The Big Sunflower Project 2020 (mid year report)

2020 is the tenth year of The Big Sunflower Project and a milestone event for the little project, which originally was only meant to last for one year.

Sunflowers growing in wellington boots.

Obviously, no one expected the coronavirus situation and in March seed distribution was suspended.  We tentatively re-started in April and during late April and early May, were able to get some final batches of seeds safely in the post. Recipients included children currently home from school, schools that remained open to the children of key workers, a charity that supports people recovering from homelessness and addiction, a specialist worker for the Early Help and Prevention Service, an allotment project for children and adults with additional support needs, Enable Scotland (a charity which works with people who have learning disabilities), a residential home for older people with dementia and a hospital caring for a child with myotubular myopathy.

Sunflowers growing at Westminster Primary school in Ellesmere Port.

Our intention at the beginning of the year had been to distribute 300 packets of seeds and we now know of over 290 people participating in the UK, on the Isle of Man, France, Greece, Germany, Sweden,  Australia and the Philippines, so we are feeling a tiny bit proud of ourselves for getting so close to our target at this difficult time. 238 places are currently plotted on the project map which can be viewed below. Click anywhere on the map to open it up and click a sunflower to learn about the people growing sunflowers in a particular location.  If you are growing sunflowers but cannot see yourself on the map, please ask to be added. As always, we wholeheartedly welcome anyone who grows sunflowers to take part in the project, even if they did not obtain their sunflower seeds from us.

In addition to posting seeds out, seeing as we had been thrown a curve ball, we decided to do a few things differently this year too.

Earlier in the year the project received a large donation of vegetable seeds. During the first three months of the year, these were sent together with sunflower seeds, to anyone who applied to the project and advised they had an allotment or stated they wanted seeds for a gardening club but from late April onwards, we began to give away our sunflower and vegetable seeds locally and we planted dwarf sunflowers, peas, cucumbers and runner beans and gave small plants away too.

Box containing free plants.

Secondly, we decided to send seeds to schools we knew were still open for the children of key workers.  We thought being a small person with all this chaos going on right now, together with not being able to be with your friends and watching your parents go off to work each day must be quite a scary time, so decided to send a few surprise packages to schools, in the hope it would bring some cheer, make the children feel a bit special and give them something to look forward to – hopefully staff and parents would get some enjoyment from seeing the sunflowers too. It has been very lovely to hear from some of the schools and other recipients that the seeds and plants have been well received

Jen and Holger planting sunflower seeds.

ZNM-Zusammenstark! e.v. 

This year the project is once again being joined by ZNM-Zusammenstark! e.v.  growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and sadly passed away in 2016.  Founded in 2015, ZNM-Zusammenstark! e.v. is a German association for those affected by centronuclear and  myotubular myopathy. Visit their website to read what they have to say about being part of The Big Sunflower Project.

Jade bear at Tinsley Meadows Primary school watering his sunflowers.

In the news

The project has received some lovely publicity this year which can be read below and we are incredibly grateful to those who have taken the time to write about what we do.

Sunflowers growing at Spitalfields Crypt.

Resources

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 the resources area of the website. You will also find resources for teaching children and to start conversations about equality and diversity.

Make a donation

The Big Sunflower Project is an initiative of The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions known as centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, by sending seeds to people who have never heard of the conditions and requesting photos in return, which are shared in the Information Point newsletter and on the project social media pages, again raising awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. 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 would like to donate, you can learn more about how to do this below.

Our friends

This year project seeds have been donated by Thompson and Morgan and Tamar Organics. Seeds were also donated by Mike Rogers, Linda Fowler and Flower Power Lymo who grew sunflowers during the 2019 project and saved their seeds.

We are also grateful to everyone who has donated to The Big Sunflower Project since 2011, enabling us to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  You can read about these people below.

Looking forward to seeing everyone’s sunflower photos over the summer. Until then  stay safe everyone.

Sunflowers planted in Birkenhead.

Further information

Further information about the project can be found on The Big Sunflower Project website and on social media, where photos can be shared using #TheBigSunflowerProject. Use #centronuclear, #centronuclearmyopathy, #myotubular and #myotubularmyopathy to help raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy too.

The Big Sunflower Project 2019 (end of year report)

2019 was the ninth year of The Big Sunflower Project. This year seeds were sent across the UK and to The Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, Lithuania and Germany and sunflowers were also grown in Canada, the USA and Argentina. For the third time the project was joined by people growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and sadly passed away in 2016.  And for the first time sunflowers were grown in Australia, for George who has myotubular myopathy.

