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Forcing bulbs to flower ahead of time

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

It is apparently only a matter of 13 weeks until Christmas is upon us and forcing indoor bulbs requires precision timing!

One of my favourites are Amaryllis, properly known as Hippeastrum which are tall, striking, red or white Lily type flowers we all associate with Christmas. For many years I bought them as cut flowers but now prefer to grow the bulbs. They will be available from the end of October onwards as they must be planted between five and eight weeks before they are needed which is usually, but not necessarily, Christmas.

When you go to buy the bulbs, size is everything. Unfortunately the larger the bulb the higher the cost, but if you buy cheaper smaller bulbs the flowers will also be smaller and weaker. A decent sized bulb for an Amaryllis should be about 15cm in diameter. Place it in an adequately sized container – there should be about 5cm between the edge of the pot and the bulb. Fill the pot with multipurpose compost leaving the neck and shoulders of the bulb above the soil. Place in a bright spot, but away from heat and direct sunlight. Water moderately until growth starts and then start feeding with a liquid feed such as Baby Bio every second week. By Christmas it should be in full bloom. When the flower fades, stop feeding and give it less water until the foliage has turned yellow. Then stop watering altogether as it goes dormant. The bulb can remain in the same pot for about three years, at which point it should need a larger pot.

KICKSTART

Most bulbs need a period of cold weather, ie. winter, to kickstart them into growing. When forcing bulbs to flower ahead of time they need a period of artificial cold, such as a fridge, for a certain length of time which can vary from type to type. Therefore, always buy ‘prepared' bulbs as only these are suitable for growing indoors and have been treated to a cold spell. Hyacinths would be the most popular. I absolutely love the scent. I start planting them now, in two week intervals so that I have a continuous display for about six weeks. Gloves are recommended as hyacinth bulbs can cause skin irritation. Plant in free draining compost or preferably bulb fibre if you can get it. As with all bulbs used for indoor display, they can be planted close together but not touching each other or the sides of the pot. Ensure the top of the bulb is just visible. Keep hyacinth in a cool dark place such as a garage for about 10 weeks to allow root formation. At this point a shoot should also have grown. Place the pot in a bright spot indoors and about four weeks on they should be flowering. There are also special cases and pots available for hyacinths - I really advise having a look on the Internet and getting creative!

Other bulbs, such as grape hyacinths (muscari), dwarf daffodils, paperwhites, crocus and snowdrops can also be used for an indoor display. As with the hyacinths, these bulbs need 10 weeks of cold, dark conditions which mimics nature to trigger root growth and subsequent flowers. Using old teacups, teapots, soup bowls and even gravy boats can be an attractive way of displaying indoor or outdoor arrangements. Lining glass jars or vases with moss – the nice side facing out - before filling with compost is another way to create a cost effective yet pretty pot. Tie a festive ribbon around it and you have a lovely gift. Remember that press full of old mismatched and unwanted Christmas crockery? Well, plant them up – they will make great gifts too!

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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