Prince Albert gardener grows ‘Border Wall’ of sunflowers

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Stephen Shaw looks at some of his sunflowers in his yard on Oliver Way.

When you enter Oliver Way in the Crescent Acres area in Prince Albert, the first thing you will notice is the sunflowers.

Stephen Shaw has lived on Oliver Way for 20 years and over time has become a landscape tinkerer. This year he has planted a sunflower garden on the south side of his lawn and the reaction to the growth has been amazing.

“This is a great neighbourhood (with) a lot of small kids and parents taking their kids for walks and bike rides by, and just everyone stops and kind of smells the roses except they are sunflowers,” Shaw said. “Little kids kind of give me those wow expressions.”

His interest in sunflower began last year when two sunflowers popped up in one of his wildflower beds. He believes it is likely from scattered bird seed that happened to germinate.

A new seven-year-old neighbour took great interest in them, and together, they watched them grow and mature throughout the summer. They the harvested the seeds, dried and roasted them and had several tasty snacks.

“When I did this it was just (thinking), ‘I would like to have some sunflowers,’” Shaw said. “I didn’t think it would be quite as spectacular really as it has turned out.

That experience inspired him to grow a dedicated sunflower zone this spring. The efforts involved removing a 2’ x 50’ strip of lawn with a full Southern exposure for the new bed.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Stephen Shaw looks at some of his sunflowers in his yard on Oliver Way.

When he went to purchase seeds he discovered how many incredible varieties of sunflowers existed. At the time, he had no idea there were so many.

There were eight varieties available, so rather than pick and choose he bought all of them which creates a contrast among the sunflowers.

“I think a lot of people are interested in the different colours that we have,” Shaw explained. “You may have seen that I have two stakes out here that have all of the eight different varieties here. They are all listed there and people take time to kind of do a read and find out maybe that’s something they want to grow next year.”

Shaw started the flowers inside in mid-April and transplanted them outdoors beginning May 6. He then created a domed cage to protect against rabbits, deer, birds and children.

Shaw covered the dome each night with burlap for a couple of weeks, until the threat of frost was gone. Then they just started taking off and now some are approaching 10’ in height.

“I had a fellow come the other day to cut down a tree in the back yard that was past its prime and he said he has never seen anyone in the city do sunflowers like this,” Shaw said.

“I call it my border wall,” he added with a smile. “That’s a popular term these days.”

Shaw is retired forensic psychologist who then spent 5 years in tropical locations around the globe (SE Asia, Africa, Central America) training professional scuba diving instructors.

He describes himself a full-time dad to his 13-year-old Maltichon–and assistant landscaper –Phoebe.

He added that there will be no shortage of seeds this year for friends, neighbours and birds.