Harvesting sunflowers with Epuni and Koraunui School students

Today we harvested sunflowers in our garden at Epuni School. We had some lovely visitors from Koraunui School (in Stokes Valley) to help us and they harvested the ultimate Valentine’s Day sunflower – a beautiful flower full of pink seeds! Check out the photos below to see how we spent the morning in the garden.

These sunflowers round the edge of the garden have almost finished flowering and are nearly ready to harvest.

Seeds peeping through:

Julia dusts off some of the florets from the face of a sunflower, to show the seeds hiding underneath. Julia taught the students that “when a sunflower bows its head to the ground, it is ready to harvest. We leave some seed for the birds to eat and then save the rest so that we can plant them again later this year.”

Students looking at the fractal pattern in a seed head:

Dusting off the florets to reveal the glossy black seeds underneath.

Beautiful farmers with their sunflower fractal.

Our Epuni farmers harvested some sunflower heads too. Sunshiney!

This is a super special sunflower… grown in the middle of the garden. Take a close look at the colour of the seeds…

.. it’s a magical pink sunflower, harvested on Valentine’s Day xxx

Proud farmers showing their freshly-harvested seed head.

Check out the range of colours of sunflower seed – we harvested pink, white and black seeds today!

After the students had harvested the seeds from the garden, they joined Julia outside the Sunshine House (the gorgeous painted tent you can see in the background) and learned about all the different types of vegetable seeds in the garden.

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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?

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!

Flower power in the DomPost!


Many thanks to our friend Hannah Zwartz from the DomPost newspaper for her column about our Project, in yesterday’s edition.

A reminder too that if you are a community group, school or just have an interest in doing a bee project, we would LOVE to provide you with the seed and info to get you growing.

Gardening abundance to everyone!

Epuni School Planting Day

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Around 600 sunflowers went into the garden today after a beautiful blessing and haka performed by our Epuni Children. We hosted 3 other local schools and each school planted a `ray` of our sunflower field. We thank the Project Sunshine Team at Epuni who built this garden in less than a week, and for doing a truly great job of hosting other schools from our community. We also planted heritage bean seeds with each sunflower – seed that has been passed on for years by many of our retired local gardeners.

We are grateful for the spirit of sharing and community that such a planting can bring. Many thanks to everyone who helped.