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Archives for December 28, 2017

Mary Lou Christovich, champion of New Orleans preservation, dies at 89

Mary Louise Christovich, a scholar, author and activist who was an early and abiding force for historic preservation, died Monday (Dec. 25) at her Garden District home of congestive heart failure. She was 89.

Mrs. Christovich, who founded one preservation organization and energized others throughout New Orleans, had a passion for the city’s culture, history and architecture that started when she was 10 years old, when her grandmother showed her the French Quarter and, especially, Jackson Square “to open her eyes to the beauty of New Orleans,” said Sally Evans Reeves, who collaborated with Mrs. Christovich on four volumes of the Friends of the Cabildo’s series, “New Orleans Architecture.”

“From that point on, she developed a lifelong love of New Orleans and all its buildings,” said Reeves, the supervising archivist of Civil District Court.

Her ardor for architecture included not only the city’s mansions and shotgun houses but also its graveyards. In 1974, working at her dining-room table, Mrs. Christovich created Save Our Cemeteries to prevent the demolition of the crumbling wall surrounding St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, said Amanda Walker, the organization’s executive director.

The fledgling group not only saved the walls but also raised money to stabilize and restore them, Walker said.

During her half-century of activism, Mrs. Christovich was a co-founder of the Preservation Resource Center, a longtime leader of the board that runs the Historic New Orleans Collection and a catalyst in the development of neighborhood-advocacy groups such as the Coliseum Square Association, the Esplanade Ridge Association and the Central Business District Improvement Association, said Priscilla Lawrence, the Historic New Orleans Collection’s executive director.

Mrs. Christovich also wrote 10 books. In addition to the architecture series, her output includes “Garden Legacy,” which chronicles three centuries of French influence on garden design.

Mrs. Christovich’s last book, a collaboration with the Louisiana Landmarks Society as part of New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration, is “Gate to New Orleans: Bayou St. John,” which is scheduled for publication in June, said Sandra Stokes, the society’s president.

Mrs. Christovich worked on that project as long as her health would allow. When she was too ill to continue, “she left instructions for exactly what needed to be done, which was true to her character,” Stokes said. “She knew she was ill, and she wanted it to reach fruition.”

Her biggest impact on preservation came from the Friends’ architecture series, which made its debut in 1971 with a survey of the Lower Garden District, a neighborhood that Mrs. Christovich and her colleagues named, said Jack Davis, the Preservation Resource Center’s interim director.

Mrs. Christovich got the inspiration for the books before an interest in historic preservation took hold, “when New Orleans was tearing itself down,” Davis said. “We had urban renewal and expressways and disregard for culture and neighborhoods and quality of architecture.”

The books evolved from Mrs. Christovich’s desire to take the Friends, a support group for the Louisiana State Museum, beyond the walls of the Cabildo, the Presbytere and other museum properties and into neighborhoods to draw attention to their assets and save them from demolition, Reeves said.

“The French Quarter and Garden District were fine, but the rest of the city was falling apart,” she said.

Working with a survey of the city’s notable architecture, Mrs. Christovich and her colleagues compiled a list of important buildings, neighborhood by neighborhood, to document the importance of preserving them. As they worked, Davis said, “they started seeing that the things that they were writing about were being destroyed faster than they could write about them.”

Like doctors performing triage, this team turned to the neighborhood that needed the most help – the Lower Garden District – and rushed it into publication as quickly as possible.

The situation there was so desperate, Reeves said, that of the 300 buildings photographed for the book, 100 were gone by the time it was published.

The next book, in 1973, focused on the Central Business District, where notable buildings were being razed to provide parking space for workers in the structures rising along Poydras Street, said Davis, who wrote about architecture and preservation for The States-Item.

Mrs. Christovich and her colleagues “weren’t just a museum auxiliary; they were tactical propagandists,” he said. “She and her co-conspirators … realized that they had this powerful propaganda machine that would work to the benefit of New Orleans. They were no longer trying to produce academic books about architecture that might sit on somebody’s coffee table.”

The books were “not only influential but instrumental in educating the community on the unique character and important history of our historic neighborhoods,” Stokes said. “They represented a game-changer that helped coalesce preservation outside the French Quarter. The series served as an impetus to form neighborhood associations as well as to ultimately create historic districts beyond the Vieux Carre, resulting in the Historic District Landmarks Commission being established in 1976.”

The books helped make people realize the importance of New Orleans’ architecture, Reeves said. Comprehensive zoning was a factor in reversing the rush to demolish, she said, as were the tax incentives rewarding historic preservation.

In forming Save Our Cemeteries, Reeves said that Mrs. Christovich was up against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which owned St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 but had evinced little interest in upkeep.

