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.

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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

Suspension of seed distribution

This week The Big Sunflower Project has been promoted on the Gratisfaction, Wow Free Stuff, Latest Deals, Offer Oasis and Free Stuff Search websites and their social media pages. The project has also been included in e-newsletters that these organisations have sent to their subscribers.

None of these organisations asked before doing this, resulting in an overwhelming number of seeds requests being received and we have been forced to suspend seed distribution for the time being. This is the second year that Gratisfaction and Wow Free Stuff have promoted the project without asking and caused seed distribution to stop.

All the organisations have been contacted and asked to remove the information from their websites and social media. Gratisfaction have removed the information from their website but are marking requests on their Facebook page as spam. Wow Free Stuff, Free Stuff Search, Latest Deals and Offer Oasis have not responded. And e-newsletters, once sent, can not be recalled. Sadly as a result of these promotions, it will be impossible to send seeds to everyone who has applied.

The Big Sunflower Project is an independent non profit organisation which relies on funding and donations to keep going – the project is not associated with any freebie websites and project seeds are not freebies or free samples as has been promoted.

The aim of The Big Sunflower Project is to raise awareness of 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 in return. The photos are posted online which again raises awareness of the conditions.

There is no charge for seeds or for the cost of postage but  donations are welcomed – these secure the project for  future years and enable seeds to be sent to as many people as possible each year.

Seed distribution will re-commence but at present it is not possible to say when this will be, as it is going to take some considerable time to read through the many emails that have been received.

When distribution begins again, priority will continue to be given to those affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, community groups, good causes and educational establishments and it will be announced on the Facebook project page and The Information Point Twitter page.

Thank you so much everyone for your interest in The Big Sunflower Project. Anyone not chosen to receive sunflower seeds, is still welcome to take part in the project. Please advise if you taking part so you can be included on the project map.

Meleena (Fulbourn Primary School)

To be honest I had never heard of The Big Sunflower Project and I had most certainly not heard of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy before 2017.

I received an email through school about taking part – I run a primary school gardening club and I thought “Yes, why not get involved”.  What a great way of combining growing something from seed and explaining how some peoples’ bodies do not grow strong because that have rare disorders.  A few of the children struggled to understand fully the impact of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy (quite complex when you are only 5) but they all grasped how some people are born different and have illnesses or disabilities.

The sunflower seeds arrived in their little brown packet and were eagerly received by the gardening club children.  Some of the children had not grown sunflowers before and to which ends we set about planting up one seed in a pot for each child in the club to take home and nurture.  The home results were mixed!  Some were forgotten and left without water, some were planted out too early and eaten by slugs, some were dug up by cats!  The ones that were given care and attention grew big and strong and added a splash of colour to the children’s garden.

The remaining seeds were broadcast sown in an area that had been dug over in our wild life area.  The seed were added to by a local farmer and the results were quite astounding.  A whole host of sunflowers that Van Gogh would have been pleased to paint.

We subsequently harvested the ripened heads (after explaining that each seed has been formed by an individual flower – wow!) and they are drying in our poly tunnel ready for planting again next year.  We will also pass some of the seeds on to other local schools and hope to raise awareness of The Big Sunflower Project for 2018.

Sunflowers grown at Fulborn Primary School

Nish

Nish lives in South Oxhey in the UK and took part in The Big Sunflower Project in 2017. Below he writes about taking part in the project.

My favourite flower are sunflowers. I also have a belief that whatever you sow into the ground, you have a chance that it may grow regardless of the external conditions. It just requires a little bit of hard work and a lot of faith.

Sunflowers are significant in Hindu culture too. The symbol of the sunflower is known as the flower of the Sun (Suryar Mukki). The male Hindu Sun God (Surat dada) is worshiped through the sunflower and thus all the female Goddesses also love the sunflower. So in our Hindu culture if you are a devotee of a Hindu Goddess then it is custom to adorn their photo or statue with a sunflower…. it will please the Goddess very much and the male Sun God will provide equal blessings towards your home and family.

Goddess and sunflower
I have grown sunflowers in the past and they have given me so much joy. My family love sunflowers too. Especially my niece and nephew who have witnessed the tallest sunflowers grow in our garden this year. That is all thanks to The Big Sunflower Project.

The sunflowers have been a major blessing to me. Everything I could have wanted and much more. It’s also been quite spiritual for me too. The sunflowers have given me so much happiness especially at times when I’ve been down or at my lowest.

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the sunflower varieties bloom this year. The anticipation and excitement has given me so much happiness and sense of youth too. This year has been exceptional.

Thanks to the free seeds from The Big Sunflower Project I have been able to grow exotic and tall sunflowers this year. Two plant pots produced the tallest and highest yield of sunflowers. I am truly humbled and grateful to have been gifted the seeds. I’ll never forget how much happiness you have given me and my family in 2017. Thank you.