A year in the life: 25 July 2018

It’s getting towards the end of July and all but one of my dwarf sunflowers, which was planted later than the others, are now in bloom. They are around two foot high with many flowers and are loving the proper summer we are having this year. The bees and butterflies think they are in sunflower heaven and it is really quite joyous to watch them going about their business each day.

Dwarf sunflower.

I am loving the weather too but I am spending a lot of time watering. The neighbours I am sure, think the crazy watering woman is at it again, every time they see me with my watering can but when plants are in pots or under the roof line, the rain does not get to them like they need and even a heavy rain shower for an hour doesn’t do much for those planted in the borders after weeks of intense sun.

The larger varieties are coming on nicely too. Some of them are making a bid to expand their horizons and will soon be peering over the garden fence at passersby. Many of them now have flower buds but no actual flowers yet, so I am giving them tomato feed for encouragement.

Sunflowers

As usual when I planted my sunflowers, I tagged them so I knew what they were but despite my best intentions the names have mostly washed away, so in a lot of cases, it is going to be sunflower surprise again.

Mercifully the slugs and snails have kept their distance this year, although I did find the biggest slug wedged between a flower bud and a cane after some rain recently. Sadly it wasn’t willing to listen to reason. We had a disagreement as I proceeded to try and evict it. I won but … ugh. However, said sunflower seems to be doing okay, despite the best efforts of the slug to eat it.

Dwarf sunflowers.

I am hoping to have another go at harvesting seeds this year. Last year, although the project did receive some seed donations, I had to purchase sunflower seeds for the first time since the project began, which meant less money was available for the admin costs of the project. So as flowers fade, it’s off with their heads, in the hope that the seeds will dry out and can be used next year. You can read about how to harvest seeds on this website.

If you decide to have a go too  and would like to share some of your bounty with The Big Sunflower Project 2019, please get in touch.

Sunflower heads drying out in the sun.

Advertisements

Calling all sunflower growers

The Big Sunflower Project is a non for profit organisation that grows sunflowers to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions known as centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.

The project is only possible because of the funding and donations it receives and this year we are looking for sunflower growers in the UK and Europe to help with our work, by asking them to harvest and donate any unwanted sunflower seeds. Never harvested sunflower seeds before? You can learn how to do this below.

If you are a sunflower grower and have seeds to spare that you would be willing to donate in order to help raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, please get in touch.

Seed donations will be distributed to people wanting to take part in our 2019 project and will help with keeping  the costs of the project down, enabling awareness to be raised with more people.

Sunflower heads drying out in the sun.

A year in the life: 23 June 2018

After what seemed like the never ending winter, summer has finally arrived and since early May, in my little corner of the world,  there have been many lovely long hot summer days. Some of my dwarf sunflowers are showing signs of flowering and the larger varieties are growing taller by the day.

Dwarf sunflower and Ollie owl.

This year I have planted my favourite dwarf variety called Solar Flash, a giant variety called Kong and varieties called Sunburst and Autumntime. I have got a sequential planting thing going on, so my plants are started off on the kitchen window sill and when they have grown a bit, when I can, I put them outside during the day and bring them back inside overnight.

Dwarf sunflowers

I re-housed my first sunflower outside permanently in May and others followed in the days afterwards. As pots became free I planted more seeds but have stopped doing this now we have reached the middle of June.

Things are going pretty good but it has not all been all plain sailing and I am having to keep a close eye on my babies for silvery trails and half eaten holey leaves. I’ve been spraying the leaves at night with water and a tiny amount of fairy liquid too – it isn’t stopping my plants getting munched but maybe not as bad as if I wasn’t doing this.

Planting my sunflowers in pots initially means I can move my plants to other parts of the garden if necessary or in the worst cases, to A and E (also known as the garden shed), for a few days. However, note to self – putting pots in the shed over night is an excellent idea but must check pots for slugs and snails first to prevent waking to carnage the next morning … ooops.

