News Winging it: The shrill carder bee is thriving in Kent

Conservationists stunned by the insects’ rapid recovery

Demons haunt the scarred children of Omagh

The worst atrocity of the Troubles has left terrible psychological wounds. Kim Sengupta reports

Obituary: Kathleen Pickard Smith

UNTIL HER very last years, Kathleen Pickard Smith worked in her garden every day. It was full of rare and unusual plants, often British natives that even experienced gardeners could not recognise.

Books: Gardening: Books for Christmas

Pictures or puddings? Crystals or curses? Operas or orangeries? Bathrooms or boxing? Whatever subject rings your festive bell, Independent contributors offer their selection of the best titles to give - and to receive - this season

Open Eye: Opening Up - From Secretary to student

Joe Clinch has been Secretary or Acting Secretary of the Open University for 20 years, and will retire at the end of the year.

Mild at heart

The column When it comes to a choice between a beer in a topless bar and a carpet of Australian wild flowers, Howard Jacobson plumps for the scarlet banksia

Liverworts put down first roots on Earth

A BOTANICAL mystery surrounding the emergence of the first aquatic plants to colonise the land nearly 500m years ago has been solved by scientists.

Gardening: Need an answer? Just ask Victor

Professional private gardeners, with their exhaustive knowledge of the natural world, are a dying breed

Rural: Nature Note

Not before time, landowners in the Midlands have launched a mass attack on that noxious weed ragwort, which grows strongly on poor soil, and most noticeably on motorway embankments. While alive it is not much of a threat; it has a rather harsh smell, and is not attractive to herbivores. But once it is cut and wilting it becomes both palatable and highly toxic to cattle, sheep and horses, causing irreversible liver damage in any animal that eats a few pounds of it.

Travel: Rural Europe - Pagnol's patch

The Provencal landscape immortalised by Marcel Pagnol remains frozen in time. By Ray Kershaw

Sheep may not safely graze

MILLIONS of sheep that roam upland Britain may soon find there is no welcome in the hillsides, writes Roger Dobson.

Gardening: Horticultural horoscope

Each sign of the zodiac has its associated plants. Naila Green lays down the lore on staying in synch with the heavens

I returned in search of the true Greece. And found it

When Julie Myerson went to Kythera 15 years ago she was unimpressed. This time she went to Crete, with three children in tow, and fell in love with it

Gardening: A growing trend rooted in the past

Scrumping is actively encouraged at the Rivers Nursery Orchard at Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire, says Patricia Cleveland-Peck. It's all part of an initiative to improve community relations.

Silent monks go fast forward into the modern world

The monks of Caldy, a tiny island two miles off the west Wales coast, are moving into the electronic age.
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Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness