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.

What’s the buzz

Sunshine Day at the Dowse on Sunday was so much fun! We spread our blankets under John Reynolds’ Titoki Gallery and helped visitors make sunshine necklaces, turn milk bottles into watering cans and paint seed packets. Lots of people had their faces and arms painted, coloured in our ‘how sunflowers grow’ page and drew their own bee designs on Project Sunshine stickers – then took home seeds and seedlings for a gold coin donation. You can check out more photos from the day here.

We also launched our special limited edition packs of red sunflower seeds. Each packet contains 12 red sunflower seeds – these plants grow tall like the Giant Russian variety and range from deep red to beautiful rusty-coloured petals. We’re selling these for $3 a packet, so please get in touch if you’d like some.

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We love hearing from people with updates about how their seeds are growing. Sam from Giant Pumpkins NZ shared us this awesome photo, along with his beautiful 4-legged friend in the background:

Jennifer in the Bay of Plenty has just finished planting out her sunflower seedlings – 47 in total. They’re going to look amazing once they’re fully-grown and flowering!

Our friend Shane sent us an update on the sunflowers that the Epuni School children planted at Carrara Park in Newtown. He says “Sunflowers and swan plants growing in Carrara Park, Newtown, not all survived but the ones that have are looking strong…thanks Kids and Julia Milne”

And Catherine headed along to see how the plants in Glover Park were doing – they’re just outside Radio Active in Wellington:

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Hataitai School in Wellington has set up their own Emerald Army gardening blog, and are encouraging every child in the school to “bring in their own reused planting box to grow their sunflower seedlings in – the wackier the better”. Check out their blog to see some of the awesome planters that have been brought in so far!

Doubtless Bay Kindergarten

Doubtless Bay Kindergarten in Northland also emailed us their blog, to let us know that their “seeds are cosy in their planter box and we are patiently waiting and watering!”

Sunshine Day at the Dowse – Sunday 24 November 2013

Hello lovely sunshiney people!

Come and celebrate sunflowers, our communities and bees with us this Sunday. Our Sunshine Day is at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt from 10.00 – 11.30am.

Our Sunshine Mobile is stacked with sunflower seeds and seedlings, which will be available to take home for a gold coin donation – including our special limited edition ‘mystery seeds‘.

If you bring along an empty milk bottle, we’ll show you how to make it into a handy watering can. You can also make your own beautiful bee sticker, string together an awesome Project Sunshine necklace, colour in a sunflower page, chalk up the pavement and take part in other fun craft activities.

If the weather is lovely we will stay on longer outside under the trees with art activities, picnic blankets and maybe even some cake!

We’d love to see you on Sunday, so please come and say hi 🙂

Sunflower power at Waipu School and Gladstone School

Mrs Green from Waipu Primary School in Northland sent us these gorgeous photos of her class planting out their sunflower seedlings. She says they’ll have “lots of watering and tender loving care from now on”.

We love how the sunflowers are going to grow next to the students’ awesome scarecrow! Thank you Room 11 🙂

And today we received this beautiful card from the students in room 2 at Gladstone School, in the Wairarapa. In summer, the students wear bright yellow sun hats when they’re outside and people driving past often comment on how they look like lovely sunflowers. It’s really cool knowing that our sunflower seeds are being looked after by little sunflowers!

What’s the buzz

Our Project Sunshine stall at the Riverbank Market in Lower Hutt last Saturday was great fun. Bella and Tāne managed our stall on a gorgeous sunny morning. Lots of people gave us donations for sunflower seedlings and seed packets, and for Common Unity heritage tomato plants – it was a lovely way to meet lots of new people!

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Look at all these envelopes full of sunflower seeds! These are about half the envelopes that we’ve posted out to people all around New Zealand this week.

We’ve received over 85 emails from people in NZ, from the top of the country in Northland, all the way down to Gore in the South Island. One of our favourite emails contained a fantastic bit of history about Epuni School:

Hi Kids at Epuni school,
I would love to have some sunflower seeds to plant in my garden.
When I was small I attended Epuni school, in the 1950’s, and recently I visited Lower Hutt and took a ‘trip down memory lane’, it was such a pleasure to stroll through the grounds of Epuni school and admire the marvellous garden out in the back field.
I remember I had James K Baxter for a teacher one year, his only foray into teaching, a wonderful and inspiring teacher, I remember when he left, telling my parents “he’s leaving to go to a poet factory” and their amusement… I hope the school continues to be a happy place of learning in the local community, well done on such a great garden.

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We received these colourful letters from Mrs Green and Waipu Primary School – they’re up the top of North Island too! It’s great to hear that their seeds have sprouted already, and we hope the plants are growing well. The seedlings must be getting quite tall by now?

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If you’d like some of our sunflower seeds and you know someone who works in the Xero office in Wellington, then get in touch with them! Our seed packets are available there for a donation, and are sitting on the Xero kitchen bench. (Thank you Simon for helping us out!)

More sharing and kindness

The mail keeps rolling in, bringing with it delicious parcels of kindness from our friends and supporters. Each envelope and parcel is met with huge amounts of excitement from the Epuni School children. Thank you again everyone, this means so much to all of us here.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the lovely koha that we have received lately:

Alex and Tilly from Blenheim sent in this beautiful drawing, along with a $20 note. We love how tall the sunflowers are in your picture Alex 🙂

Pip in Auckland posted us some seeds and liquid plant food. This is seriously useful stuff and we are really grateful – thanks heaps Pip!

Kaye from Grow from Here heard about Project Sunshine and asked if she could have a few packets of seeds, as she will plant them in many of the gardens she works in (check out the beautiful sunflowers on her website!).

In return, she kindly gave us two fruit trees: an apple and a mulberry (Poppy the baby is in the photo to give an idea of how big the trees are!) We will plant these trees in our orchard at the school. Sending you a great big sunshiney ‘hug of thanks’ Kaye.

Phil lives on Waiheke Island and sent us an awesome little package with chocolate, a dinosaur toy & this beautiful feather. He says it’s from a dinosaur. We love it!

Wow Emma – thank you *so* much for your amazing notebooks and pencils. The children were thrilled when they opened your parcel and can’t wait to use them for taking notes in the garden 🙂

Emma and Lucy gave us these packets of vegetable seeds. These are fantastic, as our little farmers will be able to grow them in the school garden and then cook them up for lunch!

Sheryll and Philip sent us some much-needed stamps. And we’ve already used them all up this week posting out over 60 envelopes, so they were incredibly useful.

Finally, today Emma from Heretaunga Kindergarten visited us and brought with her koha from the kindergarten children. Emma said:

“I discussed with the children what we should give as a koha, the most interesting was a picture of Africa and some dinosaur tails, however we have finally agreed on some worm wees from our worm farm. We are part of the enviroschools project so are enjoying the journey of sustainability too.”

And today she delivered two bottles of ‘worm wee’ to Epuni School. Ka rawe, ka pai! We really appreciate your thoughtfulness!