A FORMER soldier who suffered a life-threatening brain injury is enjoying brightening up people’s day after growing a 10 feet tall sunflower in his Barrhead garden. 

David Martin, who served in Afghanistan, planted the seed in his flower bed in March and has been impressing passers-by in Auchenback who cannot believe the size of the plant. 

He believes a combination of warm weather and plenty of rain has helped the sunflower thrive, along with regular watering and, interestingly, the use of cucumbers to keep the slugs at bay.

He told the Barrhead News: “I joined a gardening Facebook group and said I’m trying to grow a sunflower in the garden, but I’m scared in case it gets eaten by slugs.

“They said sit cucumbers around the sprouts and it will stop the slugs from eating the sunflowers and it really worked.

“I’d been growing them in pots before and they got to about five feet. But I’m thinking because I’ve tried to grow these in a flower bed and dug out the compost, the roots have gone down deeper and I’ve had to use four canes to keep it supported.”

Even so, the 38-year-old still can’t believe it has ended towering over his six-foot frame.

“There is no way I thought it would get higher than five feet growing in the ground in Scotland,” he said. “I thought no way is the climate warm enough.

“I’ve just used water and some compost, no chemicals, but It just shows if you care for something enough it blooms into something magnificent.”

Fuelled by his own relentless positivity, his sunflower growing efforts are just the latest embodiment of his mission to bring happiness to others after being involved in a devastating road crash in 2013 while driving from his barracks in Inverness.

The accident left him in a coma for 10 weeks and facing a long rehabilitation battle, which involved learning to walk, talk, read and write again - but also determined to help and inspire others.

Since lockdown he has been been making people smile throughout the town and beyond by painting stones and rocks with ladybirds, smile emojis and other positive symbols and messages.

The veteran has then been leaving them in places for children and adults to discover, an effort which means he is now known as the “Barrhead Banksy”.

“I survived Afghanistan to come back and nearly die in a car crash on the A9,” he added. “It’s a shame, it was unfortunate But the one thing I’ve learned from having a brain injury is that life is too important to be anything but happy and to spread smiles and joy amongst everyone. 

“A lovely lady who just walked by told me, ‘Son your flowers and rocks cheer me up every single day when I pass your garden and and I find your painted rocks, as I call them, in the street’.

“It’s giving me happiness as well doing nice things to brighten up people’s lives, especially these days with all of the doom and gloom as of late. “It’s a nice thing for someone to see instead of seeing in the news about X Y Z.We can know we are part of a good country and good communities and people around us care.”