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sunrise: 7:22 am
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Time Is Getting Short For Those Wishing To Pick Blackberries

The Michaelmas Daisy Fairy Song.

By Cicely Mary Barker

“Red Admiral, Red Admiral,
Alighting on my daisies one by one!
I hope you like their flavour and although the Autumn’s near,
Are happy as you sit there in the sun?”

“I thank you very kindly, sir!
Your daisies are so nice,
So pretty and so plentiful are they;
The flavour of their honey, sir, it really does entice;
I’d like to bring my brothers, if I may!”

“Friend butterfly, friend butterfly, go fetch them one and all!
I’m waiting here to welcome every guest;
And tell them it is Michaelmas, and soon the leaves will fall,
But I think Autumn sunshine is the best!”

End

Michaelmas daisies (Variety Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’) together with the bright yellow daisy-like flowers of Rudbeckia (Variety “Goldstrum”); a must for  any garden especially those seeking long lasting colour; as our warm Summer slowly now reverts to Autumn.

Michaelmas Daisies (Aster macrophyllus ‘Twilight’), together with the bright yellow daisy-like flowers of Rudbeckia (“Goldstrum”) are both hardy perennial garden flowers, (Available at O’Driscoll Garden Centre, Mill Road, Thurles), which emerge from small ever enlarging colonies of underground rhizomes to form clumps some 60cm (around 2ft), in height each Spring, later displaying glorious rich colour, from mid to late Summer right through to the end of Autumn.

While the yellow daisy-like flowers of Rudbeckia are said to symbolizes a farewell or a departure; it is the name associated with the blueish grey daisy that we feature in this article.

Michaelmas is the name of the first term of the academic year. It is also a term name used by the Honorable Society of King’s Inns in Ireland. The Michaelmas term begins in September and ends towards the end of December. The name Michaelmas comes from a shortening of “Michael’s Mass,”, similar to and in the same style as Christmas, “Christ’s Mass” and Candlemas, “Candle Mass”, latter the Mass where traditionally all candles used throughout the year would be blessed.

In the fifth century a basilica near Rome was dedicated in honour of Michael on the 30th September, beginning with celebrations on the eve of that day, and 29th September is now kept in honour of St. Michael and all Angels, throughout some western churches.

Associated in the northern hemisphere with the beginning of Autumn and the shortening of days; during the Middle Ages, Michaelmas was celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation, but this tradition was abolished in the 18th century. It was also one of the Irish quarter days, when outstanding accounts had to be settled.

Folklore suggests that Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that when St Michael expelled Lucifer (the devil), from heaven, the latter fell from the sky, landing in prickly blackberry bushes. Satan is said to have cursed the fruit, before scorching them with his fiery breath, then stamping, spitting and urinating on them, so that they would become unfit for human consumption.  It was therefore considered ill-advised to pick blackberries after the 29th of September, with a Michaelmas pie being made from the last blackberry fruit of the season.

First observed as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil; from 1961 to 1965, four young schoolgirls reported several apparitions of the Archangel Michael in their small village of Garabandal, in Spain. The apparitions of the Archangel Michael were mainly reported as announcing the expected arrival of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.

These events at Garabandal began on June 18th, 1961, when the four girls aged eleven and twelve years old, [Mari Loli Mazón, Jacinta González, Mari Cruz González and Maria “Conchita” Concepción González], said that they saw an angel. This angel made another appearance on June 25th. Their story quickly spread throughout the village and they subsequently reported seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary. These claims continued for a number of years.

According to the visionaries, the purpose of these visitations was to call for a “conversion of heart”,  with these visionaries reporting that they received two ‘messages’; one directly from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the other from the Virgin Mary, by way of St. Michael the Archangel. The first message was revealed on October 18th, 1961, which stated:-  “We must make many sacrifices, perform much penance, and visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently. But first, we must lead good lives. If we do not, a chastisement will befall us. The cup is already filling up, and if we do not change, a very great chastisement will come upon us.”