Sunflower growing season is now over in the UK but if you are in a part of the world about to get its summer, please consider buying a packet of seeds and growing a sunflower to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, we would love to continue receiving sunflower photos over the winter months.

Sunflowers grown in Harpenden.

The Big Sunflower Project is only possible because of the kindness of the  organisations who support our work with donations, discounts, funding and publicity. Sunflower seeds for The Big Sunflower Project 2019 were provided by Kings Seeds, who provided 300 packets of seeds at a large discount.

Seeds were also donated by people who harvested seeds from sunflowers they grew during the 2018 project – thank you Katrin, Mike and the University of Leicester Social Impact team. In addition the project received a £200 donation from Cheshire West Voluntary Action, a £150 donation from Sanctuary Housing and a donation of stamps from project participant Sue.

The Big Sunflower Project was also recently featured in the Liverpool Echo and we are grateful to Semble and the Liverpool Echo for making this happen.  You can read the article below.

donna-7

Project map

This year 300 places were plotted on the project map which can be seen below – click a sunflower to learn more about the people growing sunflowers in that location.

Photos

Over 700 photos were received from 81 participants this year. Every photo received was posted on social media to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. Photos from the 2019 project can be found below.

toni-66

Stories

Thank you to every one who shared their story with the project this year.  The new stories can be found below.

Participant stories are incredibly important as they show the reach and impact of the project. If you would like to share your story too, please get in touch.

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Harvesting sunflower seeds

Don’t forget that if you have grown a sunflower this year you can save the seeds for growing next year or you can donate these to the project for others to grow. You can learn how to harvest your sunflower seeds below.

donna-11

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.

The Big Sunflower Project 2020

Preparations are already underway for The Big Sunflower project 2020. This is a milestone year for the project as it will be the tenth year we have grown sunflowers to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.  You can read below how the project began.

100 packets of seeds have already been donated by Thompson and Morgan and  seeds will shortly be arriving from Tamar Organics and Grow Seed.  Harvested seeds from 2019 project participants are also promised.

We have also been able to obtain discounted postage stamps for 2020.  Stamps are a major expense for the project and if we were say to send seeds to 300 people during the year, at current prices (83p for a large second class stamp) this would cost £249.00. Stamps for the 2020 project have been purchased with a discount of between 8 – 12% so is a massive saving which we will now be able to use elsewhere – thank you to Mike Abram for all his hard work sorting this for the project.

Next year we will once again be joined by our friends Zusammenstark, growing sunflowers for Emil. You can learn more about their involvement on their website below.

julia-1

Further information

Further information about the project can be found on here on the project website and on the project social media pages.

Seed distribution for The Big Sunflower Project will begin again in early 2020. An announcement will be made on social media advising when seed applications are once again being accepted.

Marketfield School

In 2019 The Big Sunflower Project was contacted by Leanne, a Can Do Sport Programme Coordinator at Leonard Cheshire, who was creating an accessible garden and outdoor classroom at Marketfield School in Colchester, as part of a programme called ‘Can Do Sport’, an activity-based skills course for young people aged up to 35 years old with disabilities, mental health issues or long-term health conditions.

Marketfield School courtyard garden

Leanne explained that Can Do Sport is about encouraging young people to become more active and lead healthy lifestyles (gardening included). Participants do 16 hours and when achieving a number of outcomes they can earn a City and Guilds endorsed certificate.

The Marketfield School project was funded by the National Garden Scheme, which each year chooses a number of charities to donate to and Leonard Cheshire had been fortunate to receive some money to create a courtyard garden at the school.

Leanne says ‘The sunflowers were grown  on a windowsill and then planted outside against a sunny wall. It was really nice and everyone gave their sunflower a name. Growing sunflowers for The Big Sunflower Project was a great way for pupils to learn about gardening and also to help raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.’

Laceymay and boys

Laceymay and her sons took part in The Big Sunflower Project for the first time in 2019. Below she writes about their experience of growing sunflowers.

Sunflower grown by Laceymay and her boys.

So this year was our first year growing sunflowers. We were very lucky to receive some normal and some dwarf sunflower seeds. We got these absolutely free of charge through the post.

Me and my two boys aged 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 took part this year in our back garden. Both my boys seem to love being in the garden and have previously planted other things so I thought this would be perfect.

