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Archives for February 11, 2013

Livingston Parish eyes zoning, commercial corridor

Officials say they are considering creating a commercial corridor that would run across Livingston Parish along Interstate 12 and U.S. 190.

The corridor would be zoned to attract manufacturers, retailers and other businesses.

“If there is no zoning, businesses are worried about what is going to pop up beside them,” Parish President Layton Ricks said. “Businesses want to know what happens if they spend millions of dollars to locate here.”

The idea of zoning hasn’t been popular in the parish, but not having zoning makes it harder to recruit some retailers and manufacturers, he said.

“My idea is to create zoning in this commercial district but to maintain our residential lifestyle below and above it,” Ricks said.

The width of the corridor hasn’t been determined but could run from 1,000 feet north of U.S. 190 to 1,000 feet south of I-12, he said.

Parish Councilmen Chance Parent and Ricky Goff said that, in addition to zoning, they want to see other regulations and infrastructure improvements that would make the corridor attractive to desirable businesses.

Putting such a package in place “will be a challenge,” Parent said.

Just creating zoning would be a first for the council. Council members from rural districts have blocked all past attempts at zoning in unincorporated parts of the parish.

But it may be easier to sell the idea of zoning for just the corridor along U.S. 190 and I-12 compared to earlier attempts at parishwide zoning, proponents say.

Parent said the people he has talked to in his district north of Denham Springs have told him they don’t mind zoning the corridor as long as it doesn’t include zoning the rural settings where they live.

Councilwoman Sonya Collins, who represents a rural district in the south-central part of the parish, said she doesn’t expect opposition from her constituents as long as the proposal doesn’t affect their land.

“My district hates zoning,” but the people like the idea of having businesses in easy driving distance along I-12, she said.

“I think it will be great,” Collins said of the corridor idea. “I don’t think it will be a (political) problem for me.”

Council Chairman Marshal Harris said people who have homes in the corridor would be grandfathered and wouldn’t have to move.

The option to convert their property to commercial status would just make it more valuable, he said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Harris said.

Councilwoman Joan Landry said most of the people in her district south of Denham Springs like the general idea of zoning and she sees no opposition to zoning the corridor that runs along the main east-west highways.

Of the six council members who could be reached, five said they favor the idea. Councilman Delos Blackwell, who represents a district on the northeastern side of the parish, said he wants more information.

“I think it will fly,” said Derral Jones, mayor of the town of Livingston, which would be located within the corridor.

The town has its own zoning ordinance, as do Denham Springs and Walker.

Some opposition might develop but probably would be minimal because of the limited scope of the corridor, Jones said.

“We haven’t gotten down to details,” Landry said, adding that she thinks some of the land in the corridor should be zoned commercial and some zoned industrial.

Creating a corridor that includes industrial zoning would help attract manufacturing, said Randy Rogers, executive director of the Livingston Economic Development Council.

At least half of the industries looking for sites specifically want land that is zoned industrial, Rogers said.

Industry officials worry about neighborhoods popping up next to their sites if they build plants that aren’t protected by zoning, he said. Then plant officials sometimes have to deal with complaints from neighbors about noise or other issues, he said.

Companies looking for a site to build a plant are more likely to want to locate along U.S. 190 and the railroad that runs next to it. Retailers are more likely to want to locate the near I-12 interchanges where they get visibility and easy access for customers, Rogers said.

Realtor Lawson Covington said giving retailers “locations they can feel comfortable with will be good for the parish.”

Retailers also are concerned about what might move in next door if there is no zoning, said the realtor, who handles commercial property in Livingston Parish.

That’s especially the case away from the interchanges or main thoroughfares, Covington said.

Providing accessible land for businesses along I-12 away from the interchanges is one of the ideas some corridor proponents are pushing.

Parent said the land along the interstate between interchanges could be made more attractive to businesses by the addition of service roads.

Asked about paying for the cost of such roads, Parent said the businesses that locate in the corridor could help pay for them.

“We would put impact fees on developments to help with infrastructure,” he said.

It’s possible some of the owners of large tracks of land along I-12 would donate the land for service roads in order to increase the value of the land along those roads, Parent said.

He said he would like to see service roads that run completely across the parish from Denham Springs to Albany.

Goff said building a service road on the south side of I-12 from Denham Springs to Satsuma is feasible.