It was on June 18th, 1965, when Conchita, the principal visionary heard the second message, which was televised live by Spanish television. It stated:-  “As my Message of the 18th of October has not been complied with, and as it has not been made known to the world, I am telling you that this is the last one. Previously, the Cup was filling; now, it is brimming over. Many priests are following the road to perdition, (latter a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and unrepentant person passes after death), and with them they are taking many more souls. Ever less importance is being given to the Holy Eucharist. We should turn the wrath of God away from us by our own efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with a sincere heart. He will pardon you. I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, wish to tell you that you should make amends. You are now being given the last warnings. I love you very much, and I do not want your condemnation. Ask Us sincerely and We shall grant your plea. You must make more sacrifices. Reflect on the Passion of Jesus.

The second message caused particular controversy when it was revealed that Conchita had actually written “many cardinals, many bishops and many priests are following the road to perdition.”  She was asked many times to verify this information. The young woman stated many times that Mary stressed the importance of the priesthood, and focused attention on priests above others.

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Six Thousand Year Old Bog-Oak Erected In Littleton, Co Tipp

Two-Mile-Borris /Littleton district correspondent Mr Gerry Bowe reports:-

On Wednesday August 29th 2018 last, cross-roads in Littleton Village, Thurles, Co. Tipperary has gained an original six to seven-thousand-year-old unique, work of art.

Local butcher Mr Paudie Fitzpatrick has presented to Littleton village; a piece of rare bog-oak which he has been restoring and preserving over many months.

Bog-wood, in this case Oak, is a material from trees that have been buried in peat bogs and preserved from decay by the acidic and anaerobic bog conditions, sometimes for thousands of years. The wood is usually stained brown by tannins dissolved in the bog’s acidic water. Bog-wood may come from any tree species naturally growing near or in bogs, including oak; Quercus – “bog oak”; Pine – “Pinus”; Yew – “Taxus”; Swamp Cypress – “Taxodium”, and Kauri, latter regarded as the most exotic wood in the world – “Agathis”.  Such bog preserved timber remains comparable to some of the world’s most expensive tropical hard woods.

Pictured Centre L to R: Mr Tom Ryan, Mr Paudie Fitzpatrick, Mr Dan Fitzpatrick, & Mr John Darmody taking time out to relax having successfully erected the Bog Oak Art piece in Littleton village, Co. Tipperary.

For the past twenty-eight years, Mr Fitzpatrick together with his wife Karen and family, has been providing a quality meat service, which also includes home deliveries, not just to the village itself but also to the surrounding area. But surely his most unique delivery to date, must be the conveyance of a large, ancient, seven-foot-high oak tree trunk with roots attached; same now perfectly preserved with numerous coatings of Danish oil, followed by intense and passionate sandpapering, to extract its ancient, bog preserved, hidden colours.

What was once left to the elements to decay, has now become a visible symbol and a real reminder of the rich, bog-land chronicle that is Tipperary’s biodiversity. This visible symbol must surely challenge us to try to fully comprehend and preserve our local bogs for environmental, recreational and inspirational purposes. The heathers, ferns and fir tree, planted alongside, are but a trivial reminder of this rich variety of rural bog vegetation.

An artistic and wood-working gene is most definitely ingrained within the Fitzpatrick family. Proof, as if proof was needed, can be quickly observed in the ‘butcher’s block’ that was so patiently and lovingly assembled, piece by piece, from maple wood, by Mr Paudie Fitzpatrick’s son Shane; same undertaken as part of his Leaving Cert woodwork project at Colaiste Mhuire here in Thurles. Shane has rightly been granted an award for this work, with the project remaining on display in the school, to further inspire and encourage new incoming students and school visitors alike.

A massive ‘Thank You’ also to Mr John Darmody, Mr Dan Fitzpatrick and Mr Thomas Ryan; all who helped pour the concrete base and secure the bog oak piece with iron stays, having delivered it safely on a tractor loader.

Positive comments are now pouring in from the many who pass through Littleton village on a daily basis and so to from the villagers who are grateful to Mr Fitzpatrick and family for the patient work and generosity in the donating of this artistic creation to further beautify the already picturesque village. With a new Tidy Towns Committee in formation, this feature makes a most excellent beginning to all future work planned.

In his book (P.58), “The Bogs of Ireland” (John Feehan), the author tells us that “bog is an Irish word, derived from the word for soft; ‘bogach’ means in Irish -‘soft ground.’ As roads become busier and life becomes a constant rush, we might recall that another Irish phrase: “Tog go bog è “, means literally “Take it easy”, or “Slow down”, or “Breathe deep”.  So why not“Tog go bog è “, and take a look around and admire this ancient and unique piece of bog-oak art, which has full certified Littleton, Co. Tipperary origins?

