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

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.

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 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.

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.

Donations to The Big Sunflower Project

This week, we have become aware that some people have been trying to donate to The Big Sunflower Project but these donations have been going instead to an organisation called 38 Degrees.

After an investigation, 38 Degrees traced one of the donor PayPal reference numbers to their Bee Seeds Campaign and specifically to the donation page for this campaign.

The donation has now been refunded and the donor has been notified by 38 Degrees that they now know this was not intended for them. It is hoped the other donations will be refunded shortly.

38 Degrees have also taken down their order page which was posted on the WOW Free Stuff website – this appears to be where confusion has arisen, as both the 38 Degrees campaign and The Big Sunflower Project were featured there at the same time.

If you think you have donated to The Big Sunflower Project but have not received your sunflower seeds, you may have been affected too and should check your PayPal receipt to see where your donation has gone.

If you find you have donated to 38 Degrees, you should contact them quoting The Big Sunflower Project in any correspondence. You will need to provide a screen shot showing your donation receipt and the reference number for your donation, in order to receive a refund.

Please note, if you are wanting to donate to The Big Sunflower Project, there are only two ways to do this, either:

The Big Sunflower Project will not receive donations that use any alternative donation facility, so donors will not receive sunflower seeds from The Big Sunflower Project. However, the project is happy to send seeds to anyone who donates in either of the ways detailed above.

Conrad and the sunflower

In 2013 an email arrived out of the blue, it told the touching tale of a child born with myotubular myopathy and a sunflower. Thank you Emma for taking the time to write, your kind words and for sharing lovely story with the world.

After trying for some time, last July, my husband and I found out I was pregnant. Earlier the same year my husband and I had some stumps ground out of our lawn leaving a few substantial piles of dirt in the yard. In one of the piles a sunflower grew – seeming to come from nowhere. We enjoyed the sunflower all summer and into the fall.

When our precious Conrad was born he was not breathing and was floppy. Long story short, after genetic testing we learned that Conrad had myotubular myopathy.

In my frantic search for information about Conrad’s condition, I came across the Information Point and read about the Sunflower Project. In that moment I knew that our mysterious sunflower was God’s way of telling us that He already knew what Conrad had and that he was preparing the way for Conrad’s life even while he was being knit together in my womb. Even when it seems that nothing is fair and the world does not make sense, God is in control and He has a plan for our darling little boy.

I am learning already that boys with MTM and the families who love them are very special people. Thank you so very much for all the work you have done to raise awareness about centronuclear and myotubular myopathy and for being here when I and my family needed you.

Sue (Bournemouth)

My name is Sue. Seven years ago my daughter gave birth to twins. They were delivered eight weeks early. A boy and a girl. Will and Isla. Isla weighed just over 3lb and Will weighed 2lb.

Isla was strong and healthy for such a small baby but Will had problems. He was floppy and his respiratory function was very weak. He was finally diagnosed with x-linked myotubular myopathy. This is a devastating disease carried by the females in the family but manifesting in the boys. We discovered that the range of the symptoms is huge and we were told that Will was 99% poorly. This diagnosis brought home to me the reason I had lost two boys but had successfully given birth to three beautiful girls. After investigations all three of my girls are carriers of the myotubular gene.

We rallied. We are a strong family. We watched Will struggle daily with the effects of this devastating condition. He was loved so much. He spent so much of his life in hospital fighting infections. We lost Will a month before his third birthday.

As a family we have always helped raise money to support The Myotubular Trust and continue to do so. The work these small charities do is huge and it is so important we get the word out about these dreadful conditions which are unknown by so very many, as the condition is not only rare but has a name which is so hard to remember. The work Toni is doing to bring recognition to these conditions is huge too. Continue to spread the word please, only then can research continue in the hope of eradicating centronuclear and x-linked myotubular myopathy.

I have a sunflower garden every year for Will and will support Toni in everything she does.

Thank you

sue3

sue2

Warden Abbey Vineyard

Warden Abbey Community Vineyard is situated between Old Warden and Cardington in Bedfordshire. Founded in 1136 the site was one of the earliest Cistercian settlements in England until the English Reformation led to its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1536. Vines were first planted at Warden Abbey Vineyard in medieval times by monks at the Cistercian Abbey of Warden and today the aim is for the vineyard to offer a unique community and educational resource, horticulture therapy, volunteering, and wildlife and heritage projects

Jane Markham, Vineyard/Project Manager says: Vines were first planted at Warden Abbey Vineyard in medieval times by monks at the Cistercian Abbey of Warden. The aim is for the vineyard to offer a unique community and educational resource, horticulture therapy, volunteering, and wildlife and heritage projects.

In 2013 one of our volunteers suggested we use an empty row in the vineyard to take part in The Big Sunflower Project. It was hard work digging over the row, but we looked forward to a stunning show of flowers later in the year.

We started our plants off in small pots which volunteers took home to look after, then planted them out at the end of May. The plants proved an instant hit with our local rabbits, who viewed the sunflowers as a fantastic new snack bar.

We thought we had protected the small plants by ringing them with cut off lemonade bottles but as soon as the shoots emerged above the top, the rabbits were getting them. So we planted up a second batch, and this time made small towers of our plastic bottles, and even used vineguards – tall tubes designed to rotect young vines.

Weeded and watered by our volunteers and visiting school children, there were times when they took up more attention than we should probably have spared, and there were times we doubted we would succeed in growing any at all. But in the end, it was so worth it. We finally got a good show of flowers and they looked fabulous. But more than that, our ‘sunshine’ row has been a great talking point for all our visitors who we’ve been able to tell about The Big Sunflower Project and hopefully help raise awareness of centronuclear and myotubular myopathy. The sunflowers have been a cheery presence in the vineyard over the summer and you can’t help smiling when you see them. I think the monks would have approved.

At the end of the year the vineyard saved the sunflower seeds for planting again in 2014.   Jane Markham says:

The saved seeds were planted in pots for us first by the grand-daughters of one of our vineyard volunteers. Then a number of volunteers took some of the pots home to look after them until they were ready to plant out in the vineyard. The first lot were planted for us by team members from OMRON Electronics who were on a community volunteering day in the vineyard.

The sunflowers were a great success as we learnt a lot of lessons from last year’s experience – especially about keeping slugs and rabbits at bay. During the summer of 2014 we started doing group tours of the vineyard and without fail each group has asked why we are growing sunflowers in a vineyard so it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of The Big Sunflower Project and centronuclear and myotubular myopathy.  Also lots of questions about them at our Open Day where we had over 750 visitors.

Sunflower growers at Warden Abbey Vineyard in Bedfordshire