When I moved to the country, I couldn’t wait to grow old-fashioned sunflowers. Problem was, the flowers are phototropic and they always turn their heads toward the sun. Our house and view of the garden was on the northwest corner of the open space, so when the sunflowers bloomed all we saw was the backs of their heads. Talk about a disappointment. I face the same problem at the OPC garden that has a perfect spot for sunflowers. Bummer.

If you, too, love the look of old-fashioned sunflowers but find they don’t work in your garden because of phototropism, their size or growth habit — a one-time flower at the end of a tall stalk that fades and dies after a few weeks, it’s time to celebrate and next spring plant the new Sunfinity sunflower from Syngenta.

The Sunfinity is a multi-branching beauty that rises between 36 to 48 inches in height and expands 24 inches in width while producing fabulous blooms throughout the growing season.

It took almost 10 years of breeding this interspecific hybrid — the crossing of two species, within the same genus to produce this fantastic bloomer.

It makes a great container plant as well as an in-ground specimen. And Sunfinities make great cut flowers with no messy pollen issues. When cut in the morning when the blooms are fresh they should keep a week or more in tap water when changed often.

If sunflowers work as a signature plant for a wedding or other celebration, these bright happy-faced blossoms in pots and vases would be stunning and far less expensive than florist flowers. I’d pair them with green flowers, adding a bit of white for sparkle.

Lyme disease tick test kit

Cutter’s new Lyme Disease Test Travel Kit makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys the out of doors. This devastating disease is on the rise in Michigan, but effects can be mitigated with prompt treatment of antibiotics. The Cutter travel kit tests the tick, not the person or pet. The travel kit contains an easy-to-use tick remover and shipping envelope with preprinted labels for mailing the insect or insects to the lab for testing. Proven to be 99.9 percent effective, the lab test the ticks for presence of the DNA of the disease pathogen. They guarantee results in three days either by phone, email or snail mail. Priced at $39.99, the kits are available at English Gardens. For more information on lyme disease go to

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at

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