Learning and Entertainment – Native Wildflowers!

wf1 wf2

Thanks to our 40 wildflower enthusiasts and learners who turned up on Thursday last for Sandro Cafolla’s workshop. We had a most informative session and lots of fun. Our hope is that we caught some of Sandro’s great passion for the wild and particularly for wildflowers, for their beauty and importance in the ecosystem. He challenged us to let go of our inclination to straight lines and precisely measured flower beds. Thanks to Sandro and his team, we now have in Ireland a seed-bank of native wildflowers. So many of our native wildflowers would have been lost forever but for his enthusiasm, conviction and above all, his hard work.

Sandro had some seeds with him. He explained that each packet of seeds contains annuals, bi-annuals and perennials. The packets also contain some bulking material. When somebody innocently asked a question, as Sandro proceeded to reply, he flicked a packet of seeds in the questioners direction. This was to reward the questioner for being awake – not that there was any fear of us dosing off!

After all, it’s not rocket science: Clear your area of vegetation, harrow if a field, rake lightly is a small patch; spread your seeds; harrow or rake lightly again – and wait. For the first year you will have your annuals, the second year your bi-annuals and the third year, your perennials. Everything we need to know is clearly described on their website Sandro also referred us to Zoe Devlin’s website. Zoe has produced a beautiful book on the Wildflowers of Ireland.

An added dimension to the night were the handmade biscuits by Anne sampled during the night. She is offering the recipes here, as requested.

Country Biscuits:

  • 6oz/175gr of 100% wholemeal flour
  • 1.5oz/40gr coarse oatmeal
  • 1teasp/5ml of baking powder
  • 0.5teasp/2.5ml of salt
  • 3oz/84gr butter or margarine
  • 2oz/56gr of raw brown sugar
  • 3tblps/45ml milk dairy or soya to mix

Mix all the dry ingredients – except the sugar – together. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and add the milk. Stir in well until the dough is firm and manageable. Roll out fairly thinly and stamp out 3in/7.5cm rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes until light brown. Cool on a wire tray and store in an airtight tin.

Coconut Biscuits:

  • 4oz/115gr butter or margarine
  • 4oz/115gr wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 4oz/115gr raw brown sugar
  • 4oz/115gr coconut
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 free-range egg

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, coconut and salt. Mix well. Stir in the egg. Mix into a soft dough. Roll out fairly thinly on a lightly floured board and stamp into 3in/7.5cm rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire tray and store in an airtight tin.

COP 21 Paris 2015

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference -COP21- is taking place from the 30th of November to the 11th of December. More than 190 political leaders have agreed to take on the mammoth task of trying to come to a legally binding agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celcius. All over the world at grassroots level, people are expressing their solidarity with our COP21 representatives.

We hope that the negotiators will be led by deep appreciation for the gift of Planet Earth with her immense biodiversity and astounding beauty.

We hope that they will be gifted with deep compassion.

We hope too that they will have the wisdom and courage necessary to let go of short-term, more immediate unsustainable goals for a long-term sustainable vision for Planet Earth.

We trust that they will have the wisdom, knowledge and generosity that is required at this time.

Future generations of all life demand this. ‘All life’ – because all is precious and all is connected. Everything is interdependent.

To our negotiators in Paris we send the energy of support and good will from all life on the planet at this time and in the future, from Earth, Air, Soil, Water, Bacteria, Insects, Plants, Animals, Mammals and Humans – Everything that lives and breathes, our good wishes go to you.



See www.cop21paris.org for more information on the conference.

Autumn is Here!

DSC05238Surely the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us! This morning’s webs hammocking along the hedges in the blue mists cast something of a magic spell. Who has been around during our sleeping time, nipped the walnut off the tree, to leave it half-eaten on the path beneath?  Was it you  Mr/Mrs. Squirrel, whom Joe spiedHarvesting 039 scampering up the hazel tree yesterday morning?

And what butterflies, bees, wasps and variety of insects voraciously feeding – as if all are
foreboding a harsh winter.

Pat, in passing yesterday evening, stood and counted the butterflies – seven small Tortoise Shells and one Red Admiral on one clump of sedem, and probably as many more on the other clumps around.

Yesterday, too, Angie met green froggie as she was doing some Autumn clearing of the long grass. A reminder to us to be sparing POBOEBIO 025about our Autumn tidying. Our urge/addiction to tidying is often the destruction of habitats. Last year we didn’t need to put out a bird feeder (anyway, how appropriate is it to be feeding food from other climates to our birds?). We leave the seed heads on all of the plants and flowers, Aquileqia, Evening Primrose, Teasel and of course we leave the Ivy. At this time too, we have all the nativeInsectsetc 052 berries and they can last well into the winter months.

And what about the leaves?



National Tree Day – Thursday October 8th 2015

Tree Day seeks to celebrate trees, raise awareness about Ireland’s native trees and to show what you can do to help the trees in your local area.

