Johnstown Sunflower Trail 2021

In 2021 we successfully hosted an 8km trail through Johnstown and engaged the community with sunflowers to promote pollinators.

The 2021 trail had 30 planned sites and an 8km route.

Our Project Aims in 2021

  1. Create an engaging attraction.

Johnstown does not yet have a bounty of colourful public planting. There are lots of trees and many open lawns but colourful flowers are noticeably absent. The sunflower trail aims to draw attention to this and gather public support to have Johnstown in flower during all the seasons.

2. Engage the community in supporting biodiversity.

Sunflowers were chosen because of their large noticeable iconic shape, they are easy to grow, and they easily bring a smile to people of all ages. They can provide a neighbourhood theme and, being of great benefit to wildlife, they work towards creating connected bee corridors.

We asked the community to suggest southerly facing locations that were close to footpaths and where nearby businesses / residents would help to plant and water the flowers. 30 sites were selected.

A group of volunteers made pots from recycled newspapers and St Stephen's National School helped germinate hundreds of the seeds trays until ready for planting.

Our intention of giving spare flowers to households along the route wasn't actioned due to issues with the weather causing a shortage of plants.

3. Create a Walking Trail.

The sites connected to form an 8km walking trail that largely followed the public roads and paths that many take for exercise. Initially planned to host 30 sites, 19 were actually achieved. The sites suggested for the IDA park were not ultimately used because the park closes its gates on weekends which made access an issue. Other sites were dropped due to losses in plants.

4. Sustainable Project

  • Sunflowers grow well in Ireland to provide food for pollinators and seeds for wild birds and future planting.

  • Seedlings can be grown in recycled newspaper pots that can be planted directly into the soil to decompose.

  • Watering funnels, made from collected and recycled plastic bottles, improve water conservation by efficiently watering the plant roots. These pipes could be cleaned and reused or recycled.

  • The spent plant can be composted and help work towards being self-sufficient for repeat projects.

  • Bamboo support canes can be reused.

2021 Trail Map

Of the 30 proposed locations, enough sunflowers were created for 19 sites and over 200 successfully bloomed in July and August along the 8km trail.

2021 Sunflower Trail Review

View our findings that will become action points for a larger 2022 display.

  • We successfully engaged over 100 people in producing a complete trail that was well received by the community, the bees, hoverflies, and later in the season the wild birds too.

  • A combination of germinating the sunflower seeds in small paper pots, with limited amounts of peat-free soil, coupled with the unseasonal spring weather meant that we lost a large percentage of the seedlings at an early stage. The limited supply also prevented us from distributing free seedlings to residents along the route for them to grow in their front gardens.

  • Public planting requiring support poles invites anti-social behaviour and it was therefore decided to use the low-level dwarf species wherever possible which unfortunately reduced the trail size.

  • Not all the sunflower species bloom at the same time which impacted the presentation of a trail completely in bloom. Most of the flower heads did however face the intended southerly direction.

  • Planting areas near long grass suffered from slugs which wiped out a large number of plants and again reduced the display size.

  • We noted that bees discovered the pollen and later the wild birds found the seed heads. It was decided to leave the seed heads rather than hang them in nearby trees as natural birdfeeders.

  • Walterstown GFC provided space for the plants to be composted as part of one of our action projects.

  • We didn't place street signage at each site due to a lack of budget and time. By having this website we can place QR codes on simple plaques to provide more information to viewers.

  • We should involve schools and groups to help create display posters to promote the project.

Photo Gallery

(Use a location link or scroll down to see them all).


Over 500 recycled pots were made from old newspapers to be planted directly into the ground to decompose. Germination trays, on loan from local suppliers, were maintained by staff and students at St Stephen's School.

North Metges Road

The Welcome Sign near the Kentstown Road Junction hosted only 2 sunflowers and the low-level species worked particularly well and didn't require any pole support from the brisk breeze. The planting position on the verge didn't pose a problem for the maintenance contractor and it removed the option and need for weed killer use around the sign. If the residents of the Kentstown Road Apartments can be engaged then sunflowers planted along the entire length of the wall would create a very impressive welcome to visitors.

Athlumeny Hall Bank

An impressive lineup with double the numbers of the 2020 display. The location could easily host one hundred sunflowers all along the wall.

Bailis Downs Wall

The warmth and shelter offered by the south-facing wall meant that this was one of the earliest trail sites to flower. The narrow strip of verge could perhaps host smaller multi-headed 'shrub style' sunflowers and extend the display around the corner and into the estate.

Johnstown Wood Sign

The original intention was to flank each side of the road but weed killer use prevented this. Here the sunflowers decided to face East and towards the school and a number of plants perished during grass cutting. For a future display a protective border will be essential and to plant in significant numbers.

Dunville Fence

Several flowers line the fence but they didn't gain enough height or flower head size to stand out and be highly noticeable.

School Roundabout

The Sunflowers highlighted the huge potential that this site has to offer. However, the difficulty in providing water to the site severely restricts the number of sunflowers that can be planted.

Taylor's Of Johnstown

The sunflowers didn't need to be very tall to be noticeable and they certainly like the location to have produced some of the largest flower heads. The close proximity to a water supply means that there is scope to plant considerably more sunflowers here.

People's Park Corner

Taller sunflower species would allow them to stand above the wildflowers.

Spireview Lawn Bank

Cutting and clearing the long summer meadow grass enabled the sunflower wall to stand out. The low-level plants meant that support poles were not required which was beneficial since this is also a path for school children.

O'Brien's Pub and Restaurant

One of the few sunflowers that gained a decent height and head size and which has proved to be a popular feature with outdoor guests.

St Mary's Special School

We suspected that this planting site would be something that the children would love as they return to school in August. Interestingly the flower heads decided to turn and face the schoolyard and not the road as we had thought.

Chestnut Court

Fears that the plants would be vandalised due to their proximity to the Spireview Steps were completely unfounded. The low-level sunflower line suits the location with the flowers facing the road and towards the Old Johnstown Village Group Welcome Sign.

Cois Glaisin Path

Despite replanting twice the hungry insects will probably have devoured all the plants by now. It is however a great potential future site for wildflowers and there's a wide array of insects along the stream bank.

South Metges Road

Not the happiest of sunflower locations probably because the ground dries out very quickly.

Old Kilcarn Bridge

Having turned their backs to the path these sunflowers decided to face west but there's plenty of hungry pollinators in the meadow field. This site is also a great example of having a short-cut lawn and managed long grass.

Bailis Downs Fence

Continuing to add attraction to the fence line the sunflowers are keeping the bees happy as the native Irish wildflowers fade.

Buvinda House

It's great to catch the bees in action and it shows how much of a magnet these plants are to pollinators.

Athlumney Abbey Fence

Some of the dozen sunflowers will hopefully soon rise above the fence line along the grass bank to be visible from the main road.

Bothar Sion

The Last to flower these should gain attention from the pollinators that have been busy amongst the bridge flower display.

We hope to expand our trail in 2022 and involve more people at more sites.

Contact us if you would like to lend a hand.

Sustainable Development Goals

This project has connections with the following categories:

Media Publicity

The project was reported in The Meath Chronicle and in our local Johnstown Community Online Magazine.

May 11th

Johnstown's Sunflower Trail makes Headlines

Johnstown Tidy Towns vision for a trail of sunflowers this summer makes headlines in this week's Meath Chronicle.