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Conifers can be used anywhere in the garden




By Debby Looney, gardening expert 

Plants are like clothes – they come into fashion, they fade into obscurity, and then they come back with a makeover!

However, one plant, or rather, a whole family, seems to have been forgotten about by many gardeners, which is a shame. I am talking about conifers. The entire world of conifers is there to be treasured, valued and planted, yet I see few people buying them! In my opinion conifers form the backbone of a garden. I could not do without them, they fill spaces, give consistent colour be it as a background to flowering plants in the summer or feature plants in the winter, and, very importantly, they are excellent for use in flower arrangements! Being on the whole, slow growing, self shaping and evergreen, they provide excellent structure and a feeling of continuity and flow, especially in a large garden.

Conifers come in every size, shape, colour and texture imaginable, and can be used in any part of the garden, be it a border, rockery or arboretum.

So, in this vast landscape of conifers, which to choose?

Go for the unusual! Too many people think the word conifer is synonymous with Leylandii – the hedging palm as it is often referred to. Forget about them - unless you need a fast growing hedge! Let us start with tees, and work down to miniature shrubs.

Dawn Redwood

Metasequoia, better known as the Dawn Redwood, is one of my favourite trees. It is native to China and was reported as an extinct species in 1940. Luckily small clusters of living trees were subsequently found and cultivated. It is a fast growing tree initially, but slows down when it reaches about 10m. They have feathery bright green foliage which they lose in the winter, and a scaly orange bark.

Abies koreana

Abies koreana is a small tree and an excellent choice as a specimen. They have dark green foliage and violet coloured cones. Abies koreana keeps a perfectly conical shape and is quite slow growing. It's ideal as a centre piece and it is the perfect Christmas tree for outdoor lights in the festive season.

Pine trees

A hardy tree is the Pine tree which provide fantastic shelter and generally does not mind waterlogged soil. Pinus nigra, the European black pine, is an easy to grow, reliable tree. It is dome shaped and a deep green, with mid-sized cones. For anyone who is looking for a mid-sized shrub I would recommend Pinus mugo, or pumila, both dwarf pine trees. They are hardy, and do not grow tall - ever! They bear small cones and can be cut back without it affecting their shape.

Daisy White

Picea glauca or ‘Daisy White’ is a small cone shaped ornamental shrub whose new shoots in the spring are a bright pale green, almost white. It is traditionally used in pots or as a small focal point. Picea glauca ‘Sander’s Blue’ is a new favourite of mine. It has slate blue needles and does best in a sunny spot. The colour really is stunning.

I have only touched on the different conifers out there, but I hope I have inspired you to give one a spot in your garden!

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Fire warning in National Park

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Housing has appealed to the public not to light fires or barbecues in public places […]




The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Housing has appealed to the public not to light fires or barbecues in public places this summer.

As they appeal to the public to exercise renewed care and responsibility when outdoors the National Parks and Wildlife Service has increased ground crews on fire patrol and has ramped up aerial monitoring with helicopters and drones.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD said:

“If you notice a fire, please call the emergency services on 112 immediately. NPWS teams are upping their patrols to identify potential fire incidents and act quickly should one break out. However as we know, prevention is better than cure, and we’re asking all members of the public to avoid lighting fires in open areas.”

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD commented further:

“Our National Parks and Nature Reserves, coastal sand dunes, mountains and upland areas, forests, meadows and urban parks are all places where we enjoy spending time in nature, but they are also home to our precious wildlife and their vulnerable young. This is a really important time of year for wildlife, especially vulnerable ground-nesting birds and mammals who are now rearing their young. We all want to get out and enjoy the good weather but let’s do it responsibly – without putting nature at risk.”

The Director General of the NPWS, Niall O Donnchú, has also asked for everybody’s cooperation to protect nature and said:

“While NPWS has increased ground crews and monitoring from the air this week, we still need to enlist your help to protect nature at this high risk time. We ask that members of the public not light fires or barbecues in any National Parks or Nature Reserves, or indeed in nature generally. We are also asking that the public be vigilant and report any fire activity without delay.”

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Killarney Looking Good Competition returns

Over three decades after it was first initiated, to help improve the aesthetic values of the town, the Killarney Looking Good Competition is back with a vengeance with a new […]




Over three decades after it was first initiated, to help improve the aesthetic values of the town, the Killarney Looking Good Competition is back with a vengeance with a new committee, new categories, new sponsors and a whole new approach.

When the project was first launched in 1991 it was a relatively low-key community event but it grew in importance with each passing year, culminating in some style when Killarney won the prestigious overall award in the national tidy towns competition in 2011.

After an enforced three-year absence since 2019, due to the pandemic, the competition has now been given a whole new lease of life and the 2023 version was officially launched this week by Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher.

Awards will be presented in 26 different categories and high achievers in the business and residential community will be honoured at a gala prizegiving ceremony at the close of the tourist season.

This year two new categories are being introduced in memory of two remarkable people who played massive roles in keeping Killarney looking its best down through the years.

Yvonne Quill, who passed away last October, was the driving force behind the Killarney tidy towns campaign for several years and she was at the helm when the sought-after overall award was secured 12 years ago.

This year the Yvonne Quill Memorial Award will be presented to the volunteer of the year – a person who the adjudicators consider to be a standout contributor – in the overall effort to keep Killarney tidy.

Up to the time of his death in January 2020, Fr Michael Murphy was the public face of tidy towns and he played a huge part in Killarney, Kenmare and Sneem winning the overall national award in 2011, 2000 and 1987 respectively. Affectionately known as Fr Tidy, this year the Killarney Looking Good Competition will honour his memory with a special Pride of Place award.

In the business community, there will be awards for the best large and small commercial premises, best newly painted premises, best signage and the best retail award with prizes also for the most impressive hotel, public house, restaurant, café, guesthouse and best public building as well as the most improved premises.
In the residential categories awards will go to the best large and small estates, best private residence, best roadside garden, best floral display and best friendly planting award.

Other categories include a green hospitality award, a corporate special responsibility award, a restoration award, best school and a special biodiversity award.
Several highly commended awards will also be up for grabs and the winner of the prestigious overall award will be announced at the prizegiving ceremony.

The Killarney Looking Good Competition is organised by Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce and Killarney Municipal District Council and the new committee comprises Sandra Dunlea – a daughter of the late Yvonne Quill – Kathleen Foley, John O’Mahony and Johnny McGuire who is spearheading the project.

MD O’Shea & Sons are the new overall sponsors of the competition and O’Mahony Media Ltd is the media sponsor.

The competition will run throughout the tourist season and businesses and residential areas will be monitored on an ongoing basis.

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