Now that large medical facilities have opened south of I-12 at Walker and Satsuma, the area is ripe for doctor’s offices, Goff said.

With an airport planed for the area, the opening of company headquarters along that stretch is also possible, he said.

Goff said he thinks the corridor should have guidelines for architecture, signage and landscaping.

Parent said he would like to see “a strict code” providing for uniform development in the corridor.

He said he expects the parish go “get things rolling this year” on the corridor idea.

Ricks said he plans to make a presentation to the council in six to eight weeks.

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Get inspired at sixth annual Cy-Fair Home & Garden Show

Get inspired to spend more time outdoors at the sixth annual Cy-Fair Home and Garden Show. Experts and exhibitors will share new ideas and products that beautify both the interior and exterior of your home.

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday, February 23 and 24 at the Berry Center, 8877 Barker Cypress Road in Cypress.

Tony Wood, president of Texwood Shows, Inc. and producer of the event, said a small improvement to a yard can make a world of difference.

“When creating your dream home, remember that exterior spaces not only add value to a property but also make a house more welcoming,” he said. “Visually extending the indoors out can make even a smaller home look luxurious.”

Wood said this year’s Cy-Fair Home and Garden Show will be one of the best yet.

“We are especially excited about the Belgard Hardscapes Mobile Display,” he said. “It literally is a semi truck filled with ideas to create your own picture-perfect patio.”

Belgard Hardscapes offers a variety of traditional and antiqued pavers and wall blocks to spruce up driveways, walkways and patios. With a wide selection of colors, shapes and finishes, these products enhance any architectural style from Craftsman to Contemporary and Mission to Mediterranean.

Whether your ideal outdoor living space is one of enclosed intimacy or an open canvas, visit with the pros at Bello Domani Outdoor Designs for ideas on pools, spas, and patios. To complete the picture, stop by the RCW Nurseries, Inc. in-show Garden Center, offering gardening containers and assorted fruit trees at prices especially discounted for the show.

For more creative ideas on how to transform a backyard into a relaxing oasis, be sure to visit the Feature Outdoor Living Exhibit by Custom Outdoors Inc. booth, Wood added.

The booth will feature an a-frame solid roof porch cover with a tongue and groove ceiling, L-shaped outdoor kitchen, water feature, pizza oven and lots of landscaping ideas throughout.

“We have participated in the Cy-Fair Home Garden show for several years, and we are very excited about this show and the busy summer season to come,” Laura Klare, representative of Custom Outdoors said. “The show serves as a great kickoff for the year.”

Klare explained that the company specializes in the installation of beautiful custom backyards.

“We are in our 17th year of building custom swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, shade arbors, waterfalls, fountains, outdoor fireplaces — really anything for the backyard,” she said.

Aspiring green thumbs can also meet Kathy Huber, the Houston Chronicle’s gardening editor, and listen to Randy Lemmon, popular host of AM 740 KTRH’s GardenLine show, who will broadcast live from the show on Saturday until 1 p.m.

“These speakers are renowned for their gardening expertise, and we are thrilled to have them at the event,” Wood said. “This year’s show is truly a fun event for the entire family – with just what it takes to get you started on the right track with your home improvement projects,” added Wood.

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11 Landscaping Ideas For A Greener Home

Landscape design

Photo via Landscape Design Advisor

It makes so much sense to try lessening your carbon footprint. It’s good for the planet and good for your pocket too. Also, in the end it’s just the right thing to do.

One of the best places to start is in your own home and one of the best areas to start is in your landscaping. Why? Because of how much resource wasting can take place there.

The following are 10 clever and common sense landscaping ideas for a greener home.


1. An Outdoor BBQ Area

An outdoor kitchen and barbecue area gets you, your family, and guests cooking and eating outside of your home. It’s a fun way to eat and entertain at the same time you also lessen your carbon footprint by not having to heat your home on warm evenings. A solar powered fan can be easily found online and works great for creating a cool breeze in your barbecue area to keep your guests cool too. It’s just one option from all that’s available now to help you create a great outdoor kitchen/dining area.


2. Low Water Plants

Incorporating plants that consume less water into your landscaping scheme benefits you in 2 ways. First of all, as far as a greener home is concerned, less water used in your landscaping means less water that has to be pumped from the ground or from rivers. Then because they are low-water plants, they also require less maintenance which is another plus in my book. It just takes a little research and a little shopping around because your local nursery may not have a large selection of them.


