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Sunflower Children's Hospice Trust | Tall Flowers for Short Lives

Tall Flowers for Short Lives


In the Summer of 2016 a keen gardener in Lichfield, Staffordshire, grew an impressive crop of enormous sunflowers. Every day, one of our trustees used to drive past them on the way to work. They reminded him of Sunflower House and gave him an idea. He approached the gardener, who very kindly agreed to harvest and donate all of the seeds from his sunflowers.

We spent the first four months of 2017 packaging these seeds up and distributing them as far and wide as we could in the UK (and, where possible, beyond - see our map below!). We produced more than 3,000 packets, all put together by hand by one family, and all containing seeds from that one garden in Lichfield. Our aims were simple:
1) to get people growing sunflowers; and
2) to raise awareness of Sunflower Children's Hospice Trust.

We'll update this page with photos as our sunflowers grow, and give a small prize to the tallest one. And then, when the sunflowers die, we'll harvest as many of the seeds as we can and hopefully do this all again next year, with many more seeds.

 

 

 

The Tall Flowers For Short Lives Tallest Sunflower Challenge Cup

After much thought and deliberation, we have finally decided on the rules for our inaugural Tallest Sunflower competition. These are as follows:

  1. All entries must be submitted, either by email or via social media by midnight on 31 August 2017:
     info@sunflowerchildrenshospicetrust.org.uk
     www.facebook.com/tallflowersforshortlives
     www.twitter.com/BHT_Sunflowers
     www.instagram.com/BHT_Sunflowers
  2. You can submit as many entries as you want in that period, including for the same sunflower (i.e. If it grows!)
  3. It's a tallness test. There are no prizes for the circumference of your flowers or the width of your leaves!
  4. It's completely self-certifying. You measure your own flower. We trust you. The only caveat to this rule is that you must submit a photograph of the sunflower you have measured.
  5. Height must be measured from the point at which the stalk meets the soil to the highest point of the flower.
  6. Entries will only be accepted for sunflowers which have produced a bona fide flower.
  7. All flowers entered must have been grown from our TFFSL seeds.

It's that simple, so if you think you've grown a potential winner, get your measuring tape out and let us know how tall it is. The winner will receive a thoroughly underwhelming trophy, and the kudos of being the first champion of a competition which is almost certain to become the stuff of legend for generations to come. If you donate enough money we could probably even be persuaded to name the trophy after you.

 

The Lichfield garden from which all of our seeds came

The Lichfield garden from which all of our seeds came

Our homemade seed packets

Our homemade seed packets

The production process involved young and old

The production process involved young and old

We solicited some tips from the Lichfield gardener who inspired the whole project, and whose seeds we are all growing.

We solicited some tips from the Lichfield gardener who inspired the whole project, and whose seeds we are all growing.

The first packets are distributed and planted, in Port Talbot

The first packets are distributed and planted, in Port Talbot

The first packets are distributed and planted, in Port Talbot

The first packets are distributed and planted, in Port Talbot

Swinton playgroup in Yorkshire put together a factsheet to spread the word about our project

Swinton playgroup in Yorkshire put together a factsheet to spread the word about our project

As the sun came out they started planting in Brighton...

As the sun came out they started planting in Brighton...

...and Guildford...

...and Guildford...

...and Stratford-upon-Avon, where it looks like they were using special sunflower compost!

...and Stratford-upon-Avon, where it looks like they were using special sunflower compost!

We even got into the spirit at Tall Flowers HQ in Lichfield

We even got into the spirit at Tall Flowers HQ in Lichfield

The first green shoots we heard of (with relief!) were close to home in Lichfield

The first green shoots we heard of (with relief!) were close to home in Lichfield

But then good news started coming in from Guildford...

But then good news started coming in from Guildford...

...and Portsmouth

...and Portsmouth

Meanwhile, back in Lichfield, our first sprouters were picking up pace, but their grower was worried about the fact that the lower leaves were dying (it's perfectly natural, apparently)

Meanwhile, back in Lichfield, our first sprouters were picking up pace, but their grower was worried about the fact that the lower leaves were dying (it's perfectly natural, apparently)

We found some serious growth under a windbreak in Scunthorpe

We found some serious growth under a windbreak in Scunthorpe

The best growth we've seen so far is in Andover. It'll soon be time to transfer those into the garden!

The best growth we've seen so far is in Andover. It'll soon be time to transfer those into the garden!

We took seeds to Dubai...

We took seeds to Dubai...

...from where they went to Bahrain, and started to flourish!

...from where they went to Bahrain, and started to flourish!

The most amazing thing about this project has been how children have taken to it...

The most amazing thing about this project has been how children have taken to it...

...

...

...

...

Well, most children!

Well, most children!

The grown-ups have been no less enthusiastic. This photo came with a message from a competitive mum:

The grown-ups have been no less enthusiastic. This photo came with a message from a competitive mum: "I am winning the race at home!"

We've seen a few things we didn't expect to see: 
Dwarf sunflowers...

We've seen a few things we didn't expect to see: Dwarf sunflowers...

