FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Alex Babich can’t believe he did it again. In his backyard garden in a Fort Wayne neighborhood, he’s grown another U.S. record.
“I’m extremely shocked we got here,” he said. “It’s nuts. It’s just crazy.”
Babich has always had a hobby of gardening, and owns a landscaping business, but he didn’t set out to grow records when he planted his first sunflower five years ago.
His first flower hit 13 feet. Then 15 feet the next year, followed by 19 feet in year three. Year four, last year, found a flower reaching 25 feet, two inches – which set a new U.S. record.
Now, in his fifth year growing giant sunflowers, Babich broke his own record. His tallest flower now stands 25 feet, six inches. While the stalk is done growing, the head is still getting bigger, which could bring a few more inches of overall height.
Babich will have Allen County master gardeners come in a few weeks to take the official measurements to submit to make the new record official.
It’s a goal Babich didn’t think would happen a few weeks ago. A storm slammed northeast Indiana and tore holes through the sunflower leaves.
“The leaves were shredded,” Babich said. “I kept what I could and here we are!”
Through the damage, the flower persevered and reached record heights.
“Now that the flowers got shredded so bad, Kyiv is perfect name. The city was shredded by Russian machine guns, but it’s still standing,” Babich said.
Alex and his family left Ukraine when he was 14 years old and moved to Fort Wayne. The sunflower is the Ukrainian national flower.
Last year Alex named his first record-breaking flower the Ukrainian Spirit. Now, his second flower for the record books is still sending a message of strength to his home country.
“We really hope and pray for peace,” he said.
Next year Alex says he’ll plant another flower and feed it, water it and nurture it.
“You’ve got to babysit them. You can’t just plant a seed and forget it. It’s an every day thing. I use a fertilizer I mix myself – the secret juice,” he said.
Two other flowers in his field also set records this year at the Indiana State Fair. Babich’s daughter, Ayla, 12, bagged the State Title with her 20 feet, 10 inch flower and her brother, Keenai, 8, came in second place with his flower measuring 20 feet even.
While records weren’t his original goal, now he hopes to keep his tall tale growing even taller.
“I’m not thinking of the world record. I just want to beat my own record one inch at a time,” Babich said. “If we keep going, we could get the world record, but I’ll keep going as long as I’m healthy.”
The world record for tallest sunflower is 30 feet, one inch, set in Germany in 2016.
While there’s no official “record book” for U.S. sunflowers, Chris Brown manages the “Garden of Giants” Facebook group and says he keeps track of records in every state, province and country across the world. Brown verified that Babich’s measurements taken last year on video by master gardeners makes him the current U.S. record-holder.
Brown said this year he plans to recognize new records with official certificates similar to Guinness – as long as official rules were followed to properly document, verity and certify the record.
If Babich’s measurements this year hold up in the official ruling by the master gardeners in a few weeks, Brown said Babich would be the new record holder. Of course, providing no one else submits a verified flower that’s taller before December 31.
The Canadian and and North American record was also set last year by John Butler at 27 feet, 8.5 inches high.