Limerick graduate investigates the many uses of Irish wildflowers

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Aedín Ní Thiarnaigh

COUGH medicine, champagne and crafts, are just some of the extraordinary things being produced from wild flowers growing in Ireland.

These and more are to feature in Faoi Bhláth (In Bloom), a new 13-part television series to be broadcast on RTÉ One at 7.30pm, from Monday, February 14.

In the series, presenter and former Limerick journalist Aedín Ní Thiarnaigh celebrates Ireland’s rich biodiversity and travels through the country’s parks, lakes, bogs, and mountains, to unearth a vast array of wildflowers and their uses in cookery, medicine, and crafts.

In episode one Ní Thiarnaigh meets Limerick family practitioner Dr Frieda Ní Chatháin who has her own medicinal walled garden in Mount Trenchard, Foynes, and showcases her “tried-and-tested recipe for a cough medicine made from violets”.

In the second episode viewers go west to Galway and are introduced to Joerg Müller from Solaris Tea Botanicals who shows how to make champagne from the fragrant Meadowsweet flower.

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Ní Thiarnaigh, who is a University of Limerick journalism graduate and who previously worked with Live 95, travels to Kerry and meets artist Úna Ní Shé who makes dye from natural pigments in wildflowers, which she uses to colour a wide variety of creations, from silk scarves, to felt plant pots.

She also heads for the mysterious hills of the Dingle Peninsula to visits Darach Ó Murchú, who reveals how to make a medicinal tincture from daisies; while herbalist Karin Muller gives her insight into the health benefits of the cowslip, which can be made into a tasty tea.

Ní Thiarnaigh, who shares photos and folklore of Irish wildflowers and their native Irish names on her Instagram account @BláthannaFiáine, resides on Inis Meáin, where she is also writing a debut novel.

“Faoi Bhláth is for me my dream job, it’s given me the chance to travel to some of the most breathtaking places in Ireland and to get to know to some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met about the topics I love the most – our native wildflowers and their folklore,” said Ms Ní Thiarnaigh.

“I’ve always noticed wildflowers, as I child I used to give out to my Dad, who’s an avid gardener, when he would pull fistfuls of little plants out of the edges of the flower beds. Of course they were weeds, but I felt very strongly that the little pink petals were just as nice as any of the other flowers on display in the garden,” she joked.

Learning the Irish names for flowers “were the key to a whole other world”.

“The dainty pink flower growing in the car park was ‘Centuary’ in English but as Gaeilge it was ‘Dréimire Muire’; not only a pretty flower, but the ladder which Holy Mary supposedly climbed on her way up to heaven. Once I started looking into the flower names, I was hooked. I still am,” she said.