3. A Drip Irrigation System

There’s just so many good reasons to switch to a modern drip irrigation system in your landscaping, and the best of those reasons is to make your home a bit more green. Drip irrigation systems use less water because they eliminate runoff and place the water right at the plants base where it’s needed. A modern drip irrigation system also produces healthier plants because the water goes deeper. Since it’s dripped, it doesn’t force out oxygen or wash away precious nutrients.


4. Try Out Fake Plants

When most people are drawing up their landscaping plans, fake plants are generally the last thing that comes to mind. People often want live plants growing in their yard and flower gardens. What they may not know though is that today’s fake plants are more realistic looking than ever before so no one will tell the difference. They also bloom with flowers 365 days a year, and best of all they’re ‘no maintenance’ and require not a single drop of water.


5. Use Landscape Rocks

Incorporating rocks into your landscaping is just one more of the many great ideas for a greener home that are out there. Here again, they also come with the benefit that they require zero maintenance. What catches many homeowners off guard however, is how expensive larger landscape boulders in particular can be. So then why not take a drive out into the country where you live to scout around for landscaping rocks that cost you nothing to buy?


6. Large Trees and Bushes Cool Your Home

If your home is directly exposed to the daytime sun during hot summer months, then why not consider planting some large trees that can help to cool your home when they finally grow large enough. Now is the time to get started though, because they do take time to grow. Fast-growing varieties are of course the best choice, but also make sure that you choose trees that shed their leaves in the wintertime to let sunlight through to heat your home in the winter.


7. Don’t Overfertilize Your Plants

Most people, and you may be one of them simply don’t make the connection between using less fertilizer and ideas for a greener home. What they should know though, is that it takes energy to produce fertilizers and some of them are even made from petroleum products. Besides plants don’t like being over fertilized because too much of it will burn their roots, which in turn leads to stunted growth. Cut your fertilizer use to save your plans and to help save the environment.


8. Solar Powered Water Features

Outdoor and indoor water features have always been popular because they lend a natural element that can be both ‘seen and heard’. Two of the downsides though, are that they tend to be expensive to buy and install, and that larger moving water features in particular can run up a power bill. So now is the time to take a good look at what’s available in today’s off-the-shelf, ready to go solar power water features that are powered by the sun’s renewable energy.


9. Water in the Evening

If you’re relying on a sprinkler system to water then another one of many great landscaping ideas for a greener home is to wait until late afternoon or evening after dark to water. When you do it in midday a lot of it is evaporated off, and it takes energy to pump and move water through your communities system, so the less you use, the lower your carbon footprint will be. Your plants will also thank you because when you water in the evening it has a chance to sink deeper down into the roots.


10. Condition Your Soil

Then improving your soil by working quality soil conditioners like redwood mulch and peat moss in is another way to help cut your carbon footprint. Well conditioned soil holds water better which in turn helps to eliminate runoff. Plants also grow better and the bigger they grow the better they can shade your home to help cut energy costs. Then another big plus of conditioned soil is that your yard just look better as your plants produce more flowers.


11. Solar Powered Lighting

One of the more recent trends in landscaping design to catch wind is creative lighting. Perhaps you’ve already seen string lights wrapped around the trunks of trees, and for sure during the holiday season the colored lighting in landscaping schemes is always been very popular. So now is the time to check out solar powered lighting systems, and in particular LED lights. Solar powered LED lighting kits are low-voltage, so they eliminate the need to run standard household power, and because they’re LED there are no light bulbs to burnout.

Written by Rachel Sheldon. She is a very passionate writer and has a great concern on the environment. She also participates at protests that relates to the environment. 

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Quick Primer on Sustainable Landscaping

The concepts of “green building” and “sustainability” started touching the landscaping business nearly a decade ago. Today those concepts are fully entrenched in the industry. More contractors are adopting the use of sustainable products and practices. Even those that aren’t have at least developed more of an awareness.

It’s definitely been an arduous work in progress, though. Originally created in 1998, LEED soon began taking several landscaping-related components into consideration, such as water efficiency in irrigation and stormwater management. Then, in the 2005-2006 timeframe, a new proposed rating system called the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) emerged. SITES was created to promote sustainable land development and management practices that can apply to sites both with and without buildings.

