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Wildflowers are not always simple to grow

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

There is nothing quite like the low, humming sound of insects in the garden. I always find the different pitches of the buzzing fascinating, from the drone of a big, furry bumble bee to the high pitched whirring of hoverflies.

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And wasps always seem to have a dangerous sound – it is unique to them, in any case. It is possible to help pollinators into your garden at almost any time of the year, solitary bees such as bumbles and leafcutter bees, will come out of hibernation on a sunny December day if there are some heather flowers nearby. tulips, hyacinths, crocus and snowdrops provide sustenance in early spring, along with shrubs such as hamamelis, daphne, viburnum and willow. In April, the small flowers of the field maple attract many insects, as do the large trumpet shaped flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas. Wildflowers are now beginning to bloom, and they are the subject of today’s column!

While it seems counterintuitive, wildflowers are not always simple to grow, especially as we mean ‘pretty meadow blooms’ as opposed to ‘weeds’! Creating an area for wildflowers takes some preparation. Most important is that it is a weed free area. Kill off any grass or weeds before sowing, either by using conventional weedkillers, or by laying down a sheet of black polythene or weed suppressant. Make sure any seeds which germinate are removed also, and that problematic plants such as rushes, are dug out. Most importantly, ensure all grass is gone, as wildflowers do not compete well against its vigorous growth. Rake the top layer of the soil loose to a fine tilth, and do not add fertiliser! Wildflowers will generally not do well in a rich soil. When your area is ready, decide which seeds are best for your spot. There is much to choose from, for example, single varieties such as ragged Robin, teasels and poppies, or mixtures. There are seed mixes for perennial meadows, ones which attract birds - these usually have a high volume of seed bearing flowers, mixes for bees, ladybirds or certain colour mixes. There are also soil specific mixes.

SOWING SEEDS

Sow your seeds thinly and evenly onto the prepared ground. I tend to cover with netting at this time of year, because, although it is the best time of year to sow, and there is a very high germination rate, birds are also a problem!

The only maintenance really is to keep an eye on slug damage - I scatter in a few pellets when I sow anything - and if there are very dense clumps of seedlings forming, thin them out. When the flowers have gone to seed in the autumn, just cut them to ground level, leave the cuttings a few days for the seeds to drop out, and rake the foliage up. If left to rot in situ, it will make the soil too fertile for a good display the following year.

I mention the use of slug pellets. To the best of my knowledge, the use of metaldehyde poison in slug pellets has been banned for a few years now, and pellets are made of ferric phosphate which is not harmful to pets or birds unless ingested in very large amounts. However, there are some ingredients used in slug pellets which may potentially cause damage to earthworms and other soil dwellers, so please, always use sparingly and where possible, not at all!

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GAA stars set to gather for A Night With Legends

By Sean Moriarty Over 1,500 people are expected to attend Fossa GAA Club’s ‘A Night With Legends’ on Tuesday night. GAA royalty will grace the INEC stage as part of […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Over 1,500 people are expected to attend Fossa GAA Club’s ‘A Night With Legends’ on Tuesday night.

GAA royalty will grace the INEC stage as part of an ambitious fundraiser by the club.

The event will be styled on RTÉ’s popular pre All-Ireland Final show ‘Up for the Match’ where footballing legends will tell some of their life stories in between music and songs.

It will be hosted by author and raconteur Billy Keane and horseracing photographer Pat Healy. The event is one of the key fundraisers for the expanding Fossa GAA Club.

Coming just days before Kerry’s All-Ireland semi-final with Dublin, ‘A Night With Legends’ will also serve as a light-hearted preview to the important game.

Kerry greats like Pat Spillane, Mike Frank Russell, Paul Galvin and Eamon Fitzmaurice will be joined on stage by Dublin hero Bernard Brogan Sr. Killarney greats Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper and Ambrose O’Donovan will also be there.

“This is not going to be a boring night, it is going to be filled with fun and banter, music and craic,” Fossa GAA chairman, Dermot Clifford, told the Killarney Advertiser.

Several raffle and auction prizes are up for grabs on the night too, the most unusual being a chance to bid on a racing greyhound, donated by the Murphy Family from Brosna.

The fundraiser has already raised €10,000 thanks to a recent auction organised by Paul Nagle. The local rally star sold one of his world championship helmets for €25,000 with the balance going to Recovery Haven in Tralee.

Limited tickets are still available at a cost of €25 per person or groups can buy a table of 12 for €250.

Ticket enquires: nightoflegends2022@gmail.com.

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Salvias are valuable plants for any gardener

By Debby Looney, gardening expert One plant which I think is a super addition to borders and pots is the salvia. There are many to choose from, but there are […]

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

One plant which I think is a super addition to borders and pots is the salvia. There are many to choose from, but there are two broad differences, one is the bedding salvia, with its spikes of fire-engine-red flowers – though they come in cream and purple also.

These have become less popular with gardeners over the years, as slugs eat them with relish. I have found the product ‘Grazers’, a spray, excellent as a slug repellent. As an aside, ‘Grazers’ also do a rabbit, deer, lily beetle and caterpillar repellent, all of which are organically certified and perfectly safe to use. They are also quite effective products. Secondly, everyone knows the herb salvia, or sage which goes perfect with chicken, roast squash or parma ham, it is a flavour of autumn.

However, there are over 500 salvias to choose from, and happily, nurseries are taking notice of them. This year a notable addition to most garden centre stock is the hybrid Wish collection. There are three; ‘Love and Wishes’, ‘Ember’s Wish’ and ‘Wendy’s Wish’. Being the greedy gardener I am, I planted all three, and have been rewarded by large bushy plants with masses of colour. I planted them in a free draining, sunny part of the garden, where they have plenty of space. The plants themselves reach about 80cm, flower spikes being at least 20cm long in colours pink, aubergine and orange.

Another beauty is S. Amistad, which every garden with a flower border should have. They grow up to 1.2m, with lush dark green foliage, topped by dark blue flowers. The calyces (the bit the flower comes out of!) are almost black, giving it a fantastically dramatic look. S. nemerosa is a hardy variety, used in Irish gardens for years, as it spreads happily keeping weeds at bay. ‘New Dimension Blue’ is a lovely variety, with rich blue flower spikes. S. nemerosa does not grow that tall, about 30cm. It is also one of the few salvias which will tolerate heavy soil and a lot of winter rain.

S. roemeriana ‘Hot Trumpets’ is also a low growing spreading salvia, about 30cm, with the brightest red flower spikes I have yet to see rivalled! It grows well in dappled shade, adding great splashes of colour. Another red is S. x jamensis ‘Hot Lips’. It is an evergreen perennial, which loves full sun. It grows to about 50cm, and has flowers from April through to the first frosts. The flowers are bicoloured red and white, like little flags. ‘Killer Cranberry’ is another beauty with magenta flowers.

All salvias are attractive to bees and other pollinators, and as such are valuable plants for any gardener. They look great grouped with other perennials, as well as in pots or on their own in beds.

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