...and mini-greenhouses!

...and mini-greenhouses!

Our sunflowers have had to fend off quite a lot, including 27 snails in Wales...

Our sunflowers have had to fend off quite a lot, including 27 snails in Wales...

...and a cat in Rabat (actually, this was taken in Lichfield, but I was committed to the rhyme!)

...and a cat in Rabat (actually, this was taken in Lichfield, but I was committed to the rhyme!)

We've seen some really competitive growing. In this family of three in Stratford, Dad is really lagging behind.

We've seen some really competitive growing. In this family of three in Stratford, Dad is really lagging behind.

...and in this family of 5 in Ashwell, the parents weren't even allocated sunflowers. The three in the middle belong to triplets, while the two in the pots at either side are being grown in honour of two imaginary future pets!

...and in this family of 5 in Ashwell, the parents weren't even allocated sunflowers. The three in the middle belong to triplets, while the two in the pots at either side are being grown in honour of two imaginary future pets!

By the time June came around, we were really starting to see some growth...in Leeds...

By the time June came around, we were really starting to see some growth...in Leeds...

...and in Wrexham...

...and in Wrexham...

...where they are growing a ring of flowers!

...where they are growing a ring of flowers!

At Tall Flowers HQ our sunflowers grew taller than our Christmas tree!

At Tall Flowers HQ our sunflowers grew taller than our Christmas tree!

And by the end of June, one of our sunflowers at Chase Grammar School in Cannock started to grow a head. We were entering a whole new phase...

And by the end of June, one of our sunflowers at Chase Grammar School in Cannock started to grow a head. We were entering a whole new phase...

July brought both height...

July brought both height...

...

...

...

...

...and vibrant colour...

...and vibrant colour...

...

...

...

...

...

...

...not all of it yellow!

...not all of it yellow!

Not every sunflower was blooming. But where they weren't, we were improvising!

Not every sunflower was blooming. But where they weren't, we were improvising!

Of course, with tall sunflowers come high stakes...and some unexpected summer winds brought some challenges.

Of course, with tall sunflowers come high stakes...and some unexpected summer winds brought some challenges.

But those challenges were always outweighed by the pleasant surprises: including a bit of publicity in Gardeners' World magazine!

But those challenges were always outweighed by the pleasant surprises: including a bit of publicity in Gardeners' World magazine!

As we moved into August, we did a bit of a roll call. We learned that our sunflowers were still going strong as far North as Edinburgh (pictured here) and as far South as Jersey.

As we moved into August, we did a bit of a roll call. We learned that our sunflowers were still going strong as far North as Edinburgh (pictured here) and as far South as Jersey.

We discovered flowers we had known nothing about in Winterton...

We discovered flowers we had known nothing about in Winterton...

...and Narborough...

...and Narborough...

...and Marlow

...and Marlow

And our old friends were going from strength to strength in Hackney...

And our old friends were going from strength to strength in Hackney...

...and in Stratford

...and in Stratford

In Wrexham, Dawn went away for a week and came back to this!

In Wrexham, Dawn went away for a week and came back to this!

Tom in Leeds was successful in growing 5 whoppers from just five seeds...

Tom in Leeds was successful in growing 5 whoppers from just five seeds...

...and although one succumbed to the unseasonably high winds...

...and although one succumbed to the unseasonably high winds...

...the other four are all strong contenders for our Tallest Flower competition!

...the other four are all strong contenders for our Tallest Flower competition!

Mind you, we've got quite a few contenders for that particular award!

Mind you, we've got quite a few contenders for that particular award!

Some of them got so tall that the only way to capture them properly was from a first floor window

Some of them got so tall that the only way to capture them properly was from a first floor window

As we reached the half-way point in August, the sunflower on the far left of this photo took the lead in our 'Tallest Flower' competition. It measured a whopping 345cm (11'4

As we reached the half-way point in August, the sunflower on the far left of this photo took the lead in our 'Tallest Flower' competition. It measured a whopping 345cm (11'4") and was grown near Scunthorpe.

But even more than height, it was the beauty of these flowers, still being grown all over the country, that blew us away.

But even more than height, it was the beauty of these flowers, still being grown all over the country, that blew us away.

The bees came, drank the sweet, sweet nectar, and pollinated...

The bees came, drank the sweet, sweet nectar, and pollinated...

...and one or two snails hung in there too, scaling the heights for a closer look/nibble.

...and one or two snails hung in there too, scaling the heights for a closer look/nibble.

Dawn's ring of fire in Wrexham became what she had intended all along: a sunflower house...

Dawn's ring of fire in Wrexham became what she had intended all along: a sunflower house...

Dawn's story epitomised this whole project: she was given her packets of our seeds while on holiday in Perranporth in Cornwall, took them home and started growing her sunflower hut. She tweeted regularly and enthusiastically and became a new friend.

Dawn's story epitomised this whole project: she was given her packets of our seeds while on holiday in Perranporth in Cornwall, took them home and started growing her sunflower hut. She tweeted regularly and enthusiastically and became a new friend.