In June 2012, Green Industry PRO magazine offered an update on SITES. SITES had just wrapped up its two-year pilot project phase. Administrators were in the process of revising the program to better account for regional climatic changes and landscapes that do not contain buildings.

In September 2012, SITES announced that eight of the 150 pilot projects had attained certification. Some of the sustainable-landscaping practices these projects utilized were:

  • Use of salvaged materials to use in gardens, etc.
  • Cisterns, bioswales and a rain gardens to collect rainwater
  • Green roofs that reduce energy costs and slow stormwater runoff
  • Low-maintenance lawns that do not require weekly mowing, additional irrigation or fertilizer
  • Improved soil health resulting from organic additions and percolation
  • Gardens that include drought-tolerant and/or edible plants
  • Permeable hardscapes

Those are just a few examples. For more ideas, let’s take a look back at a series of articles which appeared in 2010 editions of Green Industry PRO.

Designing Sustainable Landscapes

Sustainable Landscape Construction

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Hawks Retail Center Becoming a Stein Gardens & Gifts

After well over 100 years in business in Wauwatosa and 85 at the same location, Hawks Nursery, long a mainstay in local gardening and landscaping, is turning over its retail operation on Watertown Plank Road operations to Stein’s Gardens Gifts.

Stein will lease the store and outdoor retail garden center space from Hawks, and Hawks will continue to operate only its landscaping services, according to documents filed with the city.

Stein has applied for a conditional use permit to operate a Stein Gardens Gifts at Hawks’ address, 12217 Watertown Plank Road. The application comes before the Wauwatosa Plan Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday. The application names Joseph Kresl, owner of Hawks, as a co-applicant.

Hawks on Sunday published an advertisement in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for an “inventory clearance sale” with merchandise at discounts of up to 75 percent. The ad says that “all merchandise storewide” is subject to clearance and that final clearance ends Feb. 17.

The conditional use application and a letter from Jerome Schmitt of Stein do not specify the date that Stein would hope to begin retail operation.

Schmitt’s letter said that Stein is proposing no major changes to either the interior or exterior of the Hawks property other than some painting and changing of displays. It does propose replacing the “hoop house” greenhouses currently used in the retail garden center with more substantial structures.

The proposed hours of operation appear to be in line with Hawks’ current operations. There was no mention of lighting or signage changes.

Stein operates 15 large garden centers throughout Southeast Wisconsin. Schmitt’s letter notes that the Hawks location would be its smallest store and that Stein’s standard inventory would be “adjusted” to the size of the Hawks center and to the Wauwatosa market. 

A long history in Wauwatosa

Founded in 1875 in Rochester, NY, Hawks began operations in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa in the 1890s, initially taking orders for nursery stock from its New York nurseries but soon beginning growing operations here.

Early on, Hawks used open land at several locations, including a 40-acre plot at the northeast corner of Swan Boulevard and North Avenue and a rented tract west of 68th Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Blue Mound Road – now part of Wellauer Heights – for growing nursery stock.

The company maintained sales offices in the Village before purschasing land even farther west and in 1928 settling at its current location on Watertown Plank.

Kresl bought Hawks in 1993 and immediately began work on building anew the garden center building and grounds as they appear today.

Kresl could not immediately be reached for comment, and store managers on duty Sunday said they could not comment.

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Planning your spring garden in the winter

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013 9:15 am

Updated: 1:02 pm, Fri Feb 8, 2013.

Planning your spring garden in the winter

By Frank Doonan, special to the News of Orange

Even though it is the middle of winter and thoughts of gardening are not on most gardener’s minds, it is an important time for planning and preparing your garden and landscaping.

First and a very important problem for planning gardens and landscaping is to know the location of your utilities. Utility location services are free by calling 811. This is particularly true if your vegetable garden is in the front or side yards. This would be also true for planting bushes, trees and flower beds. TV and Internet cables may be very shallow, often within 6 inches of the surface. Water, underground electric lines, natural gas and sewer lines may be damaged when planting bushes and trees. Be sure to make a map of your lot showing where the utilities are for future reference.

