They may be easy to germinate, but to get long stems and lovely blooms takes dedication. Photographs: Gap Photos
I love a bunch of sweet peas. There is something satisfying about a vase of them. The flirty rippled Spencers, the old fashioned grandifloras or the cupani varieties with their velvety dark colourings. But boy, it’s hard work to get there.
They may be easy to germinate, but to get long stems and lovely blooms takes dedication. You must create trenches of deep, rich soil, pinch and pluck away unnecessary appendages (the tendrils, for instance) to create perfect cordons, so that all the energy is concentrated into flowers. Then pick like mad to keep up production.
Boom time for berries – Telegraph.
For a really good fruiting year you need a whole set of circumstances. The first is that the previous autumn is warm and long, so that the fruiting wood has plenty of time to grow.
Then you need the previous winter to have been properly cold. A lot of fruit trees are programmed to only produce fruit after a truly cold winter. With the trend for warmer winters, this spark to fruit production has been lacking.
The cold also kills off huge numbers of the pests and parasites that can destroy the flower buds and the nascent fruit. It cleans the environment into which the new blossom will emerge.
Our grandchildren will know no Arctic.
Arctic sea ice shrinks to third lowest area on record
Arctic sea ice melted over the summer to cover the third smallest area on record, US researchers said Wednesday, warning global warming could leave the region ice free in the month of September 2030.
Last week, at the end of the spring and summer “melt season” in the Arctic, sea ice covered 4.76 million square kilometers (1.84 million square miles), the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center said in an annual report.
“This is only the third time in the satellite record that ice extent has fallen below five million square kilometers (1.93 million square miles), and all those occurrences have been within the past four years,” the report said.
A separate report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that in August, too, Arctic sea ice coverage was down sharply, covering an average of six million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles), or 22 percent below the average extent from 1979 to 2000.
The August coverage was the second lowest for Arctic sea ice since records began in 1979. Only 2007 saw a smaller area of the northern sea covered in ice in August, NOAA said.
The record low for Arctic sea ice cover at the end of the spring and summer “melt season” in September, was also in 2007, when ice covered just 4.13 million square kilometers (1.595 million square miles).
- What does the 2010 Arctic Sea ice minimum extent signify? (greenanswers.com)
- Arctic sea ice reaches lowest 2010 extent, third lowest in satellite record (eurekalert.org)
Japanese Maple, North Carolina
Photograph by Melissa Farlow
The lacy leaves and wandering branches of a Japanese maple lend drama to the grounds of the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina. Built in 1895 by George Washington Vanderbilt, the Biltmore is the largest private residence in the United States and includes more than 75 acres (30 hectares) of manicured gardens.
Ladies View, in Killarney National Park, named after the women in Queen Victoria’s retinue who admired this vista in 1861 Photo: ALAMY
Banter filled the Purple Heather in Kenmare, County Kerry. The bar on the town’s attractive high street had been recommended by our hotel doorman as the ideal place to wind down after a hike on the nearby Beara Peninsula.
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I ordered a Murphy’s and eavesdropped on conversations, one with a tip for a horse running that afternoon at Navan. My nosiness got me nowhere, however, as the horse, on which I rashly placed a bet, came nowhere. But the hapless nag was the only blemish on a day that had begun in bright sunshine as we met our walking guides, Dermot and Helen Corkery, at our hotel, the nearby Sheen Falls Lodge.
We’d come to this part of Ireland – first popularised as a holiday destination by the Victorians – to explore the Kerry Way, the Beara Way and the Killarney National Park. It was quickly evident that Dermot was the man to show us. He grew up locally and his family has farmed in the region for generations; walking was in his blood, not least because his childhood involved a daily six-mile round trip to school.
We followed paths that took us through a breathtaking landscape of lakes and hills, and at every turn Dermot had a tale. The route took us to Gleninchiquin and up Knockagarrane for a view across Kenmare Bay to Kenmare itself and on to the striking Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Carrantuohill, Ireland’s highest mountain at 3,400ft. On route, we passed the Uragh Stone Circle, five striking neolithic megaliths. Its remote location made it even more evocative.
For the more adventurous, and for those with a tent, the well-signposted route along the Iveragh Peninsula, is also worth tackling, or for an easier stroll nearby head to Dromore Woods for a walk that is part woodland and part coast.
After the pub we made for Sneem, known for its nature garden and various international sculptures dotted around the village. But it was all rather underwhelming – and I only found a couple of works, including an incongruous installation by the artist James Scanlon. It all seemed like a work in progress in a village that is known as the knot in the Ring of Kerry (something to do with the confluence of the river).
The Ring of Kerry – the popular name for the Iveragh Peninsula – is the stunning scenic route that links the likes of Kenmare, Killarney, Killorglin and Cahersiveen in the west. It is best avoided in July and August but offers access to some of the loveliest parts of the country.
We headed anticlockwise from Kenmare past the “Lakes of Killarney”, lower, middle and upper; lower is the largest and home to some 30 small islands. In early morning it has an almost mystical air and othrworldly stories abound. One tells of an Irish chieftain who is said to hold eternal court beneath the waters and to rise once a year on the eve of May Day.
After stretching our legs again with a climb to Torc waterfall, we headed for Muckross House, a striking Victorian mansion built in 1843 for an ambitious MP, Henry Arthur Herbert. It passed to the state in the Thirties, when the 11,000-acre estate became Ireland’s first national park.
On a brief tour of the rather sombre interior, we heard of the costly (for the host) visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1861, the zenith of Muckross’s history. Victoria’s entourage consisted of more than 100 people and the trip was planned six years in advance – yet the Queen stayed just two nights.
But Victoria’s visit gave a seal of approval to Kerry, which proved popular with the great and the good. Wordsworth and Byron made earlier appearances, and Tennyson wrote about Killarney in Blow Bugle Blow. We were less taken by the busy town, with its profusion of bars, but did like the fabulous neo-Gothic cathedral, designed by Pugin, and the racecourse, whose July and August meetings are a high point.
Escaping the town, we took a delightful jaunting horse-and-carriage ride to Ross Castle. Michael, “the driver”, cheerily told us his family had been in the business for five generations and he has eight draught horses that trek routes around Killarney.
Back at our hotel we had tea in the library then explored the beautifully kept cemetery, which includes a reminder of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. Kenmare was badly hit and the simple plot is a sober reminder that not all could join the 5,000 locals who took up a controversial emigration scheme to America.
Near the graveyard we also found a well, adorned with prayer pledges, dedicated to the fifth-century monk St Finian, who is said to have cured leprosy.
We only touched on the region during our long weekend, missing out on fishing, the beaches and a ride in the hotel’s grand 1936 Buick Roadmaster, but we had already had a sense of why the Victorians were so captivated by Kerry.
Ryanair (0871 246 0000; http://www.ryanair.com) has flights to Cork from £32. Sixt car hire (0844 248 6620; http://www.sixt.co.uk).
Sheen Falls Lodge (00 353 64 664 1600; http://www.sheenfallslodge.ie) offers a “Walk This Way” package from €345 (£285) per person, including two nights’ accommodation, full Irish breakfast daily, dinner in La Cascade (a smart restaurant that specialises in imaginative, locally sourced dishes), a half-day guided walk and a one-hour massage in the health club.
The Purple Heather, Henry Street, Kenmare (664 1016). Muckross House, The National Park, Killarney (667 0144; http://www.muckross-house.ie), adults €7 (£5.77). For general information, contact Discover Ireland (www.discoverireland.com).