As everyone knows, tress take in carbon dioxide and give out the oxygen we breathe. What you may not know is that one fully mature tree provides enough oxygen each day for a family of four. But trees do so much more than that. They provide shelter to countless insects, birds and animals. They give us shelter from rain and shade us from sun. The provide wood for our fires and houses. The give us berries and nuts with which to eat.

So what can I do?

A start is to take five minutes (as hard as that can be nowadays) to look at a tree in your area and appreciate the tree itself. Take the time to be with the tree, view it not as an object, but as a living being.

Something else you can do is to get involved with local planting projects. These projects take seeds given off local trees, start them growing in a “creche” of sorts until they are year-old saplings, and transfer the saplings into the ground so they can grow into trees. This helps to preserve Ireland’s native trees, as well as to replace some of the trees that fall victim to deforestation every day.

You can also look out for the trees that are native to Ireland. Here are a few examples:

  • Elder Tree: Elder trees are smaller than most, coming to about 6 meters in height and usually found in hedgegrows. In Spring, they flower with white flowers that later develop into small berries that range from dark-purple to black in color. Birds love these berries as a snack.elderberries
  • Hazel Tree: Hazel trees are usually found underneath the canopy of oak or ash trees, but can also be found in the Burren. More of a shrub than a tree, hazels typically grow to around 5 meters in height. The nuts that a hazel produces are edible, but trees that are more in shade don’t produce as many nuts.Hazel.8
  • Hawthorn Tree: Often spoken of in Irish myth and lore, hawthorns are a very recognisable, being bushy looking and with their distinctive light grey color, turning pinkish brown with age. Hawthorns produce small, juicy red berries that birds love to eat.hawthorn_fruit
  • Rowan Tree: The rowan tree, also called the mountain ash, is a small tree. It is able to grow in poor soil, giving it the ability to grow in poor, mountainous soil, hence the name mountain ash. The rowan produces small red berries that birds love to eat. These help to spread the rowan around the country.rowan trees

These are just a few examples of trees native to Ireland. You can find out about more of them from the Native Woodland Trust.

And lastly, one way to help our native trees is to Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.             The less we use, the fewer trees that need to be cut down.


Butterfly & Bumblebee Monitoring Workshop

Butterfly & Bumblebee monitoring

The Bumblebee & Butterfly Workshop was held at An Gáirdín on June 7th. This was in conjunction with the monitoring scheme conducted by Biodiversity Ireland to collect data on the species. A fascinating day packed with information was facilitated by Dr Tomás Murray from the National Biodiversity Data Centre; his enthusiasm for the project was overflowing. Instructions on capture, examination, identification and release were outlined. The information gathered nationally is fed into a European data base to give an overall picture of their health, abundance, vulnerability and rarity. The fecundity of bumblebees and butterflies can be directly correlated with climate change.

                                  BUMBLEBEES                                      BUTTERFLIES
IRELAND          20 species 32% under threat                 34 species 18% under threat
EUROPE          68 species 24% under threat                482 species 9% under threat

There were many bumblebees & butterflies to be seen at An Gáirdín on the day of the workshop. It was fascinating to see the various behavioural patterns of the different genders demonstrating their known habits.
It was a most enjoyable and informative day and the participants at An Gáirdín would like to record their appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Tomás Murray.


Learn how to integrate Mindfulness into your everyday life.
2day Course
Sat.28thFeb.and Sun.26thApril
An Gáirdín, Portumna
Facilitator:Gerry Cunningham MIAHP
The Mindfulness Clinic, 19 Fitswilliam Square, Dublin 2
Cost: €30 per day Deposit €10
Booking: Phone 090 974169 or
Email: angairdin1@gmail.com

Please click top menu MINDFULNESS WORKSHOPS for full details


As the final season of the Earth’s calendar commences, we are treated to spectacular morning displays; the Season of Webs has arrived.image
We are reminded that life on this planet is not a pyramid; not a hierarchy; but a wonderful WEB of LIFE celebrating diversity and interdependency. As the totality of the web is made up of individual strands, so too the totality of life is expressed in a multiplicity of unique life forms, each with a right to its unique existence.

In a web, each strand is dependent on every other strand; just see what happens if we pull on one strand. So too each life form is completely dependent on other life forms. So thank you spiders, your genius constructions are a gift to us each morning to teach us the beauty of interdependent existence is all about; a deeper insight into Native American wisdom:

We do not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. (CHIEF SEATTLE)


The eco-system is as delicate and fragile as a spider’s web. To ensure the continuation of a plant species, it will flower at a time when its main pollinators are in abundance and there is maximum output of seeds. There are myriads of examples of how unwittingly humans can upset the delicate eco system; the web of life.



For instance, if a non-native primrose is planted, it may flower earlier or later than the native species, hence tearing a hole in the complex web of life. Tender new leaves unfold on an oak tree in spring just as millions of insect larvae emerge to eat them. Synchronised time-cycles of plants and animals are thrown out of step when we replace native species with non-native.



A web is seldom an independent entity; each is connected to the next by a single delicate strand. The webs are all so beautifully connected together, as it were holding one another up. Earth’s wonderful eco-system – of which we are a part, a strand – is made up of many, many interdependent and interconnected smaller ecosystems.