I let the boys plant their own seeds – they each planted a tall sun flower and I planted a dwarf sunflower so we could see the difference. They were both very excited to see them grow. For the first maybe six to eight weeks we kept them inside, until they were strong enough to go outside, to be replanted into bigger pots to grow and flourish.

The boys watered them daily and once they were outside there was no stopping them. The tall sunflowers flowered first, they were beautiful and the boys were both so pleased because we managed to get them both just over four feet. Not bad for our first attempt.  Then maybe three weeks after the big ones had been harvested and died out, the dwarf opened up and it was stunning.

Not only have these sunflowers been great for me and the boys to get more active outside, they have also brought a lot more wildlife to the garden as well this year, since having the sunflowers we’ve had an increase in the number of butterflies and bees that visit our garden which is lovely to see.

We are very much looking forward to taking part again next year and also getting some others involved with us. Thank you for letting us be a part of this amazing event and I hope we can spread the word and get this recognised.

 

The Big Sunflower Project 2019 (mid year report)

2019 is the ninth year of The Big Sunflower Project. This year seeds have been sent across the UK and to The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Lithuania and Germany. For the third time the project is being joined by people growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and sadly passed away in 2016.  And for the first time sunflowers have been grown in Australia for George who has myotubular myopathy, meaning the project has received some beautiful sunflower photos this year already.

Sunflower grown in Australia.

About The Big Sunflower Project

The Big Sunflower Project is an initiative of The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions known as centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, by sending seeds to people who have never heard of the conditions and requesting photos in return, which are shared in the Information Point newsletter and on the project social media pages, again raising awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.

Planting sunflower seeds.

How the project is funded

The Big Sunflower Project is only possible because of the kindness of those who support our work with donations, discounts and funding. Sunflower seeds for The Big Sunflower Project 2019 have been provided by Kings Seeds, who provided 300 packets of seeds at a large discount. Seeds have also be donated by people who grew sunflowers during the 2018 project and harvested the seeds – thank you Katrin, Mike and the University of Leicester Social Impact team. In addition the project has received a £200 donation from Chester West Voluntary Action.

Project map

283 places are currently plotted on the project map which can be viewed below. Click anywhere on the map to open it up and click a sunflower to learn about the people growing sunflowers in a particular location.  If you are growing sunflowers but cannot see yourself on the map, please ask to be added.

Resources

Information about how to grow sunflowers can be found on the project website.

And 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 the resources area of the website. You will also find resources for teaching children and to start conversations about equality and diversity.

Newly planted sunflowers,

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 would like to donate, you can learn more about how to do this below.

Sunflowers being planted in Germany.

Further information

Further information about the project can be found on The Big Sunflower Project website and on social media, where photos can be shared using #TheBigSunflowerProject. Use #centronuclear, #centronuclearmyopathy, #myotubular and #myotubularmyopathy to help raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy too.

 

The Big Sunflower Project 2019

Seed distribution for The Big Sunflower Project will begin again in early 2019. Seeds for the 2019 project have been obtained from Kings Seeds at a large discounted price, with money donated to the project in 2018. Seeds have also been donated by Katrin Wurmitsch-Hohenwarter and her friends and family in Austria, who grew sunflowers during the 2018 project.

The Big Sunflower Project is an initiative of The Information Point for Centronuclear and Myotubular Myopathy which aims to provide information about and raise awareness of these rare neuromuscular conditions. The project raises awareness by sending sunflower seeds to people who have never heard of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy and by sharing participants photos online.

Sunflower seeds from Kings seeds.

300 packets of seeds containing 50 seeds will be distributed in 2019 – one packet of seeds per applicant. Project seeds are sent free of charge to participants but anyone wanting to make a donation for their seeds can do so via this website. Donations are ploughed back into the project – they enable the project to send more seeds to more people and help ensure the future of the project.

Anyone is welcome to apply for seeds but priority is given to families affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, community groups and good causes. Previously, seeds have been donated to schools and nurseries, community groups, groups who work with disadvantaged people, hospices and youth groups to name a few, so as well as raising awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, the project supports the activities of these groups too.

Marius and sunflowers.

Please note, The Big Sunflower Project is not associated with any freebie websites. Please do not share information about the project with these organisations. The project does not have the capacity to deal with the number of requests generated by being advertised on these websites and if featured, it will force seed distribution to stop.

