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Snowdrops and daffodils making an early appearance this year

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Winter is most definitely still with us, but these bright days have a wonderful optimism about them.

The garden is waking up, and many plants are starting to grow shoots already – I am looking out at my roses and see a haze of green.

There should always be colour in the garden, and it is easy to achieve this if you plant the right plants!
Bulbs are the obvious splashes of colour, with snowdrops showing, and daffodils making a very early appearance this year.
Muscari is about to flower, with crocus quick to follow. I have hundreds of Crocus ‘Romance' already in flower, creating a carpet of pale yellow.
I planted these just in front of our beehives as an early source of pollen for the bees, and any other pollinators out on a sunny day. Tulips will flower a bit later, along with hyacinths, which are my favourite! If you did not put down bulbs in Autumn, September or October, then do not despair! There are lots of bulbs available potted up, and these will come back year after year.
In my opinion, every garden should have at least a few of the following plants. At the front of any border, there should be a (few) Pulmonaria.
Growing only to about 20cm, they start to flower in February and continue right through March.
The brightest blue, ‘Blue Ensign’, an uplifting pink ‘Raspberry Splash’ and a deep purple, aptly named ‘Dark Vader’, are among my favourites.
Their foliage is also very pretty, with silvery splotches on a dark green leaf.
Winter flowering Heathers will continue to flower throughout the spring, I found the varieties available this year to be very varied. However, ‘Kramer’s Red' is still one of my go to's - it is reliable, it does not get too scraggly and is early to flower. Heather, along with pulmonaria, are also excellent sources of nectar for our winged friends. Apart from flowering, many Heathers also produce brightly coloured new foliage, such as ‘Spring Torch’.

Eranthis hyemalis, or winter aconite, is a pretty yellow flower, which happily naturalises under trees.
The epithet ‘hyemalis’ means winter-flowering, and indeed, this plant flowers during the coldest months.
Forsythia is a common shrub, flowering yellow before the leaves appear. I am not a great fan of the large varieties, ‘Sugar Baby’ is a cute variety that stays small and is very pretty tucked away in a border. Hamamelis, or Witch Hazel, is also an early flowering plant mine unfurled its spidery auburn flowers on Christmas day, well, I passed by it on the way to the wormery, and imagined it had started flowering as a gift to me!
Certainly, its scent should make Hamamelis a must-have, a mixture of vanilla and jasmine, which, on a sunny day is discernible from quite a distance. The flowers curl back into themselves when it is close to free6, to prevent frost damage. Nature is so amazing isn’t it?
The only drawback is the cost of this plant, you would expect to pay €20 for what looks like a twig in a pot.

The first few years are slow going, but once it reaches a certain point, it starts to grow and thicken.
It is not fussy and tolerates any soil, as well as wind. Some varieties to look out for are: ‘Early Bright’, one of the first to flower, bearing bright yellow blooms. ‘Kohanki red’ has orangey-red flowers, and its foliage rivals any reds in the autumn. ‘Aphrodite’ has bronze coloured flowers, and is a nice sized shrub for a medium-sized garden. ‘Diane' has bright orange flowers, and possibly the best scent of all.

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Top 10 Essential tips for Leaving Cert Students in lead up to June 5

The final weekend leading up to the Leaving Cert exams can be very tough, as you try to balance last minute revision with much needed rest after a long, exhausting […]

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The final weekend leading up to the Leaving Cert exams can be very tough, as you try to balance last minute revision with much needed rest after a long, exhausting year.

The natural anxiety felt by students is often heightened by the annual media hype around the state exams and it is really important that you do your best to manage that stress effectively, so that you are ready to perform to the best of your ability once the exams start. The following tips may help to keep you focused and a little calmer in the lead up to June 5.

1. Review, don’t cram – Focus on summary notes, flashcards, or mind maps. This reinforces what you’ve already studied. Prioritise areas where you feel less confident, but don’t try to learn new material.

2. Practise past papers – Review marking schemes and time allocation for each question you will need to answer on each paper. Practise a sample of questions against the clock. This will maximise your scoring potential.

3. Organise your materials – Check the exam timetable and highlight your own exams. Prepare the stationary that you need, gather pens, pencils, calculators, and so on. Pack your bag the night before to avoid last-minute stress.

4. Maintain a healthy balance – Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night. Proper rest is crucial for memory, concentration and stamina. Eat well, include proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs in your meals to maintain energy levels. Drink plenty of water, hydration is essential.

5. Try to manage stress – Schedule short breaks during study sessions and do something enjoyable and relaxing, like a short walk, playing or listening to music. Get fresh air and some light exercise. Use relaxation techniques like breathing exercise, mindfulness and meditation.

6. Focus on a positive mindset – Focus on your strengths and remind yourself of your preparation. Concentrate on what you know and not on what you think you don’t! Try to avoid negative self-talk and steer clear of discussions that heighten anxiety, such as comparing how much you’ve studied with friends.

7. Plan your weekend – Create a realistic timetable for the weekend, balancing study sessions with breaks and relaxation and don’t overdo the study. You need plenty of energy for the exams.

8. Stay connected – Talk to friends and family, if you are feeling overwhelmed reach out and get support from loved ones. If it’s helpful, have a short, focused study session with friends to clarify doubts.

9. Keep things in perspective – The Leaving Cert is important but won’t define you and regardless of what happens you have several options open to you. Try to reframe the media hype as the whole country getting behind you, for what they know to be a tough time for you.

10. Get Set for exam day – Double-check the venue, seating arrangements, and required materials for the day of the exam. On the evening before the exam, do a light review of key concepts but avoid heavy studying. Ensure you know how to get to the exam venue and plan to arrive early (at least 30 mins on the first day). Decide what you’ll wear to avoid rushing in the morning and have your water and snacks ready to go.

Above all else, give the exams your best shot! Once they are over you have a lovely ‘study-free’ summer and bright future to look forward to. Go n-éirí libh ar fad, the very best of luck to each and every one of you!

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Disability toilets for Killarney Library

Works to build new toilet facilities for people with disabilities should commence later this year. Cllr Marie Moloney tabled a motion at a recent Kerry County Council meeting. She said: […]

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Works to build new toilet facilities for people with disabilities should commence later this year.

Cllr Marie Moloney tabled a motion at a recent Kerry County Council meeting.
She said: “Application has been made for funding to the Department. As soon as the funding is approved, work will commence on the provision of Disabled Toilet Facilities.
“While ramps are installed for accessibility, it is unacceptable that any public building be without disabled toilet facilities in this day and age.
“I am aware of several people with a disability who constantly use the services of the Library and are very happy with the staff and the services that Killarney Library offers but are disappointed at the lack of disabled toilets.”
“I will be keeping the pressure on to have these facilities provided as soon as possible.”

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