So she started building a mailing list of masons and plasterers and others whose relatives were buried in historic graveyards. To make membership affordable, dues were $2, and Mrs. Christovich picked up the rest of the expenses.

Stokes described Mrs. Christovich as “a classic combination of sophistication, brilliance, charm and passion for architecture.”

“Those four qualities combined made her formidable,” Stokes said. “She was just a powerhouse, and when she set her mind to something she could make it happen.”

Mary Louise Mossy, a lifelong New Orleanian, was born into the family that ran the Mossy automobile dealership. She earned a degree in journalism and history at Tulane University, and she did postgraduate work in creative writing.

She taught in New Orleans’ public schools and worked in the school system’s public relations office.

In 1950, she married William Christovich, a New Orleans lawyer she had met on a blind date. He died in 2012.

Mrs. Christovich was a leader of the Louisiana Council for the Vieux Carre and the Central Business District Improvement Association, and she worked with the state review committee that picks properties to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

She sat on the board of Metairie Park Country Day School and was president of its parents association.

Among the honors Mrs. Christovich received were the Alice Hitchcock Book Awards in 1975, 1976 and 1977; the Friends of the Cabildo Award of Excellence in 1981; the Louisiana Landmarks Society Harnett Kane Award in 1985; and the Save Our Cemeteries Grace King Award in 1986.

“One of the last things she said was that she was so lucky that she was able to do everything for the city that she wanted to do,” her granddaughter Elyria Grote said.

Survivors include two sons, Michael Mossy Christovich of Picayune, Miss., and Jeffrey James Christovich of Los Angeles; two daughters, Terry Gay Fernandez and Kit Christovich Grote, both of New Orleans; a brother, Wiley Mossy of Houston; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial will be held at noon on Jan. 3 in the Cruise Room of the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St.

Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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Gardening: 5 of the best garden benches

We look at 5 of the best garden benches

Oxford Cross Weave Back Bench, Sloane Sons,, £299

Exclusive to Sloane Sons, the Oxford Cross Weave Back Bench is a stunning piece exhibiting excellent craftsmanship and exceptional design. Measuring at 180cm, the bench will comfortably sit up to three people.

Rustic Metal Hampton Bench,, £120

Come rain or shine it’s good to sit in style. The Hampton bench folds flat for storage, and will look perfect with its intricate handmade detailing and rusty iron colour.

Parisian Vintage Wooden Bench,, £199.00

You’ll always find the perfect excuse to relax and watch the world go by with the Parisian Bench. Crafted in acacia wood, it blends seamlessly with any garden design or in any landscape, be it lawn or courtyard garden.

Windsor 2 Seater Garden Bench,, £110

The Windsor 2 seater bench is perfect for sitting in your garden. Finished in stunning FSC Eucalyptus, it will complement any outdoor space.

The Arosa Bench,, £835

The Arosa Bench is a contemporary garden bench with a modern design and a gently chamfered seat for maximum comfort.

The Arosa Bench is available in three sizes and makes a strong design statement.

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Acclaimed garden designer Piet Oudolf to speak about upcoming Belle Isle project

Belle Isle will become even more beautiful in the coming years, as a new garden is in the works by an internationally-acclaimed Dutch designer. Piet Oudolf—whose projects include No. 5 Culture Chanel in Paris; The High Line in New York; Lurie Garden, Millennium Park in Chicago; Serpentine Gallery in London, and the Venice Biennale—will be bringing his vision to our own island park.

The garden will be located near the Nancy Brown Peace Memorial Carillon and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory. Oudolf chose the location on a visit earlier this year. The garden is scheduled to be planted in 2019. The community can learn more about the project at an upcoming screening and discussion with Oudolf.

The Detroit Institute of Arts (with support from The Garden Club of Michigan and Friends of Detroit Film Theatre) will host a screening of the documentary Five Seasons on January 4, with a discussion from Oudolf and filmmaker Thomas Piper. Tickets can be purchased here.

“For me, garden design isn’t just about plants, it is about emotion, atmosphere, a sense of contemplation. You try to move people with what you do. You look at this, and it goes deeper than what you see. It reminds you of something in the genes—nature, or the longing for nature,” says Oudolf.

Check out a preview of the documentary below. We’ll bring you more about the project in the new year.

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Obama Library parking plan draws criticism after design changes

The Obama Presidential Center architecture team has revisited the design of the proposed parking plan, focusing on the controversial garage located on the historic Midway Plaisance.

Last week, a closed meeting was called to discuss changes and new ideas for the complex, according to the news first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. The Obama Foundation invited 50 interested parties to the gathering led by architects Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Dina Griffin plus the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.