Photos submitted to the project are shared here on the project social media pages and also in The Information Point newsletter Our World. Photos are also sometimes used in applications for grants and funding, without which the project could not continue.

It is only possible to send seeds to the UK and Europe but 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).

The Big Sunflower Project logo.

A year in the life: 19 December 2018

Earlier this year, I decided to write about my sunflower growing year. The UK had a fabulous hot summer, my sunflowers grew amazingly well, there was much to write about and many photos to share … I love it when a plan comes together.

To end my ‘year in the life’ posts I thought I would write a short review of the year and highlight a few of my favourite things from 2018 (soon you won’t be able to get away from reviews of the year, so I’m getting mine in first). If you haven’t seen it already, please also take a look at the project end of year report.

2018 was the eighth year of the project. The seeds that were sent to participants were purchased from Thompson and Morgan, at a large discounted price, with money donated to the project in 2017. Seed donations were also received from Mark Davies Seeds, Just Seed, The Real Seed Collection and L G Seeds.  Support such as this is crucial to the survival of the project and I really cannot say thank you enough to everyone for their generosity, which has enabled the project to continue as long as it has.

The aim of The Big Sunflower Project is to raise awareness of the rare neuromuscular conditions known as centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, so I was over the moon to have people once again growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and passed away in 2016.  You can read more about Emil here on the project website.

Emil's birthday invite.

This year the project also welcomed the family and friends of Marius in Austria. An email arrived in early April requesting seeds, explaining that Marius was born in August 2017 and diagnosed with myotubular myopathy. The family wanted to grow sunflowers in the hope that Marius would see them when he  hopefully came home from hospital.

Marius and sunflowers.

Seeds from Austria.

They went on to grow sunflowers, take photos and save their sunflower seeds, which will now be distributed to participants in The Big Sunflower Project 2019. You can view photos of the sunflowers that were grown in Austria on the project Flickr page.

This year the NeuroMuscular Centre in Cheshire also participated and were enthusiastic supporters on social media. Based in Cheshire, the charity supports people across the UK and sometimes further afield, providing physiotherapy, training and employment to people with muscular dystrophy. I was delighted to have them take part and to be able to share their story on the project website.

Sunflower

In July, I attended the Myotubular Trust and Zusammen Stark! family conference in London for people affected by centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. You can read about the conference below.

It was amazing to hear about the incredible advances in research into centronuclear and myotubular myopathy but also really quite lovely to walk into the venue and see balloon sunflowers everywhere. Thank you Myotubular Trust and Zusammen Stark! It was a truly thoughtful thing to do and my little heart wanted to burst at the sight of them.

Balloon sunflower

Balloon sunflowers

Balloon sunflowers.

Finally, this year, I was so happy to have my old school, Oldfield Primary School in Chester, take part in the project.  The school is just a hop, skip and a jump from my childhood home. It is also where I went as a brownie and girl guide and this year my old guide leader, now a Governor at another primary school in Cheshire, also participated in the project with her school. It was particularly special to have both schools involved and to see how well their sunflowers grew.

Sunflower grown by pupil at Oldfield primary school.
Sunflowers grown at Westminster Primary School, Ellesmere Port.

So, just a few of my favourite things from The Big Sunflower Project 2018 but thank you to everyone who took part in the project this year.

Seed distribution for the 2019 project will begin in early 2019 and I look forward to growing sunflowers again with anyone who wants to join me then.

The Big Sunflower Project 2018 (end of year report)

2018 was the eighth year of The Big Sunflower Project. Seeds were sent to places across the UK and people also took part in Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Croatia, the USA, New Zealand and Costa Rica. For the second time the project was also joined by many people growing sunflowers in memory of Emil, who was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy and sadly passed away in 2016. 

Sunflower growing season is now over in the UK but if you have sunflowers waiting to bloom, you can still share your photos. And if you are in a part of the world about to get its summer, please consider buying a packet of seeds and growing a sunflower to raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy, it would be lovely to continue receiving sunflower photos over the winter months.

Sunflowers

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 were provided by the following organisations

Growing sunflowers in Shetland.

Grassroots Giving

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.

The Big Sunflower Project recently took part in the Skipton Building Society Grassroots Giving initiative to try and win funds to help with our work. Over 740 applications were received from community groups, clubs and organisations across the UK and we were over the moon to be shortlisted to be one of the groups to win £500.