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Blue Tits Become Next Door Neighbours In April 2018

Blue Cap; Blue Bonnet; Nun, and Tree babbler are just some of the names given to our native Irish Blue Tit.

Here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, this year, two such Blue Tits, whom we affectionately came to know as Thomas Tit and Sharon Tit, moved in quite unexpectedly to a newly installed Tit box.

Blue tits are small, lightweight, short legged, acrobatic and highly intelligent birds, with a somewhat convivial nature, most often found hanging upside down from branches and bird feeders, in their endless search for insects and seeds.

Once the removers of foil milk bottle caps; from once door to door milk bottle deliveries; stealing the energy rich non-lactose cream; the sturdy beaks of these little birds are well suited to their diet of fruit, seeds and berries in the autumn and winter; while changing to mostly larvae, insects and spiders, found in abundance during spring and summer.

Sharon Tit remained in total command with regard to family matters, especially when it came to choosing not just a mate, but also a home/nest site. The breeding season for Tits usually starts in early to mid-April. In the weeks before egg laying, Sharon Tit increased her weight by 50%, aided by food collected and shared with the help of partner Thomas Tit.

Tits will usually build their nests in holes and crevices in trees, walls or in this case a nest box purchased from O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre, here in Thurles. But Tits have been known to nest in such places as rural ‘An Post’ letter boxes.

Sharon Tit formed a deep hollow in her chosen, soft hair nest materials, by simply wriggling and continuously twisting around and around, while continued to erect higher sides. The nest when complete saw Sharon Tit producing nearly her own weight in eggs, laying one egg each day for 12 days.

Her eggs took 14 to 16 days to hatch completely and both Sharon and Thomas, together, made up to 300 daily visits  to and from the nursery, during the first few days.  Together these visits rose to some 800 or more each day, prior to the youngsters leaving the nest.

As can be seen in the video above, Tits will collect caterpillars, feeding themselves only the smallest; while feeding the larger ones, containing the most energy, to their siblings. No need for pesticides here, as the dietary practises of Sharon and Thomas Tit made them extremely effective pest controllers in the gardens; feeding their babies as many as 15,000 flies, spiders and green caterpillars in the first three week as parents.

Three weeks on, with all children left the nursery, Sharon and Thomas Tit continued to support this family roaming freely for a further two weeks, but at five weeks old they were abandoned to fend for themselves, as is normal Tit family practise.

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Time To Get Back To The Garden

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” – Elizabeth Murray.

All of the early blooms, plants, bulb material, trees, bird boxes, rich colour etc., shown in the video hereunder, can be obtained locally here in Thurles, from Seamus O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre, Mill Road, Thurles, Tel: (0504) 21636, where you can acquire also, and at no cost, the benefit of a wealth of gardening knowledge, experience and sound advice, simply for the asking.

Time To Get Back To The Garden from George Willoughby on Vimeo.

After a longer than usual winter just past, which saw unprecedented raw weather conditions; Irish gardens and more importantly the perennial bulbs, plants and shrubs growing therein, managed to survive remarkably well. Perhaps the earlier varieties of Daffodil took a beating, certainly to quote the poet W. Wordsworth, they were “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”. However, the later varieties showed little sign of having been mugged by the more recent freezing conditions which emanated from “Son of the Beast from the East”.

Still, that is all behind us now and it’s time to return to that great outdoors, latter being for most of us, our beloved gardens. For the past number of days here in Thurles Co.Tipperary the sun has embraced us with a smile. Gone are our thermal vests and our ‘Long John’s’, as nature again resumes her cycle, while also reviving once more, our human souls.

So turn over that clay; feel that mixture of organic matter and minerals crumble between your fingers, and watch as that friendly, cheeky “Roly Robin” gets closer acquainted, as worms are exposed from below the surface.

I believe it was the late, great actor / comedian Robin Williams who once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, Let’s party!”

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Davidia involucrata ‘Birr Gold’ – “The Handkerchief Tree”

Seamus O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre on the Mill Road, here in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, is as far as you need to travel over the next week or so, should you be on the lookout for something extremely rare and truly exotic.