The most difficult problem for gardening and landscaping in the upland areas of the Piedmont and mountain regions of North Carolina is poor shallow topsoils. The primary cause of these poor shallow soils is heavy cropping and poor land management of the region for the past 200 years.

Some of these upland soils in this area are relatively shallow and underlain by yellowish to reddish dense subsoils, which dry out in the summer and become very hard and droughty. Some describe these subsoils as clay, but in reality they have a wide range of textures from sandy, silty to some with clay subsoils. Many are eroded and have dense and often weakly structured to massive medium textured hard silty, clay loam to silty clay subsoils. Only some soils, particularly in parts of central and southern Orange County, have clay subsoils.

Some upland soils in Orange County have weathered bedrock within 12 to 24 inches of the surface, which are even more infertile and resistant to root penetration. Worms cannot easily utilize these soils for nutrients and protection from the cold in the winter.

When choosing a garden location around your house, carefully consider the problem of which areas have the best sunlight exposure. Many backyards are too shady for productive gardens. Careful planning can incorporate vegetable gardens in with the landscaping of front yards.

Because of the poor soil conditions, I recommend in-ground composting instead of using separate composting bins for your kitchen vegetable waste and some of the safe vegetable waste from your garden. In-ground composting involves digging small holes in your garden all year about 12 to 18 inches deep and mixing the compost materials in the hole with the top soil then fill the hole. Avoid waste from meat and vegetables like tomatoes and peppers because of plant disease problems.

Over time, this process increases the worm population in your garden and increases the depth worms can penetrate in the soil.

In this area, planting can easily begin in late February with peas, spinach, tuber plants like turnips, and other greens. Contact the Orange County Extension Service for more information on planting recommendations and varieties to plant in Orange County.

Frank Doonan grew up on a farm in Maryland and is a retired soil scientist and environmental geologist. He is currently employed as a part-time garden manager for the Fairview Community Garden.


Monday, February 11, 2013 9:15 am.

Updated: 1:02 pm.

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Green thumbs up: Winter survival tips for gardeners

As the chilly days of early February pass slowly by, the winter season seems to creep along for those of us who yearn to till the soil. Reportedly, that famous prognosticating groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil of Gobblers Knob, Pennsylvania failed to see his shadow suggesting an early spring, but when one considers that this chubby rodent resides in a temperature-controlled domain with all the comforts of stardom and his predictions have been on target only 39 percent of the time, I find it difficult to trust his prophecy. Last year, the toothy soothsayer predicted six more weeks of winter when we experienced one of the mildest winters and springs on record. Locally, Ms. G, a furry resident groundhog at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, saw her shadow last weekend indicating a prolonged winter season, which actually coincides more closely with current meteorological forecasts. Whichever prediction comes to pass, I cannot imagine any self-respecting gardener giving credence to a woodchuck, considering the devastation annually perpetrated on many of our landscapes by these annoying nuisances. 

When chilly temperatures or snowy conditions limit my opportunities to work outdoors, I reluctantly accept Mother Nature’s gift of forced relaxation and look for signs of spring among the pages of gardening magazines, catalogs, and books. Filled with tempting photographs of beautiful bulbs, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, I find it necessary to exercise tremendous self-control, especially when I am looking out the window at a nearly colorless landscape. Years of overbuying and recent time constraints, however, have made me a wiser shopper. Although I order multiple packets of seeds to start my annuals and vegetables, I use most catalogs as reference material, compiling a lengthy wish list of new cultivars, knowing that even scarce, unusual plants are often available from local sources.

Early February is also an ideal time to search the Internet and local newspapers for listings of gardening lectures, educational courses, flower shows, and symposiums. My calendar for the next few months is overflowing with a wealth of horticultural opportunities just waiting to transport me through the winter months and on to the first glimpses of springtime in my own garden.

Spring flower shows are by far my favorite means of beating the winter blues. Leave the snow, ice, and winter behind and step into the wondrous sights, sounds, and fragrances of springtime just an hour to our south at the Rhode Island Flower Show which will be celebrating its 20th year Thursday, Feb. 21 to Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. Guest speakers include Kevin O’Connor from This Old House, authors Julie Messervy and Melinda Myers, perennial specialist Kerry Mendez, and Karen Daubmann from the New York Botanical Gardens. Visit the show’s web site at for ticket information and a schedule of lectures.

