Katie lives in Harehills, Leeds and took part in The Big Sunflower Project in 2017. Below she writes about taking part in the project.
I took part in the Big Sunflower Project after a friend I met through a local growing group sent me a link on Facebook. I live in an inner city area of Leeds and although I had dabbled with growing herbs and edibles I’d never really bothered with flowers much and had honestly never grown a sunflower in my entire life. I registered my interest and then one day two little packets of sunflowers came through my letterbox. I felt a wave of excitement, it was miles better post to receive than the usual bills and junk mail we all get these days.
I couldn’t wait to get started so I went out into my little garden and began to gather together my little pots and compost. The three Romanian children next door were looking a bit bored and asked me what I was doing. I invited them to grow a sunflower each. They got stuck in and we planted eight and labelled three with their names which they took them home. Their mother helped care for them but we had mixed success with our first attempt as only a couple germinated (who knew sunflowers could be so tricky?)! We had enough seeds left to have another go and this time more children on the street, who had heard about the sunflowers, wanted to get involved. I’d read somewhere that soaking them overnight could help so we tried that and had much more success the second time round. The Harehills sunflowers seedlings began to grow and grow and grow.
The children on the street started to get very competitive. There was a definite sabotage attempt across the road where a child poured rancid milk on his sister’s sunflower so that one had to go in the bin. For a while the smallest child on the street had the biggest sunflower but once the sunflowers were planted out all that changed. The sunflower belonging to the quiet middle child next door overtook us all, he was so proud. Growing sunflowers had ignited such a passion for gardening in these youngsters and at watering up time each day I had to manage a queue of very eager volunteers. All this gave me the confidence to run a summer holiday workshop outside the local library. They had been given three huge planters and wanted to grow edibles in them, I suggested edible flowers and berries. We held a planting day with children from the centre and some of the young growers from my street and we arranged the plants into three edible faces.
Off the back of all this we had help from the council to install a Community Planter in a grey corner of Harehills which was prone to fly tipping. We decided that it would be nice to grow some pollinator plants in it to attract bees and butterflies to the area. As this is at the top of our street, the children I grew sunflowers with also got involved. This growing army of budding gardeners then went onto plant 5000+ daffodils in the area and now we are trying to get permission to plant some fruit trees in public spaces too. Those little sunflower seeds really worked their magic to increase communication, inspire confidence and start to bring the diverse community of Harehills together again.
Thank you very much for letting us be a part of this, I do hope we’ve helped support you in your mission to raise awareness. We would love to get involved with the project again next year and I’m already thinking about having a pop up workshop at the library to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy and so more children (and adults!) in Harehills can have fun with sunflowers.