In order to fairly allocate the 165 pots of money that were up for grabs, the Skipton Building Society asked the public to say who they wanted to receive the funding. 50,000 votes were cast for the shortlisted groups and sadly we did not win. However, if you voted, thank you very much.

The Big Sunflower Project is a non profit group run on a voluntary basis, so funding such as this is crucial to what we do. However we will continue to seek out funding opportunities over the coming months.

Watering sunflowers.

Project map

This year 324 places were plotted on the project map which can be seen below – click a sunflower to learn more about the people growing sunflowers in that location.

​Photos

Over 800 photos were received from 114 participants this year. Photos from the 2018 project can be found below.

Sunflower

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.

Sunflower

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.

Sunflower

Harvesting sunflower seeds

Don’t forget that if you have grown a sunflower this year you can save the seeds for growing next year or you can donate these to the project for others to grow.  You can learn how to harvest sunflower seeds below.

Sunflower

Further information

Further information about the project can be found on here on the project website and on the project social media pages.

Linda

Linda lives in Hereford and has been growing sunflowers with The Big Sunflower Project since 2016.

This has been my third year  growing sunflowers for The Big Sunflower Project. My daughter  Georgina was born 30 years ago with centronuclear/myotubular myopathy, so taking part and raising awareness is something that is very close to our family.

Last year I saved the seeds as I was so impressed with the flowers and this year I started early hoping to have flowers for longer but the first batch of very healthy plants I put out were over night eaten completely by slugs.

So, very disappointed I stared again thinking I was going to be to late but to my surprise and considering it was such a hot summer, the sunflowers have been wonderful and are still flowering in November. I have been surprised that the large flowers, once they had finished flowering and were removed to save for next year (but not removing the stems), are still flowering too.

I think I started with four different types of sunflowers, so in the sales I have bought more seeds. Never knew there were so many different types of sunflowers, so I am looking forward to taking part in The Big  Sunflower Project 2019 and growing as many types as I can.

Sunflower grown by Linda.

Mike

Mike has taken part in The Big Sunflower Project since 2016 and has supported the project on his blog Flighty’s Plot since then.

In 2017 Mike wrote:

I don’t have a garden just a half-plot allotment, which is only a few minutes walk away from home, where I grow soft fruit, vegetables and lots of flowers including sunflowers.

One of the varieties I have grown was the knee-high Music Box which did really well so I’ll be growing it again. As I don’t have a greenhouse I sowed the seeds in small pots on the windowsill at home. When I planted them out on the plot I sprinkled some organic slug pellets around them. The plants produced numerous colourful flowers over a long period and didn’t need staking.

mike

It’s said that sunflowers bring out the happy child in everyone. They certainly do with me, which is why I grow them as one of my favourite flowers and I’m happy to support this good cause, which includes linking to this website on my blog.

In 2018 Mike wrote:

As much as I would like to grow impressively tall sunflowers my allotment is in the middle of a rather exposed site where wind damage to taller plants can occur, even when they’re staked and tied.

The past couple of years I’ve grown the knee-high sunflowers Music Box, which only grow to around 30″/75 cm and generally do well.  If you’re hoping to take part and only grow in containers then these are an ideal variety. They have numerous flowers in various colours – usually yellow, some bi-coloured red/yellow and occasionally lemon – all with dark centres.

Musicbox sunflowers

I grow them in an area I call sunflower corner where they flower from early July well into autumn. As with all the flowers that I grow they are attractive to bees and butterflies. I save some seed heads and leave others for the birds or to self-seed. This year I’ve saved a lot of these seeds to donate to Toni to send to participants in The Big Sunflower Project 2019.

In 2019 Mike wrote

I had a good year on my allotment with one of the highlights being the sunflowers which did really well.  As usual I grew the knee-high variety Music Box which got rather overshadowed by taller ones so I’ll be growing them in a separate area next year.   The taller Ring of Fire not only did well but four blooms that I picked and entered in one of the floral classes at my horticultural society’s annual show in early September won a first prize, much to my surprise and delight.

I collected and sorted lots of seeds from both of these varieties which I’ve sent to Toni for use in next years project.  I’ll be growing them again along with the new to me variety Sonja which grows to around three to four feet with plenty of four inch dark-centred blooms which are golden-orange.

It never ceases to amaze me how sunflower seeds planted in the spring germinate and grow in just a few months, with the wonderful flowers not only making us smile but also providing food for bees, birds and butterflies.

Sunflower