Keep on the Sunny Side

Every May, Bill Broyles plants 20 pounds of sunflower seeds on his land in Piney Flats, and by mid-July, the hillside overlooking Allison Road is exploding with color. PHOTOS BY DAVE ONGIE

Bill Broyles brightens his corner of the world with sunflowers

By Dave Ongie, News Editor

If you make the turn onto Allison Road in Piney Flats and stay the course long enough, you’ll eventually come to one of those famous East Tennessee hairpin turns necessitated by our unyielding landscape. If you’re making this drive in late July, you’ll be greeted by a hillside exploding with sunshine once you make it around the bend.

For over 40 years, Bill Broyles has been planting sunflowers on his property. It started with a small garden in his front yard, but then it migrated over to a more visible hillside on his property where the sea of sunflowers has expanded to epic proportions.

Each May, Broyles – a Vietnam veteran – plants 20 pounds of sunflower seed. Deer and other wildlife on his property inevitably nibble around the edges, but by mid to late July, the sunflowers reach their peak.

The only time Broyles changed his planting schedule was the year his daughter got married. Sunflowers are her favorite, so Broyles planted some seeds early and took precautions to keep the frost at bay. His timing was just right, and the flowers hit their peak just in time for her June wedding day.

A morning glory intertwined in one of Broyles’ sunflowers, which are popular with the honey bees early in the morning.

Last Thursday morning, Broyles sat in a golf cart high up on his property and took a moment to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Cars would round the bend and slow down to a stop in front of his driveway. Each time, the passenger side window would slide down, and a cellphone would peak out just long enough for the occupant to snap a few pictures. One young lady stopped her car, turned on her hazard lights, hopped out of the driver’s side door and jogged over to snag a couple flowers from the bunch Broyles had left at the entrance to his driveway.

For Broyles, the glow his sunflowers bring into the world is something to be shared. Once the flowers start getting past their peak, he plans to have his two grandsons over to complete the task of sitting by the road and giving away as many of the flowers as they possibly can. In 40 years of doing this, Broyles said he’s never charged anyone for a sunflower, and he doesn’t plan to start now.

One by one, many of the sunflowers that are currently brightening up the hillside will find new homes, spreading a little light into a world that desperately needs it at the moment. The rest will be left for the birds. But rest assured, Broyles plans to spread more seed next May as he continues to bring a little brightness to his corner of the world.


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