Here comes the sun(flower): Greenfield residents’ plant is 20 feet tall

  • Hayden Rouse, right, and fiancee Melissa Binette, of Pine Ridge Estates in Greenfield have grown a sunflower that as of Sept. 30 was 20 feet, 2 inches tall. Rouse said Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating throughout the world the hobby of growing giant pumpkins, has told him he has set the record for the tallest sunflower grown in Massachusetts, besting the record held by Rouse’s friend, Henry Swenson, of Topsfield. This photo was taken on Oct. 4. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Hayden Rouse, right, and fiancee Melissa Binette, of Pine Ridge Estates in Greenfield have grown a sunflower that as of Sept. 30 was 20 feet, 2 inches tall. Rouse said Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating throughout the world the hobby of growing giant pumpkins, has told him he has set the record for the tallest sunflower grown in Massachusetts, besting the record held by Rouse’s friend, Henry Swenson, of Topsfield. This photo was taken on Oct. 4. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Hayden Rouse, right, and fiancee Melissa Binette, of Pine Ridge Estates in Greenfield have grown a sunflower that as of Sept. 30 was 20 feet, 2 inches tall. Rouse said Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating throughout the world the hobby of growing giant pumpkins, has told him he has set the record for the tallest sunflower grown in Massachusetts, besting the record held by Rouse’s friend, Henry Swenson, of Topsfield. This photo was taken on Oct. 4. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Hayden Rouse and Melissa Binette, of Pine Ridge Estates in Greenfield have grown a sunflower that as of Sept. 30 was 20 feet, 2 inches tall. Rouse said Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating throughout the world the hobby of growing giant pumpkins, has told him he has set the record for the tallest sunflower grown in Massachusetts, besting the record held by Rouse’s friend, Henry Swenson, of Topsfield. This photo was taken Sept. 17. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2021 4:49:21 PM

GREENFIELD – It wasn’t magic beans, but rather ordinary seeds that grew this giant plant.

Hayden Rouse and fiancee Melissa Binette, of Pine Ridge Estates, are the proud growers of a mighty sunflower that, as of Sept. 30, had reached a state record of 20 feet, 2 inches.

“We’re impressed, honestly, because we started this July 15. We were hoping for, like, 15 feet,” Rouse said, looking at his plant that has risen above the edge of the roof of the building he lives in with Binette. “We like growing and we decided that it’d be really cool if we could grow a sunflower as tall as a building.”

Rouse said the state record was confirmed by sending video and photographic evidence to Woody Lancaster, of Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a nonprofit organization with a mission of cultivating “the hobby of growing giant pumpkins throughout the world by establishing standards and regulations that ensure quality of fruit, fairness of competition, recognition of achievement, fellowship and education for all participating growers and weigh-off sites.”

Rouse explained that he and his friend Henry Swenson got into growing giant plants after visiting the Topsfield Fair and seeing the colossal pumpkins. They tried their hand at growing the gourds, with Swenson hitting a personal best of 1,184 pounds and Rouse reaching 836 pounds. Then, they set their eyes on sunflowers. Swenson set the state record at 17 feet, 6 inches before surpassing that figure with a plant that grew 17 feet, 8 inches. In an example of friendly competition, Rouse broke Swenson’s record this year.

“I grew his seed last year. It grew 17 feet. And then from that seed, (I) grew this one,” Rouse said. “All the same Massachusetts record genetics, basically.”

Rouse, 21, said he and Binette, 20, will likely give away sunflower seeds at the end of the season.

“I would have liked to, actually, bring it to the Topsfield Fair, but we started it so late that I want to get seeds from it, so it’s just not worth bringing it there this weekend,” he said. “I’d need a U-Haul truck. It’d be ridiculous.

“Our goal is to actually have all three of the sunflowers over the roof,” he added, “and we’d like to bring them to the Franklin County Fair,” which is held across the street from their building.

The plant, in a 150-gallon fabric pot purchased on Amazon, required four to six gallons of water per day, except in July, the wettest in state history.

According to Guinness World Records, the tallest sunflower grew to 30 feet, 1 inch in Karst, NordrheimWestfaken, Germany.

John Sandbakken, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, said sunflowers typically grow to 6 to 7 feet and are most commonly grown in the Dakotas, down to the Texas Panhandle.

According to Tina Mittelsteadt, the National Sunflower Association’s business and advertising sales manager, there are many varieties of sunflowers and some of them can grow very tall, especially the ornamental varieties. She explained the association’s main focus is with commercial varieties of sunflowers, such as confection and black oilseed. She said the confection seeds are the ones with the stripe and are used for roasting and salting, while the black oil seeds are used for extracting oil. Both types can also be found in bird food.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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