning, and to watch them grow over the past couple of months. Thank you John!”

John’s gift of the giant sunflowers was perfectly timed, and placed. They were planted alongside the demountable building that for the past few months has served as our pop-up COVID testing facility.

And so the giant, bright yellow flowers have passed on a little light and warmth to those folks waiting in their cars to be swabbed.

Did you know some giant sunflowers can grow to heights of more than 5 metres?

Like professional wrestling for flowers, they carry all kinds of theatrical names, including Sunzilla, Skyscraper Sunflower, American Giant, The Mammoth, and Kong.

For those interested in planting their own, here’s a couple of tips:

  • Grow in Full Sun – Sunflowers need a lot of sun! The ideal location provides 6-8 hours of sun a day in a sheltered location so there’s low risk of wind or storm damage.
  • Grow in Ground – It’s all about root space! Growing sunflowers in the ground in rich, well-draining soil, free of rocks or tree roots, is key. Any obstacles in the soil will inhibit root (and plant) growth.

For more info about growing sunflowers in Australia, visit www.dayliliesinaustralia.com.au/how-to-grow-the-best-sunflowers/