WARGRAVE residents have launched a sunflower planting project to spruce up the village this summer.
Michele Bryan, from Purfield Drive, kickstarted the initiative last month when she asked people on social media to join her in planting some flowers.
Now, she hopes the Sunflowers Of Wargrave programme will help bring the community closer together following the pandemic.
A lockdown-inspired project
Ms Bryan was inspired to plant the flowers after admiring a neighbour’s garden on her lockdown walks.
“When the pandemic started, I created Wargrave Coronavirus Hub to help people in the village who have to shield,” she said. “As part of that, I decided to give growing sunflowers a go with one of my neighbours and we potted some in April.
“I then thought ‘why not use sunflowers to inspire people to communicate and be open with each other?’”
As part of the project, Ms Bryan and a team of helpers are creating seed packets which can be collected around the village for free, to encourage people to grow their own plants.
So far, nearly 47 residents have taken up the offer on social media — but Ms Bryan said there are more people taking part offline.
“I think even just 40 people planting sunflowers in a village the size of ours would be a triumph,” she said. “My expectations aren’t outrageously high, but it’s something that doesn’t cost people anything to get involved.”
Something for the kids
Last month, the Sunflowers Of Wargrave team distributed free seed packs to Robert Piggott C Of E Junior School, in an effort to get the village’s youngsters gardening over half-term.
Jo Glasby, a teacher at the school, said the children have been enjoying themselves so far.
“Earlier this week, they were saying their sunflowers had started to grow,” she said. “The pupils are so excited about it.”
Ms Glasby said that soon, the sunflowers will not only decorate Wargrave but Twyford and Charvil too as pupils plant them on their front doorsteps.
“At the moment, the flowers are only just popping up through the soil,” she added. “But in the future, we’re planning to name the students’ flowers and have a race to the top to see which ones grow the fastest.”
Drazen Koros, general manager of the pub on the High Street, said: “We want to be part of the community so whatever Wargrave is getting involved in, we always want to say yes.
“The St George and Dragon is the centre of the village.”
The pub has planted its own sunflowers in its outdoor area for pub-goers to enjoy later this year, and has also been giving free seeds to those who need them.
Dobbies Hare Hatch has also been offering seeds to the project.
Helen Winder, department manager, said: “Wargrave is one of our neighbouring villages with a lovely community who have rallied around to support each other through the last 15 months.
“One of the residents told us about the Sunflower initiative, where…the outcome will be that many of the houses around the village will have sunflowers in their front gardens, which will bring wonderful colour to the village and also smiles.
“We thought it would be wonderful to support such an initiative and to help lift spirits in our local community.”
Ask and we’ll help
Ms Bryan is now encouraging more villagers to take part and said help is at hand.
“If anybody needs a bit of soil or some seeds, they just need to ask and someone will help,” she said. “It’s a learning curve for a lot of us [and] I’ve never grown a flower in my life.
“I just wrote an idea on social media and there are no firm plans, but it could turn out really good.”
She said villagers have also been getting creative with their planting, using their old black boxes to grow the flowers.
‘It’s a conversation point’
As people consider ‘staycationing’ this summer, Ms Bryan hopes the project will create points of interest within the village.
“It’s something different,” she said. “We’ve all come to live in a smaller world with lockdown, and this is a conversation point for all the generations.
“I have no history of doing anything other than killing plants before this, so I’m very fortunate that other people have helped me get this going.”
She said if the project takes off, it would “signify more than people growing sunflowers”.
“It would be an extension of the really lovely village we live in,” Ms Bryan added.
“We have a really nice community here in Wargrave, and I’m so thankful to be here during the pandemic.”
According to the Sunflowers Of Wargrave team, now is the perfect time to plant the flowers outside and it is currently arranging free seed collection points throughout the village for residents.
To find out more and get involve, join the ‘Sunflowers Of Wargrave’ group on Facebook or contact email@example.com