A two-story garage covered with landscaping at the east end of the Midway Plaisance was presented to meeting attendees, the Sun-Times reported. The structure would have landscaped slopes on all sides and stretch six feet higher than the nearby CTA train tracks. Evergreen trees and shrubbery would be planted on the slopes with openings allowing natural light and air into the garage.

The new plan does not address the concerns from community leaders and watchdog groups, said Brenda Nelmes, co-founder of Jackson Park Watch. The above-ground parking structure remains on the Midway Plaisance, a valued strip of Jackson Park designed in 1871 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. An underground structure was discussed, but that idea was cut from presentation at the meeting.

Bobolink Meadow in Jackson Park
Urbsinhorto1837 / Flickr

The bus staging site was eliminated from this iteration of the plan along with a children’s play area, a basketball court, grilling stations, and picnic tables, Nelmes said. The meeting’s main focus was the parking garage and the architects did not say where the bus site would be relocated.

Proponents of this particular design and location is that it might encourage visitors to stop in at new businesses, shops and restaurants on their way to the center.

However, others say there isn’t space in the largely residential and institutional area for restaurants or shops within walking distance from the proposed location of the center.

Those at the meeting questioned whether “the architects were really planning for the future,” with the inclusion of a parking structure, Nelmes said. It seemed to be “backwards thinking,” especially with other transportation options such as ridesharing and biking available, she added. Improving public transportation could be an alternative area of focus.

The federal review that was triggered in November will not be completed until the summer or fall in 2018. The decision here will be important in determining the parking structure’s viability and whether a 2021 ground breaking will be possible.

The city and federal agencies are currently in the process of assessing the historic resources and environment that would be impacted by the proposed plan. The next public meeting isn’t scheduled yet, but the city will list meeting dates and progress on its website.

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Gardening odds and ends as 2017 comes to a close

We are almost to the end of 2017, and overall, it has been a good year. Most gardeners I have spoken with experienced success with their gardens and lawns. There is always going to be a few things that have not gone as planned, but that is normal in the gardening world. I am already looking forward to 2018, and perhaps making a few changes here and there in the garden. For example, I have added two new raised beds for additional vegetables, and my goal is to place a drip irrigation system in each bed. If you have been considering a drip irrigation system for your garden, perhaps this is the year to do it. Also, planting one different tomato variety this year might be a good idea.

So how do we conclude our Master Gardener articles for 2017? Simple, we clear our desk of gardening article ideas that did not make it into Wednesday’s edition of The Huntsville Item during 2017. In other words, ideas that sounded good at the time, but for whatever the reason, never made it to the printer. So here we go … odds and ends of 2017.


• Use recommended plant varieties for Walker County.

• Have your soil tested every two to three years.

• Apply fertilizer to the garden at recommended times and amounts.

• Examine garden often for potential problems.

• Keep garden free of insects, weeds, and diseases.

• Use mulches to conserve water and help control weeds.

• Water as needed.

• Thin when plants are small.

• Keep records on garden activities.

• Call the AgriLife Extension Office at (936) 435-2426 with questions.


• Depend on plant varieties not recommended for your area.

• Plant so closely that you cannot walk or work in the garden.

• Cultivate so deeply that plant roots are injured.

• Shade small plants with taller growing plants.

• Water excessively or in the late afternoon.

• Place fertilizer directly in contact with plant or roots.

• Allow weeds to grow large before beginning to cultivate your garden.

• Apply chemicals or pesticides without reading label directions.

• Use chemicals not specifically recommended for garden crops.

• Store leftover diluted spray.

Where can I get my gardening questions answered?

Our local Walker County AgriLife Office is a very reliable source for all types of horticulture questions you may have. Their office is located at the corner of State Highway 75 and TAM Road, and the phone number is (936) 435-2426. There are numerous handouts and literature (all at no charge) that you can take home with you. The information is easy to read and understand, and best of all, it is basic information that will help you have more fun and positive results in your gardening/yard activities.

Another great source of information is on the internet. Texas AM University has a wonderful website that is loaded with helpful solutions to all types of gardening topics. The website is This website is an unbelievable source of information that is practical, easy to understand and covers just about any horticulture topic you can come up with. Just a sampling of the topics includes lawn care, Earth-Kind landscaping, vegetables, herbs, soil fertilization, roses, fruit trees, citrus trees, shade trees, composting and mulching. As if that wasn’t enough, how about topics on controlling various pests such as fire ants, chinch bugs, weeds in your garden, insects and animals that love to munch on your garden such as deer, rabbits and squirrels.

