How are your sunflowers growing?

Tena koutou everyone! I can’t quite believe it’s nearly February already – January has just flown by. The Project Sunshine sunflowers in my garden are blooming beautifully so I thought I’d share a few photos with you. We’d like to start collecting photos of other Project Sunshine sunflowers growing in people’s gardens, so please email them to us at projectsunshineaotearoa@gmail.com or share a photo or two via FB and we’ll add them to our album.

These Giant Russians are growing out the front of my house. They didn’t grow very tall as the soil quality here isn’t great, but each plant has about 5 flower heads, which makes for an awesome display:

A Monarch butterfly feeding on a Giant Russian sunflower:

The Giant Russians in my garden out the back of the house grew much better, as they were planted in good soil with lots of compost, and are now over 10 feet tall! They have huge flower heads that the bumblebees love:

Another Monarch butterfly visitor:

As well as the Giant Russians, these ‘Evening Sun’ varieties popped up (in the foreground) – from the Project Sunshine ‘red’ blend I think. They’re a stunning variety as each plant is over 7 feet tall and has more than 10 flowerheads!

Here’s a bumblebee visiting a couple of ‘Evening Sun’ sunflowers. I love how the sunflowers have slightly different petal colours:

These red sunflowers are absolutely stunning too – I think these are the ‘Moulin Rouge’ variety. Like the ‘Evening Sun’ plants, these sunflowers are also about 7 feet tall and have 8-10 flower heads on each stalk:

A beautiful dark, velvety-red sunflower.

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Sunflowers at Epuni School

A couple of weeks ago Catherine popped in to see how the sunflowers are growing in The Common Unity Project Aotearoa garden at Epuni School. Leila was working hard in the garden in very blustery weather. Despite all the Wellington wind this summer, the sunflowers still look amazing and there are many more buds to open. We put these photos up on Facebook, but thought we’d also share them here.

Beautiful flowers edging the garden:

Some of the Giant Russians in flower:

This is the centre of the mandala garden, with the bunting flapping in the wind:

Check out the size of this flower head – those are 7-year-old Olly’s hands holding it!

Some beautiful ‘Evening Sun’ flowering on the left. They have many flower heads per stem:

An Evening Sun flower in full bloom:

There are sunflowers dotted throughout the garden:

Can you spot our friend the bumble bee?

Beautiful and bright: painting sunflower seed packets

Yesterday it was a bit windy to be outside. So instead of tending to their garden, the Project Sunshine team embraced their artistic side and set about painting lots of sunflower seed packets.

With a brush in hand, our little farmers turned into little artists and created some absolutely stunning works of art.

The theme of the day was ‘loving our bees’ and each child painted a bee on a seed packet, as well as sunflowers and hearts and anything else sunshiney that captured their imagination.

We then let the works of art dry and enjoyed looking at all the bright colours on display.

Look at all the beautiful bees! These packets are going to contain a very special sort of sunflower seed – keep watching this space to find out more…

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The bee’s knees

When we first started Project Sunshine, the children who planted sunflowers noticed that the golden flowers attracted lots of bees. Their discovery then led to many discussions about the importance of bees and what we can all do to encourage them in our neighbourhood gardens.

‘Helping the bees’ is now an important part of Project Sunshine. We appreciate the important work they do and want to teach others about the world’s most important pollinator too!

Here are fascinating bee facts:

  • About one third of everything we eat is pollinated by bees. Many of our crops would not be viable without bee pollination. Both honeybees and bumblebees are important pollinating insects.
  • Bees have been producing honey for at least 150 million years.
  • Honey bees transform nectar, a sweet substance secreted by flowers, into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. They store it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive.
  • To make honey, bees drop the collected nectar into the honeycomb and then evaporate it by fanning their wings.
  • There are three types of bees in the hive: queen, worker and drone.
  • Workers live about 45 days in the summer, while drones are driven out of the hive in Autumn. Queen bees can live for up to five years.
  • The queen may lay 1,500 or more eggs each day during her lifetime. This daily egg production may equal her own body weight. She is constantly fed and groomed by attendant worker bees.
  • A bee’s wings beat 190 times a second, that’s 11,400 times a minute – this creates their distinctive buzz.
  • Honey bees are the only bees that die after they sting.
  • Honey bees have five eyes: three small ones on top of the head and two big ones in front.
  • Bees communicate with each other by dancing and using pheromones (scents).

Over recent decades there has been a noticeable decrease in worldwide bee populations. In some places in the world, bees are simply disappearing. This is known as Colony Collapse Disorder. There are many different theories as to why this is occurring, but we do know there are a few things we can do to support bees, and they are simple:

  • Stop the use of pesticide sprays in our gardens. They not only kill bees, but also disorientate them, making it hard for them to return to their hives.
  • Plant plenty of food for them. Bees need flowers to forage, all year round. Flowers are not only great for bees but they make us feel good too! Click here to see a great list of other bee friendly flowers you can plant. 
  • Respect them. Our little friends the bees should not be feared. Once we appreciate the important work they do for us and how much we rely on them, the bees will be much better off. And so will we!