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.

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 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.