A year in the life: 20 October 2018

It’s late October and today, for possibly the last time this year, I am writing this sat in the garden (albeit bundled up in a big cardigan). It’s Saturday, the sun is shining and the sky is blue, so I’m pretending like it’s summer.

Sunflowers

This year many of the seeds I planted germinated. I planted my sunflowers out anywhere around the garden where I found a space and from early August was rewarded with huge yellow, red and orange flowers all over the place. The sunflowers here this year were nothing short of magnificent. Some of them I thought would never flower – like a well known beanstalk, they just grew and grew and grew.

Sunflowers

And although not quite the sight they were, there are still sunflowers in bloom today and a couple of sunflowers still to flower – whether these can survive the night time frosts which are surely on the way remains to be seen but right now they are giving it a good go.

Red sunflower

With it being such a lovely day today, I have sunflower heads full of seeds drying out in the sun. My growing success this year means I should have a fair few seeds for growing next year. However, earlier this year I also applied to the Skipton Building Society Grassroots Giving scheme, for a £500 donation, with the aim of securing the future of the project for a further year.

Orange sunflower

The project was successful in being shortlisted for the third time and it is lovely simply for the project to be recognised, however, winning a donation would be a huge help in funding the increasing cost of seeds and postage.

Winners of the donation are decided by public vote, so support from project sunflower growers and those affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy is vital. If you voted, thank you so very much. Winners will be announced on 5 November.

Sunflower heads

2018 was the eighth year of the project. This year more than 850 sunflower photos were received and sunflowers were grown in the UK, Europe and the USA. Sunflower growing season in this part of the world is now almost over,  so all that remains is to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy by taking part in project again this year and sharing their beautiful photos.

And if you are in a part of the world which is just about to get its summer, please consider picking up the baton and taking part. I can think of nothing better than receiving sunflower photos from foreign climes during the cold dark days which are to come.
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Grassroots Giving 2018

The Big Sunflower Project has been shortlisted for Grassroots Giving 2018 to receive a donation of £500. Over 740 applications were received and 377 groups have now been shortlisted.

Funding such as this is crucial to The Big Sunflower Project continuing and the winners will be decided by public vote, so if you like what we do please vote below for us to win.

Voting closes on 12 October 2018.

 

Grassroots Giving logo

A year in the life: 25 August 2018

The first of my giant sunflowers started to bloom in early August and the second the day after. I would have had a sunflower earlier but windy weather at the end of July saw the first one off just as the flower began to open.

Giant sunflower.

After months of nurturing they both flowered in a direction where I could not see them easily, choosing to look out over the street, instead of the garden but both plants had many flower buds and the later flowers are being more obliging.

Giant sunflower.

This year my success rate has been high. I had some seeds that didn’t germinate and a few plants have been lost to the weather but dotted around the garden today I have around 15 large variety sunflowers, some growing to dizzying heights and my dwarf sunflowers are still flowering too.

Giant sunflowers.

The last few weeks have seen sunflower photos arriving almost every day from across the UK but also from Europe and the USA. This time of year is almost like a second Christmas or birthday, each sunflower a gift which is then shared on the project social media pages, so helping raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy with its beauty. Currently, the project has received over 600 photos from 97 participants.

Sunflower heads.

Now in late August, there is a chill in the air in the mornings but this afternoon has been warm and sunny and I chopped down the first of the giant sunflower heads that had started to go over. Strangely, it didn’t feel bad doing this, the flowers were as big as my hand (the leaves even bigger) and are bursting full of seeds – once the seeds have dried out, it will be possible to plant them next year. Dead heading should encourage the other buds into bloom too. Also I still have many sunflowers to flower and the ones that are in bloom already have today looked amazing sunning themselves against the back drop of a very blue sky, so I am looking forward to September in the garden.

Dark red sunflower.

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.

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.

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