Sunflowers

The first project sunflowers have now begun to flower. The first photos arrived from Suttgart, which couldn’t have been more perfect – the sunflowers were grown in memory of Emil who had myotubular myopathy and passed away in 2016. Hot on its heals photos arrived from Cheshire and Harrow and Cambridge looks likely to be next.

My large sunflowers are a way off flowering yet but I am looking forward to seeing my dwarf sunflowers in bloom very soon and for now, wherever there is a space in the garden I am filling it with a sunflower in the hope of a beautiful display later in the year.

Sunflower and hydrangea.

The Big Sunflower Project 2018 (mid year report)

2018 is the eighth year of The Big Sunflower Project. Seed distribution began in January and seeds have once again been sent to places across the UK. Sunflowers are also being grown in Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Croatia, the USA, New Zealand and Costa Rica and for the second time the project is being joined by many people growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and sadly passed away in 2016.

Sunflower seedlings in Shetland.

The Big Sunflower Project is only possible because of the kindness of the organisations who support our work with donations, discounts and funding. Sunflower seeds for The Big Sunflower Project 2018 have been provided by the following organisations.

In addition the project received funding from:

The aim of The Big Sunflower Project

The aim of The Big Sunflower Project is to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions known as centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. The project raises awareness by sending seeds to people who have never heard of the conditions and requesting photos and stories in return, which are posted online, again raising awareness of the conditions.

Project map

309 places have now been plotted on the project map which can be seen below – click a sunflower to learn who is growing sunflowers in that location. The project wholeheartedly welcomes participation from anyone who wants to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy by growing a sunflower and people who buy their own seeds are welcome to join in – if you would like to do this, please get in touch advising where you will be growing your sunflowers, so you can be included on the project map too.

Photos

So far this year 146 photos have been received from 46 participants. Photos submitted to the project are shared in the Information Point newsletter and on the project social media pages which raises awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.

Don’t forget when sharing your photos to advise where the sunflowers are being grown and when sharing the photos on social media use #TheBigSunflowerProject.

Local Charities Day

Sometimes the photos are used in applications for grants and funding such as that described above or where an opportunity arises to raise awareness of the project, such as on Local Charities Day, an initiative of the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, which helped raise the profile of the project at a national level.

Stories

The project website now has a large collection of stories from past participants – if you would like to share your story too, please get in touch.

Resources

The resources area of the project website was updated earlier this year. If you are using your sunflower seeds for educational purposes, fundraising events or would like to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy at the place where you are growing your sunflowers, you can download flyers from this area of the website. You will also find resources for teaching children and to start conversations about equality and diversity.

Watering sunflowers in Chester.

Make a donation

There is no charge for project seeds or the cost of postage, the project does however, welcome donations to ensure the future of the project and to enable seeds to be sent to as many people as possible each year. If you have donated for your seeds, thank you – if you like to donate you can learn more about how to do this below.

Growing sunflowers at Tinsley Meadows Primary Academy.

Further information

Further information about the project can be found on The Big Sunflower Project website and on social media.

 

A year in the life: 6 May 2018

It is now almost two months since I planted my dwarf sunflower seeds. Being a dwarf variety the plants have been growing happily on the kitchen windowsill for most of this time with the occasional visit outside, to prepare them for being permanently out in the  big wide world. Six of the eight seeds I planted grew fine and I planted a couple more a few weeks after the initial planting to make up for the two that didn’t grow.

Each year it never ceases to amaze me how I can plant my seeds on the same day at the same time but how they grow at different rates. There are always the high achievers racing ahead, while others, take their time, wondering what all the fuss is about. However, overall what I have learned during the time I have been growing sunflowers, is that they flower in their own sweet time. In my case last year, this was November and while I have had sunflowers bloom during the winter months before, they have usually been second flowerings, so I am hoping for a better showing this year.

Dwarf sunflowers

Over the last few days, after a very long winter, it seems like everything in the garden is coming back to life and I can almost see things growing before my eyes, so today I transferred my dwarf sunflowers outside. Now even the biggest plants look tiny in their new  homes but the weather is set to be hot and sunny for a few days and I wanted to make the most of it. Hopefully I am giving them a good start.