The Boston Flower and Garden Show ( returns to the Seaport World Trade Center from Wednesday, March. 13 to Sunday, Mar. 17. For a few glorious hours, enjoy more than 25 professionally landscaped gardens, the fresh scent of pine bark mulch, and the soothing sounds of water cascading over rocky waterfalls, in addition to an incredible line-up of lectures and demonstrations and a marketplace. The Massachusetts Horticultural Society continues its connection with the show through spectacular floral design competitions, amateur horticulture, and plant society exhibits. Flower Shows offer horticultural happiness for all levels of gardening interest, quickly erasing memories of a harsh winter season.

Gardeners in eastern Massachusetts are truly fortunate to have many prestigious horticultural organizations nearby. Join the Massachusetts Horticultural Society ( this month and receive free tickets to the Boston Flower Show plus other terrific benefits including free admission to Society’s Elm Bank Reservation in Wellesley, gift certificates to White Flower Farm and Weston Nurseries, and free subscriptions to Organic Gardening and Garden Design magazine. A wide array of horticultural courses, workshops, and events are offered throughout the year. Upcoming lectures include seed selection and acquisition, dahlias, and cold frames and hoop houses.

Slightly farther to the west, The Tower Hill Botanic Garden ( located in Boylston, MA provides magnificent grounds, spectacular views, courses and events, and a lush limonaia (a conservatory featuring temperate and tropical plants) that will surely erase all thoughts of winter while inside. A visit to this lovely facility barely more than a week ago afforded me an opportunity to photograph the beauty of an exquisitely designed, snow-covered landscape, which is almost as lovely in winter as it is during the active growing season.

The New England Wildflower Society’s botanical garden, Garden in the Woods ( in Framingham and the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University ( in Jamaica Plain also offer breathtaking landscapes and a wide array of horticultural courses, workshops, and events throughout the year. Check out their web sites or go to for a listing of many fabulous horticultural opportunities.

For passionate gardeners who tend to be preoccupied with plants year-round, there is a never-ending quest for new varieties, the need to absorb every bit of written cultural information and the desire to explore new methods for combining plants in the landscape. If you are a “plantaholic,” consider taking educational courses offered by one of these local horticultural institutions, our local science center, or become active in the outstanding activities provided by our local garden clubs. Gardening programs and information are available on the radio, TV, and the Internet providing therapy for the short term. For the serious addicts, participation in a plant society may be an effective remedy. Escape the winter doldrums by signing up for a course or attending a special event and expand your gardening knowledge with others who share your passion for plants.

Suzanne Mahler is an avid gardener, photographer and lecturer who has been developing the 1.5-acre property surrounding her home in Hanover for more than 30 years. Her weekly gardening column ‘Green Thumbs Up’ has appeared in GateHouse Media New England newspapers for more than a decade. She is a member of two local garden clubs, past President of the New England Daylily Society, an overseer for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and is employed at two garden centers. 

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Best of Bulgaria: readers’ travel tips

WINNING TIP: Sea Garden, Varna

The Hotel Capitol has a nice tucked-away position in the city; it’s small and stylish. Just over the road is the Sea Garden (a park full of amenities for kids and sports with huge Soviet-era statues and gardens), which is adjacent to the beach. Stroll north through the Sea Garden and go to one of the many clean beaches: walk till you hit the Rappongi, a classy cocktail bar/restaurant with a sandy beach in front. Great value and top quality.
Hotel Capitol, 40 Petko Karavelov,+359 5268 8000,, doubles from €90; Rappongi, Coastal Avenue, +359 8 8290 9090,


Chalet Diana
We stayed with Piste and Peaks in Chalet Diana for our second holiday in Bansko and it was better than ever. You can see big improvements in Bansko and the slopes were very well looked after. The lessons were excellent; the instructors were great with the kids and they really improved over the week. The food was great and the sauna was just what we needed at the end of the day!
18 Hristo Silianov, 0161 408 2089,

Rila Monastery courtyard, Bulgaria
The courtyard at Rila Monastery. Photograph: Alamy

Rila Monastery
For skiers, Bansko must be the best. A magnificent mountain, with runs of all colours and a village that is like a doughnut: at its core is the old town, wiggly streets with mehanas (bars/restaurants) dating back hundreds of years, surrounded by modern hotels, restaurants and apartments. If anyone comes to Bulgaria and does not visit the Rila Monastery ( they will have missed a world heritage site. Bulgaria is even better when the snow is gone, with its walking, birds and butterflies.Bulgaria, for a British person, is still cheap. The locals are ridiculously friendly. The skiing and snowboarding is good.


