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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University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
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High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz