Common Name: Sunflower
Cultivar: 'Velvet Queen'
Skill Level: Beginner
Exposure: Full sun
Hardiness: Half Hardy
Soil type: Clay/heavy, Moist, Well-drained/light
Time to plant seeds: March to May
Sunflowers have changed almost beyond recognition, from being tall coarse plants with a single enormous yellow flower with edible seeds on a thick robust stem, to branching plants for decorating the back of the border, supplying cut flowers and even creating informal summer hedges. Gorgeous colours have been introduced, as in 'Velvet Queen', a freely branching variety with handsome 15cm (6in) heads in an opulent shade of rich crimson. They make excellent cut flowers if gathered just before they are fully open. Alternatively leave them on the plant for the birds to enjoy the seed-heads that follow.