Lodge at top of Pamporovo mountain
This was a totally unexpected mountainside gem. This restaurant/cafe is right at the top of the Pamporovo mountain resort in southern Bulgaria. After a hard morning’s skiing we walked in to find a roaring fireplace by which we hung up our jackets, gloves and hats so they were warm and dry by the time we left. We settled ourselves at a log table close enough to the fire to feel the warmth and ordered a spit-roast chicken and chips from the menu. A limited number are roasted at lunchtime daily, and this was genuinely some of the best chicken I’ve ever had, served by friendly staff.

The Rhodopi mountains themselves offered a great number of slopes for beginners, which made up the majority of skiiers on the mountain when we were there. The runs were well graded and signposted clearly, and at the end of the week there were still new (parts of) red and blue runs we were discovering.

It was only on the penultimate day that we first plucked up the courage to tackle the (appropriately named) “Wall” – a steep black run with some fantastic moguls to challenge us. From the top the views were breathtaking. Get there as soon as you can.


Borovets ski resort, Bulgaria

Borovets resort
You get a sense of both the communist and the royal past at the ski resort of Borovets. The Samokov hotel gives a glimpse of the communist era with its huge, 11-storey building, within which you can find a full-size swimming pool, bowling alley, conference centre and shooting range – entertainment and brutalist architecture for the masses. The sense of a royal past is provided by the Royal Bistria hunting lodge, nestling in the woods. It was built at the end of the 19th century for Bulgarian monarchs. Regardless of whether you are a communist or a royalist, the skiing is good: there are enough descents through pine forest to keep most people amused, and it’s cheaper than the Alps. The Rila mountains are beautiful. You get a glimpse of their many lakes on the way up from Sofia and if you don’t want to ski, mountain biking and walking are alternatives. Mitropolitska church in Samokov, between Sofia and Borovets, is also worth a stop to see its remarkable wood carvings.
Samokov hotel (+359 750 32032,, doubles from €61 BB)

National art gallery cafe
Arriving two hours late on the overnight sleeper from Istanbul, after five stops for checks by Turkish then Bulgarian border police in the middle of the night, it was bliss to find the National art gallery cafe. There were worn, squashy leather sofas surrounded by a sculpture garden, a warm unhurried atmosphere, and it provided the best hot chocolate I have ever had – pure, smooth, rich, dark nectar that lifted the spirts on a grey October day. The art gallery was not particularly memorable; the hot chocolate was.
1 Prince Alexander Square, Sofia, +359 2 980 0093,


The beach, the Old Town, Sozopol,Bulgaria
Photograph: Alamy

A tiny, beautiful Greek-influenced peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea that is the final resting place of St John the Baptist, as well as vampires from the middle ages and hundreds of marinated little fish that are perfect with the local wine. Watch the old ladies boiling up fig jam in the streets, stroll around the traditional stone and wood houses and then relax on the beach safe in the knowledge that a beer will cost you €1 at most. Perfect!


I arrived in Varna from Istanbul, where I attempted to find the great youth hostel promised in my guidebook. Maybe it was the map, maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was the fact that it was dark, raining and not an English-speaking soul was to be found, but after 10 minutes walking around I gave up and checked in to a concrete monstrosity of a hotel. It was expensive and shoddy and next day I found the hostel in about five minutes. My tip? Find two French guys with a car and head up the coast stopping in fishing villages and in rural shops to pick up homemade yoghurt, and soak up the glorious rock coastline of northern Bulgaria. In fact, French guys with a car are optional.

Nun’s restaurant
Restaurant near the park. Great food, lovely courtyard, quiet and good prices. This was the first restaurant I ate at on my trip to Bulgaria and I don’t think I topped it for the rest of the trip. A really beautiful place to stop for lunch.
47 Primorski Boulevard, +359 5261 1830,

Veliko Tarnovo

Church of Saints Peter and Paul
Match the visual quality of the town with a magnificent aural feast: at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Veliko Tarnovo, often in the main and the shoulder season, three or four members of the choir sing beautiful hymns for 10-15 minutes. One competed at LLangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 20 years ago.