By rare and exotic, I refer in particular to “The Handkerchief Tree” (Davidia involucrata ‘Birr Gold’) just one of the many rare trees, shrubs and plants located at this ‘Mecca’ of garden cultivation and management; all specimens which are strikingly unusual and delightfully strange, both in visual effect and in appearance.

Pictures Left to Right: (1) French Lazarist missionary Catholic priest, zoologist, botanist and naturalist, Fr. Armand David, (1826 to 1900); (2) Davidia involucrata (The Handkerchief tree); (3) Kew Garden’s trained gardener, botanist, plant collector / hunter & explorer Ernest Henry Wilson, (“Chinese” Wilson – 1876 to 1930).

The tree Davidia involucrata, was first named after French Lazarist missionary, Roman Catholic priest (Lazarist – A Catholic organization founded in 1625, at the priory of St Lazare in Paris, by St. Vincent de Paul, latter renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity to those found impoverished) and naturalist Fr. Armand David, who first described it, and who coincidently was also the first westerner to describe the Giant Panda Bear, native to south central China.

This deciduous Chinese native ‘Handkerchief Tree’  is also referred to as the ‘Dove Tree’; which can grow up to 20 metres in height (or 66 ft.) and is best acknowledged for its striking display of floral bracts in late spring. Its small, reddish purple flower heads surrounded by a pair of large, white bracts, same up to 30cms (1 ft) in length, said to resemble dangling handkerchiefs or doves perched on its branches. Foliage here is vivid green, heart shaped leaves with serrated edges and with fine points developed at each tip. Here also you will find that the very young leaves are strongly scented.

Henry Veitch (1840 – 1924)

The obituary of Henry Veitch, published in the Gardeners’ Chronicle on 12th July 1924 stated; “Sir Harry Veitch may be regarded as the most outstanding figure in contemporary horticulture, and during the last fifty years no one has exercised so great an influence on all things pertaining to gardening”.

It took some 35 years, following Fr. Armand David’s formal description given back in 1868, before the ‘Handkerchief Tree’ eventually arrived into Britain. While preserved specimens of Davidia involucrata had been sent to Kew Gardens, it was the eminent English horticulturist and nurseryman, Sir Henry Veitch, (Latter instrumental in establishing the now famous Chelsea Flower Show), who insisted on obtaining some seeds from which to propagate the tree.  In 1899 he commissioned a bright young prize-winning botanist, Ernest Wilson, to travel to China to locate the ‘Handkerchief Tree’. This proposed trip presented something of a challenge for the 22-year-old Wilson, who had had never travelled abroad previously and did not speak one solitary word of the Chinese language.

Nevertheless, following some six months stay at Veitch’s Coombe Woods Nursery, Wilson then travelled west towards China, staying for five days at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. Here he studied identified and established techniques involving the shipping of seeds and plants, without causing damage, before continuing to cross the United States by train; eventually sailing from San Francisco, to reach Hong Kong in June of 1899.

With difficulty, he eventually located a specimen of ‘Handkerchief Tree’ in Yichang city, in the western Hubei province of China. It was from this same first trip that Wilson would also introduce to Britain ‘Actinidia deliciosa’, or the Chinese gooseberry, better known today to supermarket shoppers as Kiwifruit.

Irish Botanist and Sinologist, Professor Dr. Augustine Henry (1857 to 1930).

Just a 53 minute drive, travelling north some 55.7 km via the N62, we reach the town of Birr in Co. Offaly. Here in the formal garden at Birr Castle, a “Handkerchief Tree” grew, before its death in 1980. This was propagated by Hillier’s Nursery in Ampfield, Hampshire and young plants were, I believe, planted at Birr Castle.

It is believed that the cultivar that resulted in ‘Birr Gold’ may have been a seedling from one of the original introduced here into Ireland. Certainly, Professor Dr. Augustine Henry; latter an Irish Botanist and Sinologist (Sinologist meaning person with knowledge pertaining to all things Chinese including language, literature, culture and history), further prompted the sending of Ernest Wilson to China with secret instructions to locate the ‘Handkerchief Tree’.

If you are around Thurles in the coming days, why not find your way to O’Driscoll’s Garden Centre, Mill Road, to view “up close and personal”, this rare and unusual tree, and marvel, while recognising the sheer beauty, complexity and equilibrium that is openly displayed to our world, courtesy of Mother Earth.

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