Our own Huntsville Public Library offers a variety of horticultural topics. The books are current and up to date. The staff is always very helpful and will assist you in finding whatever topic you are searching for. Also, the library and the Master Gardeners team up twice a year to present seminars on vegetable gardening. The date for the Spring Vegetable Seminar is Feb. 26. The Fall Vegetable Seminar will be held in the early part of September. There is no cost for either of the seminars, and everyone is encouraged to attend. The program content is suited for both beginners or expert gardeners. An added bonus are the tomato and pepper plant door prizes for the Spring Vegetable Seminar. For more information on the seminars, call the Huntsville Public Library at (936) 291-5472.

Handy Conversion table

Do you ever get confused on measurements that are used around the house or in the garden? Here is a short list of commonly used measurements.

3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon

2 tablespoons = 1 fluid once

16 tablespoons = 1 cup

2 cups = 1 pint or 16 fluid ounces

2 pints = 1 quart

4 quarts = 1 gallon

Master Gardener events for 2018

• March 10 — Spring Plant Sale

• Sept. 28 — Fall Plant Sale

• February — Edible Yard Symposium. This event was originally scheduled for early September 2017, but Hurricane Harvey caused it to be canceled. Call AgriLife Extension Office at (936) 435-2426 for more current information.

If you have any questions about this article or any Extension program, contact the Walker County AgriLife Extension Office or you can visit them on the internet at Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin. The Texas AM University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas cooperating. A member of the Texas AM University System and its statewide program.

Our thought for the week: “To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” — Mahatma Gandhi


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What to do with your Christmas tree

What to do with your Christmas treeCopyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

JAMESVILLE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – There’s a good chance your Christmas tree will be coming down in the next couple of days and if you’re looking for an easy way to get rid of it, OCRRA will recycle it for free.

You can drop off your Christmas tree at OCRRA’s Amboy (6296 Airport Road Camillus) and Jamesville (4370 Route 91 Jamesville) sites after the New Year.

Just make sure that all the ornaments, tinsel, lights and other decorations are off the tree.

In the springtime, the trees will be ground into mulch that can be used in gardens for landscaping.

You can also check with your local highway department– some towns and villages offer tree pickups.

For more information, click here. 

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Here are some things you can do to recycle your Christmas tree – Columbus Ledger

The presents are unwrapped, the dishes from your Christmas feast are all clean (right?) and it’s time to settle in and wait for the new year.

But you know you’ve got to deal with that tree eventually. Luckily, there are actually more than a few ways to put that old fir to use, either for you or for local wildlife.

1. Donate your tree – the fishes will thank you

Christmas trees make great habitats for fish. Fish need cover and refuge out in the water, and the branchy tangles of a Christmas tree are perfect for this. The decomposing wood can also kickstart can serve as food for small creatures, which attract larger bait fish, which attract even larger fish, according to KeepAmericaFishing.

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Two groups are providing this service to our fishy friends this year- Keep Columbus Beautiful and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Keep Columbus Beautiful will work with Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center to sink the trees in their lake, providing shelter for newly hatched fish. The Corps of Engineers will do the same with West Point Lake.

You can donate your tree to Keep Columbus Beautiful at the following locations: Cooper Creek Park, 5089 Cooper Creek Parkway, Britt David Park, 5560 Armour Road, Shirley B. Winston Recreation Center, 3033 Steam Mill Road, Oxbow Meadow Environmental Learning Center, 3535 S. Lumpkin Road, and Dinglewood Park, 1660 13th St. They will be collected from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6.

You can donate to the Army Corps. of Engineers at the Yellow Jack and Sunny Point boat ramps in Georgia and at Rocky Point Boat Ramp in Alabama. They will be collected from Dec. 26 to Jan 13.

2. Set it up in your yard as an animal habitat

You can stand your tree up at the edge of your yard as a bird and animal habitat. Birds can nestle in the branches and might create a nest, and you can hang feeders around the tree to attract even more. If you lay it on the ground, it provides a great shelter for smaller critters over the winter months.

3. Use your tree to protect your outside plants

We may have had a pretty warm winter so far, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some precautions with your more delicate outdoor plants. You can cut the branches of your tree into little boughs and place them over your plants. The boughs will help insulate the plant and protect it from the chill – whenever it comes.

4. Slice up the trunk of the tree – you can make stuff with it

You can carve up little slices of the trunk to make all kinds of things. Wooden coasters for your drinks, little frames for drawing or painting, or anything else you might use them for. This Old House has one interesting suggestion – cutting the slices into semicircles and using them to edge a garden.

5. Mulch it, compost it, forget about it

The old standby. Christmas trees can be chipped into a great mulch for gardens or landscaping. You can take the whole thing into the chipper, but you can also trim the branches into little pieces with a knife or clippers and spread them out as-is. You can also use the tree to start a compost pile by piling up branches and needles to form a base for your compost.

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