10 °CSun, 18

Blooming great display of 175,000 sunflowers

Shauna Loughran

Reporter:

Shauna Loughran

A PORTGLENONE family have spread a little bit of sunshine as 175,000 tiny seeds have blossomed into huge bursts of yellow sunflowers.

The McAllister family have created a the spectacular attraction at the Gortgole Road with their wildflower meadow and sunflower display, which has seen people from far and wide flock to see the stunning blooms.

Cool FM presenter and leading blogger, Melissa Riddell, has even visited the floral field, not once but twice and her snaps on instagram among the giant sunflowers have seen a surge of visitors to the site.

The initiative was the brainwave of Damian McAllister, whose father Eamonn owns the land on which the three acres of flowers span.

The idea was conceived as a way of raising money for the building fund of the local chapel, St Mary’s, Portglenone.

Damian sowed the seed at the end of May utilising an old technique of sowing with a fiddle.

One acre is devoted to wildflowers, with intricate hues of yellows, purples and reds while the huge sunflowers take up two acres.

Speaking to the Guardian, Damian’s wife, Karen, said: “We have been overwhelmed at how much support we have received.

“We opened the gates on Saturday and it was only supposed to be open on Saturday and Sunday but we have been so busy and people just keep on coming.

“So we’ve decided to keep it open.

“My husband planted the seeds in late May and the conditions, with the warm weather and rain, have ensured they have flourished.

“They are continuing to bloom and the children who visit absolutely love it.

“It is good fun, they can play games like hide and seek.

“But, it’s educational too.

“They can learn about nature and see the flowers as well as ladybirds and bumble bees!

“We have even been in touch with the local Beekeepers Association.

“There are a number of varieties of flowers here including Corn Cockle, Marigolds, Chamomiles and Cornflower.

“There are 175,000 sunflowers with the tallest so far reaching 7ft!“

“So many people are visiting and news of it is spreading through word of mouth and social media, with Melissa Riddell really giving us a boost.

“We have even had a request from a bride who wishes to have her wedding pictures taken here next week!

“We also had an 80 year old lady visit who said she hadn’t seen a field of sunflowers like this since she was in her 20s in France!

“It really made her day!

“The reception to this has been totally unexpected but it’s been great!”

Eamonn McAllister, owner of the land, said: “Usually we don’t have the climate here for the sunflowers but they have bloomed this year.

“It was a novel idea and we have been very busy with visitors from all over.

“It is like paradise for bumble bees here!

“We have enjoyed it and so far we have raised £1,500 for the chapel.

“We’d be happy to do it all again next year!”

Visitors have been thoroughly enjoying the local attraction with one woman telling the Guardian: “It is a real treasure on our doorstep!”

And visitors can also take away their very own sunflower!

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