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Greg Bowman

Greg Bowman


Before you know it, local vegetable gardeners will be planting and preparing for a great harvest of fresh produce. Being able to reap the rewards of all of your hard work is a sense of accomplishment for many Gordon County citizens. Having success in your vegetable garden is not always a given so you must prepare for that success.

Today, I will be sharing some tips on vegetable gardening that hopefully will tip the scales in your favor for a positive gardening experience. I will be sharing tips from a UGA publication by Bob Westerfield, UGA Horticulturist and David Linvill, Chatham County Extension Agent.

Proper site selection is a starting point in vegetable gardening success. If you think about it, we select proper sites for our trees and shrubs so a vegetable garden is no different. The first key is that the site needs to be one that receives good quality sunlight between eight to 10 hours per day. Stay away from those shady areas.

Try to find a spot where the soil drains well and also keep in mind that it is better that the site is close to the house and your water source. If the area is already fairly weed free that is going to be a plus too.

Make a plan on what you want to plant and where you are going to plant that particular vegetable. If you have your garden mapped out, you can use that in planning your crop rotation in that space for future plantings. You can plan according to sunlight too by planting your taller growing items on the north or west side of the garden so they will not shade out the lower growing items.

I learned a long time ago to not sway folks on varieties. Tomatoes for example are personal preference. There are also some items that are just family traditions such as Silver Queen corn. Our family garden would not be a garden without Silver Queen. From time to time, you may want to try a new variety of some things to see if you like that new variety item.

I probably could have put this earlier in the article, but soil sampling is something you should not overlook. We are naturally more acidic in NW Georgia. This means we are dealing with a lot of low pH soils. When the pH is low then it leaves you open for fertility issues and vegetables that may never take full advantage of that good fertilizer you are applying. Plus, a soil test will take out your guess work on how much lime to apply and will also give you fertilization recommendations.

Right now is a great time to send in that $9 soil test through our office to the UGA Soil Test Lab. You can call us for sampling details or pick up a sample bag with the directions on the back.

Fall is a great time to add fallen leaves or other organic materials such as compost to gardens to help build up the soils with organic matter. You can turn that material deeply in the soils.

Another thing to remember is that vegetable gardening is work. Now, it can be a healthy outdoor activity, but the larger the garden, the more effort and responsibility it takes. Keep in mind that weeds can be an issue so you may have to put some elbow grease into cultivating or buying a hoe for the garden. Mulching the garden can not only help with weed issues, but can help with reducing cultivation and helping soil moisture. If you use straw or manures in the garden, make sure they are coming from a herbicide free source.

Finally, there will be periods of time that you will have to add supplemental water to your garden. That is why being close to a well or other water source is important. Using soaker hoses or irrigation tape is better than overhead sprinklers. You want to soak the ground and not the foliage. Foliage that stays wet for extended periods of time creates an environment for disease when you add in our heat and humidity along with disease pathogens. Just like row crop producers will scout large acreage for insects and disease, you need to investigate your garden for issues that you can handle early instead of letting the problems get more widespread.

For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email

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Bonnier Corp. Folds Garden Design Magazine

Dave Freygang hasn’t wasted time in taking a hard look at Bonnier Corp.’s financials since becoming its new CEO last month.

On Thursday, one of his first appointees, David Ritchie, notified the staff of Garden Design that the magazine would be folded after the April issue. The announcement was made by Ritchie, the newly appointed chief content officer at the company.

Garden Design, along with Saveur, was one of two high-end magazines that World Publications, Bonnier’s predecessor company, bought from Meigher Communications in 2000, giving the then-niche publisher credibility on a bigger stage. Garden Design remained small, even by Bonnier’s standards, publishing seven times a year with a total print circulation of 185,741 and just 189 ad pages in all of 2012, per Publishers Information Bureau. Five staffers were affected.

“The economic climate, compounded by the significant industry transition to digital, have limited the growth in advertising needed to make this brand viable for our future,” the company said, in a statement.

Earlier this year, Bonnier closed Snow, another small title. With Bonnier’s new CEO expected to give close scrutiny to underperforming titles, it’s expected that Garden Design won’t be the last to go. Garden Design subscribers will be offered another magazine to fulfill their orders.





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