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Mahonias are incredibly hardy this time of year

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

One plant which is spectacular at this time of year is the Mahonia. Underused, in my opinion, it provides great winter cheer in the form of its bright yellow flowers.

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The common name for Mahonia is the Oregon grape as its fruits look like small grapes. These blue/purple fruits are not toxic, though they are better left to the birds who adore them! The flowers, which are long racemes of vibrant yellow, are an absolute boon for any active bees and pollinators. On sunny winter days you can even catch a bumblebee performing the most amazing feats of hovering in order to get a meal.

Mahonias are evergreens, with large, spiny leaves. There are over 70 species, but the more common ones are Mahonia media, which can grow into a tall shrub with bright yellow flowers which are highly fragrant. Mahonia aquifolium flowers a bit later, in early spring. Mahonia repens is a softer leaved variety which remains low at about 40cm and is ideal for ground cover, especially in a shady area. One of my favourites is M. eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’, which has soft, feathery foliage. This plant is ideal in borders, or, at this time of year, really lovely in pots.

Mahonias, though bushy, tend to send out large upright shoots which can make the plant suddenly seem very tall and bare. Cutting these shoots every second year will keep your shrub compact and dense as well as encourage flowering. One thing to mind though, when pruning, is to wear something old – when cut it oozes a bright yellow sap, coloured like turmeric, and is difficult to launder.

Under planting Mahonias is one way of showing them off, and plants such as hellebores, or winter flowering heathers, will provide a pleasing scene, as well as a buffet for any passing insects. Bergenias, evergreen ferns and brightly coloured grasses are also complimentary.

Viburnum davidii is another gorgeous plant for this time of year. It has long, leathery leaves which can reach up to 15cm in length. In the spring it has a fairly unremarkable white flower, which, again, provides a feast for pollinators when pickings are slim. Berries appear on female plants – and these are quite beautiful. Clusters of bright, metallic blue berries are what makes this plant worth having! The berries last for a good four months of the year, eventually being picked off by birds in late winter - though mine are usually picked off by myself for Christmas flower arrangements! These viburnums grow to about one metre in height, though you can clip them to stay lower. They are ideal as a companion plant to the Mahonia, but also provide interest among deciduous plants. They can also be used as a low hedge, or a ground cover plant, as they are naturally dome shaped, and require very little in the way of pruning.

Both Viburnums and Mahonias are incredibly hardy, and will tolerate most growing conditions.

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Try a universal contour wrap

It’s that time of the year again – New Year’s resolutions and plans to get the health and fitness levels in check. Which in turn always improves mood, energy levels and that fabulous just-worked-out glow to your skin, which is super anti-ageing. It even helps in collagen and elastin production. As we age and the […]

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It’s that time of the year again – New Year’s resolutions and plans to get the health and fitness levels in check.

Which in turn always improves mood, energy levels and that fabulous just-worked-out glow to your skin, which is super anti-ageing. It even helps in collagen and elastin production. As we age and the body slows down, so does cell growth. It’s a proven fact that movement increasing circulation and improves skin age and glow….

Even if it’s just a 30-minute walk, it will get the blood flowing and the skin glowing.

If you need a little motivation, a push in the right direction, or if you have been losing weight steady for a little while, this exercise wrap is the thing for you.

Suitable for both male and female, it will help to tighten skin, even out its appearance, and detox the body which helps you to lose weight, especially when combined with a healthy food plan. It’s massively motivating to plan the week’s food and choose healthy options where possible when you feel accountable to someone else.

One body wrap is great, but a course of three body wraps is amazing. We recommend doing one a week for three weeks, while following a low-calorie healthy food plan (no skipping meals).

Sea clay will be applied to your skin, and bandages wrapped on in a specific technique to lift and tighten the skin. Electrodes are applied, giving a light pulsing to the core and thighs, and finally you are tucked up into a heated blanket.

You will feel amazing after all that! An Indian head massage or facial can also be added to the treatment.

Here’s the science bit – Key ingredients of sea clay: Bentonie has excellent draining properties for full body detox, skin clarification and purification; Magnesium Sulphate stimulates peripheral skin circulation, exfoliating and anti-inflammatory; Magnesium Chloride is a valuable mineral salt that permits cellular balance, combats stress and fluid retention, anti-bacterial properties; Zinc Oxide has bacterium properties and anti–inflammatory agents; and Sodium Chloride detoxifies tissues and tightens the skin.
To make an appointment or for more information call Jill on 064-6632966

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Important date reminders about CAO applications

The normal closing date for CAO applications is on February 1 at 5pm, so it is really important that any students applying from Leaving Certificate, Further Education or as Mature Applicants are clear on the deadlines and application process. Before you start make sure to look at the CAO handbook which is available as in […]

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The normal closing date for CAO applications is on February 1 at 5pm, so it is really important that any students applying from Leaving Certificate, Further Education or as Mature Applicants are clear on the deadlines and application process.

Before you start make sure to look at the CAO handbook which is available as in interactive flipbook or to download from www.cao.ie, which also has a lot of resources to help applicants and parents.

To register, log on to www.cao.ie and click on Apply, it will ask you first to input your personal and contact details along with the category of applicant you are. Once you create a password and submit payment you receive you CAO number which means you are registered. It is advisable to go through the Demo Version of the CAO form first which is available on their website in the ‘Student Resources’ section.

Applicants who register before January 20 at 5pm will be charged the discounted application fee of €30, which increases to €45 up to February 1. Once you have registered you have until February 1st to add and change your courses, free of charge. On May 5, the Change of Mind facility will open and you will have the change to change your courses, with certain restrictions, up to July 1 at 5pm.

Course choices

You have the option of filling in 20 courses in total – 10 choices on level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degrees) and 10 on level 7/6 (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees / Higher Certificates) and it is advisable to fill as many as you can to give yourself the best chance of being offered a place on a course you like.

It is essential though that you research carefully all the courses you are going to include. Often students are careful about their first couple of choices but don’t research the courses that are further down the list well enough. Don’t make this mistake. Every course you put down should be one that you are genuinely interested in and willing to do so consider all options carefully. The majority of level 7/6 courses have progression routes onto level 8.

Order of Preference

This is the golden rule of the CAO and a very common mistake made by students every year. Always put down your courses in order of preference, not in the order of the points from the previous year. Points for courses change each year and you will not know the points for 2022 until the day that the Round 1 offers are issued by CAO, which is usually a couple of days after the Leaving Cert results come out. Also you don’t know what points you are going to get until those results come out and it will be too late to make changes to your CAO application at that stage.

Restrictions for the February 1 deadline

While you will get the opportunity to change your course choices later in the year, there are certain restrictions to take note of regarding the February 1st deadline. If you are applying for ‘restricted courses’ they must be added in by February 1as they require some other form of assessment apart from Leaving Cert points such as an aptitude test or a portfolio.

Such assessments are usually carried out between February & April. Students who are applying for Medicine must apply to do the HPAT by January 21 on https://hpat-ireland.acer.org/.

Any students applying for the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) or DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes must have applied to CAO by February 1.

You then have until March the 1st to complete those applications and up to March 15 to have supporting documentation sent to CAO (see www.accesscollege.ie). In the case of mature applicants, most HEIs (Higher Education Institutions) require applications to be in by the February 1 deadline.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or email info@mycareerplan.ie

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