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. It could have been a very dull series of posts but 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.

Neuromuscular Centre

The Neuromuscular Centre is the Centre of Excellence for people with neuromuscular conditions. Based in Cheshire the charity supports people across the UK and sometimes further afield, providing physiotherapy, training and employment.  Below Alison Evans from the centre writes about their involvement in The Big Sunflower Project during 2018.

Sunflower

Sunflower fever swept across the NeuroMuscular Centre (NMC) this summer! We have loved having the bright, showy blooms livening up our grounds (and some of our homes too) but, perhaps more importantly, we have greatly enjoyed working with our friends at The Information Point.

Numerous members of staff took on the challenge to grow sunflowers to help raise awareness for centronuclear myopathy and myotubular myopathy. We took over spaces in the NMC garden, the car park, the meadow, the greenhouse and even our Sales Manager’s bedroom, to cultivate our plants and turn our vista sunshine yellow.

Sunflower

As a centre of excellence for people with neuromuscular conditions, we were eager to help The Information Point raise awareness. Like Toni, we believe in the power of community. Everyone can flourish given the correct support and guidance and we think that the sunflowers are a fabulous metaphor for this.

At the NMC, we offer physiotherapy, support, training and employment to people with muscular dystrophy. We believe that peer to peer support is a key part of everyone’s wellbeing and that raising awareness of all neuromuscular conditions is an important baseline.

NMC Design+Print is a graphic design and printing company at the heart of the NMC; predominantly staffed, and managed by, people with MD. We provide a friendly, professional and creative service with a healthy serving of social value! The profits we make go toward the running costs of the NMC, so by working with us you also support the charity.

Sunflower

Together, we want to inspire young people with disabilities, and to encourage our community to be bold and strive for their dreams. We do this by offering graphic design training, numerous creative workshops, work placements and employment opportunities to people with MD, to help them launch themselves into a career in the creative industry or charity sector.

Partnering with The Information Point has allowed us to pool our audiences across a variety of social media platforms to reach a greater number of people affected by the conditions. It has also helped us to improve our gardening skills, learn more about centronuclear and myotubular myopathies (and as a bonus, we learnt the correct spellings!).

Winter is now drawing in but the project isn’t over yet! Many of us are drying our sunflowers to save the seeds for next year.

 

To learn more about the work of the Neuromuscular Centre and NMC Design and Print, take a look at the short film above and visit the websites below.

Neuromuscular Centre  | NMC Design and Print

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 supported the project on his blog Flighty’s plot, where he mostly writes about his allotment.

In 2016 he wrote about the different varieties of sunflowers he grew – Mongolian Giants, Valentine and Musicbox.

In 2017 Mike told The Big Sunflower Project:

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 Musicbox 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.

Mike took part in The Big Sunflower Project again in 2018 and said:

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.

 

Richard Lee Primary School

2018 was our first year being involved in The Big Sunflower Project. We wrote and asked if we could be a part of the project and one afternoon, we received some Russian Giant sunflower seeds in the post. The children (aged 3/4 years old) were so excited.

We talked about how some children are born poorly and by growing sunflowers, we can think about those children as the sunflowers grow taller and stronger. The children learnt we had to care for the seeds as they grew into seedlings, needing soil, water and sunshine.

We enjoyed regularly measuring them. When our tallest grew to over 9ft tall, a photo even made it into the local newspaper.

In the summer, we had a beekeeper visit us. He told us bees are important in our garden, and their favourite coloured flowers are yellow, blue and white. Lots of bees have visited our sunflowers this year.

When the tallest stem broke in strong winds, learning still went on. We learnt that the stem measured 20 rubber bricks long. Then we used tweezers to harvest the seeds for next year. We also put some seeds in a hollowed out pumpkin to feed the birds.

Sunflower

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