...and, in the end, she delivered one of the photos of the Summer!

...and, in the end, she delivered one of the photos of the Summer!

It wasn't even just about the photos. Mae, an artist in Hackney also threw herself into this project. She doted on her one sunflower, Sunny, as it grew, and took the hospice to her heart. She has even designed and gifted us a digital composition of Sunny.

It wasn't even just about the photos. Mae, an artist in Hackney also threw herself into this project. She doted on her one sunflower, Sunny, as it grew, and took the hospice to her heart. She has even designed and gifted us a digital composition of Sunny.

We've also made some fantastic unexpected links. For example, some of our seeds were grown by Vision 21 in Cardiff, a fantastic charity that helps adults with learning needs into training and work.

We've also made some fantastic unexpected links. For example, some of our seeds were grown by Vision 21 in Cardiff, a fantastic charity that helps adults with learning needs into training and work.

Finally, after a long, wet British summer, in the last weeks of August our sunflowers came of age. The results were stunning.

Finally, after a long, wet British summer, in the last weeks of August our sunflowers came of age. The results were stunning.

It's fair to say that not all of our growers were natural photographers...

It's fair to say that not all of our growers were natural photographers...

Others, though, were capable of great feats of photographic perspective...

Others, though, were capable of great feats of photographic perspective...

...See!

...See!

But this was never a photography competition. This is TALL Flowers for Short Lives. So, on the 1st September we announced the top 8 tallest sunflowers. In 8th place was Sunny, grown by Mae in Hackney.

But this was never a photography competition. This is TALL Flowers for Short Lives. So, on the 1st September we announced the top 8 tallest sunflowers. In 8th place was Sunny, grown by Mae in Hackney.

In 7th place was this 'Nosey Neighbour' in Stratford.

In 7th place was this 'Nosey Neighbour' in Stratford.

In 6th place was the Chimney on Dawn's Sunflower House in Coedpoeth, North Wales

In 6th place was the Chimney on Dawn's Sunflower House in Coedpoeth, North Wales

In 5th...Tom's 'Fallen Hero' in Leeds

In 5th...Tom's 'Fallen Hero' in Leeds

In 4th place...is another flower that scaled great heights before taking a fall. This one was grown by Mandy in Narborough, and reached 3 metres. It is now honoured beautifully on her hearth.

In 4th place...is another flower that scaled great heights before taking a fall. This one was grown by Mandy in Narborough, and reached 3 metres. It is now honoured beautifully on her hearth.

In 3rd place (having led for so long) was Sheila in Scunthorpe.

In 3rd place (having led for so long) was Sheila in Scunthorpe.

In 2nd place were the couple without whom this whole project would never have happened. Keith & Carole provided all of the seeds for TFFSL 2017, and saw their pedigree rewarded with silver.

In 2nd place were the couple without whom this whole project would never have happened. Keith & Carole provided all of the seeds for TFFSL 2017, and saw their pedigree rewarded with silver.

They were pipped at the post though by Dawn & Peter in Jersey, who grew a 390m monster and took the title!

They were pipped at the post though by Dawn & Peter in Jersey, who grew a 390m monster and took the title!

The winners were presented with their trophy by Joan Marston, the founder of Sunflower Children's Hospice.

The winners were presented with their trophy by Joan Marston, the founder of Sunflower Children's Hospice.

Then we started to learn about other competitions that were going on with our seeds. And they had some really good ideas (like this incredible chart, and some great prizes for the winner at York Uni)

Then we started to learn about other competitions that were going on with our seeds. And they had some really good ideas (like this incredible chart, and some great prizes for the winner at York Uni)

Our old friends at Chase Grammar School were on holiday while we were measuring up the winners, though it's clear they would have been right up there.

Our old friends at Chase Grammar School were on holiday while we were measuring up the winners, though it's clear they would have been right up there.

And, after all that, we moved into a phase that I was expecting not to enjoy: the dying of the light. In truth though, there's been some staggering beauty as our flowers have gracefully aged...

And, after all that, we moved into a phase that I was expecting not to enjoy: the dying of the light. In truth though, there's been some staggering beauty as our flowers have gracefully aged...

One of the really great things about these late stages was watching the

One of the really great things about these late stages was watching the "young blood" come through, and seeing the juxtaposition of young and old...

And then, the harvest!

And then, the harvest!

Preparing for TFFSL 2018...

Preparing for TFFSL 2018...

...with the help of donations from our generous growers

...with the help of donations from our generous growers

We didn't keep ALL the seeds for ourselves, of course.

We didn't keep ALL the seeds for ourselves, of course.

So, as the sun goes down on the first ever Tall Flowers for Short Lives, what have we got?

So, as the sun goes down on the first ever Tall Flowers for Short Lives, what have we got?

Reflections. Just reflections.

Reflections. Just reflections.

And puns of course. Really bad puns.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part, whether by growing, photographing, donating or following with interest. See you next year!

And puns of course. Really bad puns. Thank you to everyone who has taken part, whether by growing, photographing, donating or following with interest. See you next year!

 

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