As of Thursday, the head of the 12-foot-3-inch-tall sunflower growing on the south side of Tim Hiner’s house had not yet bloomed.
“It’s over the roof of the house,” Hiner said. “It’s an enormous thing. I don’t know what happened to it.”
Already, its stalk is wider than a man’s calf, and its leaves are four times the size of a dinner plate, he claimed.
The Soldotna resident has been growing sunflowers at his Funny River Road residence for seven years. He said it’s nothing serious, just a hobby. His average flower is about nine feet each summer.
But this summer has been unlike others. Last year, soil temperatures rarely exceeded 60 degrees. This year, said Lydia Clayton, agriculture and horticulture agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, said soil temperatures peaked 70 degrees.
The Kenai Peninsula was also washed in sun and warm air and saw little rain for most of the summer. Tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and — evidently — sunflowers flourished as a result, she said.
“We really had an unordinarily warm summer here,” she said.
That’s what Hiner thinks did it for his towering sunflower. The evidence is in the five or six 10-footers that are also growing in his back yard, he said.
Friday, Hiner left for a week-long trip to hunt moose. He is afraid that when he returns, the weekend-frost that some Peninsula residents are anticipating will have killed his flower.
Sunflowers, he said, are not cold-weather plants.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.