A friend was excited about planting her first sunflower seeds and looking forward to their spectacular, happy-looking flowers (the large flower head is made up of countless little individual flowers).

If you’d like to try growing your own, horticulturists at the LSU AgCenter say the seeds can be planted now through early September.

Sunflowers come in a range of heights from 1 foot to a glorious 8 feet, says AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings.

There are more colors than one thinks of, too, ranging from brilliant yellow to bronze and red.

You can plant the seeds directly in a prepared garden bed in full sun.

If you’d like to harvest your own sunflower seeds for snacking, plant varieties bred for seed production, Owings says, such as Mammoth Russian, which also goes by the names Mammoth, Russian Giant and Gray Stripe.

The website http://www.sunflowerguide.com tells how to harvest and dry sunflower seeds.

A BONUS TOUR: St. Francisville is the setting on Sunday for the final tour of this year’s Spring Garden Tours, presented by the LSU Hilltop Arboretum.

Three gardens will be featured from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: the home of Martha and David Floyd, 12383 Tunica Trace; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 12790 Tunica Trace, where plants will be available for sale, and the Mary Ann Brown Preserve at 13515 La. 965.

Sights on the tour include an old-fashioned kitchen garden and a tunnel of crape myrtles on the Floyd property; the grounds of an 1857 church that was being overtaken by the forest before restoration efforts, and centuries-old beach-magnolia trees on the preserve.

The Hilltop Arboretum advises those taking the tour to plan a stop in St. Francisville for restroom facilities.

Tickets are $20 per person and will be available at each garden on Sunday. Tickets are also available online at http://www.lsu.edu/hilltop and at the Hilltop Arboretum, 11855 Highland Road.

For more information, call (225) 767-6916 or email hilltop@tigers.lsu.edu.

Ellyn Couvillion

Advocate staff writer