Ruby’s Diary

Posted on: 9th February, 2015

Category: Home, Garden & Environment

Contributor: Ruby Harte

Ruby Harte (a.k.a Mags Riordan) has been a professional florist for over 12 years and has completed a course in horticulture and worked in garden centres, wholesale nurseries, and private gardens. Ruby runs a family owned nursery, Bumble Bee Farm in Castledonovan, Drimoleague and is deeply concerned about the protection and cultivation of nature and its habitats. Pic Above: Autumn planted Anemone, Fressia & Ranunculus, with Paperwhites.

When I first trained as a florist back in the late 1990s — although I considered myself an organic gardener and passionate about wildlife and my contribution to its protection — I didn’t think about the environmental impact of the flowers I was buying in, the toxic chemicals that were used to produce them or the mountains of waste not to mention the huge air-miles (up to 20,000 to 25,000 kilometres for some supermarket flowers before they reach your table) and the massive carbon foot print created.

I had always liked the idea of stocking seasonal flowers but when I developed a nasty rash on my hands I began to investigate the chemicals, pesticides and fungicides used in the cut flower trade. I discovered there is very little legislation, particularly in South America, governing the use of pesticides (DDT is still widely used) in flowers grown for cutting. This discovery was the catalyst to the beginning of our journey into flower farming.

We are all now familiar with the term ‘Slow Food’, the integrity behind the process and the conscious choices being made. Well here at Bumblebee Farm we are all about ‘Slow Flowers’ and with that we welcome you to our year and invite you to share the experience of growing seasonal produce for market, weddings and special occasions.

We try to be careful stewards of our environment while being mindful of our actions and their consequences, gardening under organic principles that show respect for our soil, water and wildlife. We grow with wildlife in mind, from the types of flowers and their structure to clearing, weeding, tidying and pruning times and in return we have a healthy balanced eco-system.

I’m asked regularly what I do with all the spare time I must have in winter (implying the flowers for our return to market miraculously appear over night). In truth, it is a year round occupation, although not as intense as in high summer. Most of our work in January is undercover in our polytunnels preparing beds for sweet peas, anemones, and ranunculus for June/July harvesting; and weeding and feeding autumn planted anemones, fressia, ranunculus, tulips, hyacinths, alliums and scented narcissus for cut flower sales for Valentine’s up to mid May.

Cuttings, divisions and potting up begin in earnest to ensure a plentiful supply of both cut flowers and potted perennial plants. With regard to cuttings; as a general rule it’s the right cutting for the right time of year — soft wood in spring ie: new soft growth  — semi-ripe in summer ie: getting firm but still green — hard wood in autumn ie: when the stem has darkened and has a woody appearance. We do a mixture because we have the added advantage of a heated propagator, which speeds up the process considerably and gives a better success rate. We do not use hormone rooting powder, just good healthy cuttings and clean pots with a little added vermiculite to the compost for added drainage. Even if you see top growth, resist the temptation to remove the cuttings, as they may not have rooted; wait until you can see roots appearing from the base of the pot.

Dividing herbaceous perennials starts earlier here and they are then potted up and grown on in tunnels until they are big enough and the weather is favourable for planting out. Some people are afraid to divide, but once you have mastered the skill, it really is a marvellous way to get new plants and maintain vitality in your plants. Most of our plants are hardy perennials that are wildlife friendly, a great early and late food source and fabulous cut flowers — what more could you ask for.

We sow seeds by the new moon (January 20 this month). If growing plants for home use without the aid of a polytunnel, then I recommend waiting until February or March to sow seeds; while the seeds will germinate in January, the length of time from sowing to planting out is far to long and they will only become stressed and won’t perform as well as you would like. With the warmth better light levels, those seeds left until spring will catch up and will probably outperform much earlier sown ones.

I love checking the propagator to see the new seedlings emerge and I am always amazed to see how quickly they go from seedlings to cut flowers but we have the added advantage of both a heated propagator and four polytunnels.

While we do grow a small amount of the blousy doubles, we are very mindful of the fact they have no food value, as the pollen and nectar cannot be accessed. Therefore we make sure that there are sufficient single flowers and colours that are attractive to insects while enabling easy access to the nectar. We allow wild flowers like dandelion to flourish here at Bumblebee, as they are such a wonderfully rich food source for early flying insects and ourselves.

Nest boxes are now taken down and cleaned ready for this year’s residents. We do a good brush out using a stiff wire brush, removing all of last year’s nesting material and give a good wipe down with boiling water (adding a few drops of tee tree oil). It’s important to let the nest dry out at room temperature, as if it’s dried out too fast, the wood could split. Hang the nest up again; if a nest hasn’t been used then we will try another spot on an east or west-facing wall. A north wall is too cold and the nest could get baked on a south-facing wall.

We don’t do any major cleaning or clearing outside until February because of over wintering fauna, but our chickens and blackbirds do get a head start. Log piles may be an untidy mess to some but we see it as a five-star hedgehog hotel — these are left until they have finished hibernating .

My favourite ‘job’ has to be meeting brides, pouring over sumptuous images of bouquets and getting my creative juices going with the thought of the displays that are going to be created over the coming months.

This is truly the beginning of unbridled optimism and excitement with the promise of the beautiful bounty yet to come while ringing the incredible seasonal changes.

As I am writing this, I’m preparing our job list for February even though it’s blowing a gale out there with some snow flurries. The temptation is to curl up under the duvet but flowerbeds need to be cleared and autumn sown stock needs to be planted out with the aid of cloches, as protection from the cold inhospitable weather still to come.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

Did you know..... ... See MoreSee Less

Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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