Presently sat in an area of the garden which gets full sun all day, none of the plants appear to be sulking about being re-housed but later I will be putting copper rings around them to keep the slugs and snails at bay and will move them into the shed overnight.

In previous years I have found using the cut off bottoms of plastic milk bottles to be quite effective at protecting my sunflowers but last year they were not enough to protect my plants from a mass invasion of slugs and snails that arrived in the garden during a wet spell, so I invested in copper rings and will be using these from the start this year.

Dwarf sunflowers

Since planting my dwarf sunflowers I have also planted some giant sunflower seeds and these are also growing fine indoors but I am going to let them get a bit bigger before I pot them out, as currently they look as if they would make a good meal for a hungry slugs and snails.

And now the dwarf sunflowers have moved out of the house, I have been able to sow a few more large varieties indoors – Sunburst Mixed and Autumn Time, neither of which I have grown before and Copper Queen which I have. Watered and sat behind a hot window, hopefully it won’t be too long  before I have some more sunflowers growing.

Giant sunflowers

Frank: South Africa

The Big Sunflower Project welcomes participation from around the world. Sadly, due to import and export rules, we are unable to send seeds outside of Europe but that doesn’t stop people joining in, with sunflowers having been grown in many places across USA, Ecuador and Dubai.

Sunflowers

In early 2018, the project received a lovely email and photos from Frank in South Africa – Frank is diagnosed with the dominant form of centronuclear myopathy which made the email all the more special.

Frank grew the sunflowers in his lovely garden in Durban and they were subsequently eaten by the local troop of Vervet moneys, making their daily trek across the yard.

Vervet monkeyVervet monkeysVervet monkeys

A year in the life: 10 March 2018

2018 marks the eighth year I have been growing sunflowers and this year I thought I would try and record my sunflower growing.

Seed distribution for The Big Sunflower Project 2018 began in January and there are now 252 places plotted on the project map, with seeds having been posted to destinations in the UK and Europe, to people affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, charities, community groups, good causes and more.

There isn’t much in the way of planting going on yet – today is Saturday 10 March and this time last week the UK had ground to a halt because of heavy snow and freezing weather conditions. Winter 2017/2018 has been the coldest winter we have had in the UK for a number of years and there has been ice and snow on an off since before Christmas.

I tried planting some seeds in my shed getting on for a month ago now but there’s nothing doing. To be honest, I wouldn’t want to grow either given the weather we have had but it got me out the house for a short time, on a more mild day.

Solar Flash dwarf sunflower

However, today I have started in earnest and planted eight dwarf sunflower seeds. They are a variety call Solar Flash (see photo above of one I grew earlier) which I have planted for a number of years and they will grow to around two or three foot.

The good thing about these is that they will grow happily in the house for quite some time and because they are a dwarf variety, they don’t get leggy like the larger types. If I was to start those now, they would be ready to plant outside in a couple of weeks and as I don’t have a greenhouse, this will be much too early, so I will plant those at a later date.

Preparing to plant sunflowers.

So today pots have been retrieved from under the kitchen sink and filled with compost. I had a bit of help from some new friends found in a garden centre yesterday. To be honest though they weren’t much help but made for pretty photos.

A single seed was planted in each pot and watered. This year I am using ice cream sticks to label my plants with the name of the sunflower and the date it was planted rather than buying something expensive that does the same thing.

I label my plants every year as I grow different varieties but if all my plants retain the correct label or any label at all later in the year, it will be a miracle. I am using sticks from Magnum ice creams (I highly recommend the double raspberry and honeycomb ice creams) but other brands of ice cream are available.

Ice cream sticks for labeling sunflowers.Sunflower seeds planted and labelled.Sunflower seeds planted and labelled.

Now it is a waiting game … over the next couple of weeks I will give the seeds warmth, light, water and words of encouragement and hopefully, towards the end of March will be rewarded with some sunflower seedlings.

More photos