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Green Thumbs

Bowling Green’s Hidden Gems

Green Thumbs

Whether March roars in boldly like a lion or trots in gently like a lamb, hard-core “dirt-diggers” are heading to Kentucky’s garden centers for the bedding plants, fertilizer, and mulch available at all such businesses. A number of centers, however, lure in customers with unique offerings and services.

Springhouse Gardens in Nicholasville undulates over a hilly 6-1/2-acre former tobacco farm with a historic springhouse-turned-office, traditional dry-laid limestone walls, old farm items scattered about, watering troughs teeming with aquatic plants, several sinkholes, and tons of native plants.

All year (call or check the Web site first for winter hours), you can stroll its seven gardens to peruse low-maintenance plants, sun lovers and their shady counterparts, roses, dwarf conifers, and a water garden with a waterfall and stone footbridge. Perennials share space with topiary, hardy trees, shrubs, and espaliered fruit trees.

You can ogle handblown glass gazing balls, arbors, trellises, gates, and obelisks, then park yourself in a gazebo swing and watch the sun set.

It’s easy to see why Springhouse won one of only three American Nursery and Landscape Association Rising Retail Star awards in 2005.

“This is my passion, creating a garden that people can come and experience and be able to leave with something live,” says Richard Weber, who with his wife, Debbie, owns Springhouse.

“Since I’m taking care of these gardens anyway,” Weber says with a smile, “why not have them open to the public?”

The same warm welcome greets folks who wander just a few miles off the beaten path near London.

Fifty years ago, the Carloftis family fulfilled a dream by building a tourist attraction called Fort Sequoyah on the lush green banks of the Rockcastle River smack in the Daniel Boone National Forest. These days, the former pioneer town and tepee village where Native Americans made and sold traditional crafts has evolved into the Rockcastle River Trading Company. After the family gave half of their 30 acres to the National Forest, the 15-acre riverside property now houses the family home, a one-room schoolhouse/guest cottage, and an aviary. A surprising Madison Avenue-type gift shop teems with goodies, from gardening tools and antique statuary, to Egyptian cotton blankets and handmade cherry furniture.

If the name Carloftis rings a bell, son Jon is one of the nation’s premier garden designers. Though he built the cozy potting shed for a garden show and created the herb and vegetable gardens here, his mother Lucille still runs the show.

“At first we had no running water or electricity,” says the soft-spoken, genteel Clay County native. “Our power source was a Model T Ford engine on blocks. Two months later, Jackson County Rural Electric came in. After a while, money lost its focus. We couldn’t wait to see who’d come in next.”

Every spring, Jon brings in a huge shipment of specialty plants, such as weeping Japanese cedars and old variety climbing roses, and the year’s store stock arrives. On April 1, everyone is invited to an annual open house to peruse what’s new and enjoy music and food. It’s a kinder, gentler shopping experience.

“Instead of getting into the shopping mall rat race and trying to find parking,” Jon says, “people can come here, have tea with Momma, and get lost in the gardens.”


Gardeners’ Nirvanas Across Kentucky
Boone Gardiner Garden Center
16411 Shelbyville Road
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 245-0238
Fourth-generation family business,gardens, hard-to-find plants

Bramel’s Hickory Hill Nursery
6037 Millcreek Pike
Maysville, KY 40156
(606) 742-2596
Former tobacco farm, homegrown chrysanthemums, safety wood playground chips

The Clay Pot
5601 Benton Road
Paducah, KY 42003
(270) 898-0701
Outdoor lunches and teas, herbs, antiques, handmade furniture, old architectural pieces, waterfalls

England’s Orchard and Nursery
316 State Road 2004
McKee, KY 40447
(859) 582-2114
Nut trees, exotic fruit trees, produce, nutcrackers

Hilltop Farms
1175 Haney Lane
Grayson, KY 41143
(606) 316-0484
Kid-friendly, 300-acre family farm, fall hayrides, new plant varieties

Jackson’s Orchard and Nursery
1280 Slim Island Road
Bowling Green, KY 42101
(270) 781-5303
A 41-year-old family business; local perennials, apples, peaches; fall weekend festivals; four-acre lake

Mink’s Nursery and Log Cabin Gift Shop
801 South Dixie St.
London, KY 40741
(606) 864-5863
Vegetable seeds by the pound, bluegrass CDs, locally handblown glass hummingbird feeders

Mother’s Earth Greenhouse
3451 Sportsman Lake Road
Elizabethtown, KY
(270) 369-7815
Perennials, herbs, vegetables, water plants in 22 greenhouses, fishing pond

Rockcastle River Trading Company
Box 424, U.S. 25
Livingston, KY 40445
(606) 843-0854

Shooting Star Nursery
160 Soards Road
Georgetown, KY 40324
(502) 867-7979
Diverse assortment of nursery-propagated Eastern U.S. native plants and seeds

Smith and Jolly Garden Store
4687 Alexandria Pike
Alexandria, KY 41001
(859) 635-1200
Custom-designed planters; cookouts; seasonal pony rides, petting zoo

Springhouse Gardens
6041 Harrodsburg Rd.
Nicholasville, KY 40356
(859) 224-1417

Thoroughbred Daylilies
6615 Briar Hill Road
Paris, KY 40361
(859) 988-9253
Several hundred types of hybrid daylilies, 30,000 to 75,000 blooms at peak

Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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Bowling Green’s Hidden Gems

Ask any Bowling Green resident what they like most about their town, and chances are they’ll say “no one thing in particular.” Instead, they’ll tell you it’s the diversity they like.

That’s often the way it is with successful cities that attract lots of visitors. The reasoning is, if you have a great place to live, outsiders will like it, too.

Bowling Green is much more than Corvettes, Beech Bend Park with its new wooden roller coaster, and Lost River Cave. As interesting as these places are to visit, there are other venues that are equally entertaining but sometimes overlooked in all of the city’s hoopla.

One of those is Riverview at Hobson Grove.

It’s a historic home that at one time served as the summer quarters for Colonel Atwood Hobson and his family. When Colonel Hobson began construction on it before the Civil War, its location next to the Barren River was considered “in the country.”

It is a stop on the John Hunt Morgan Civil War Trail and today the house is well within the town’s boundaries. Although it still sits near one of the many bends in the river, several public-use venues have snuggled up next to Riverview, such as a 9-hole golf course and a baseball field.

These two neighbors, however, don’t seem to distract from the stateliness of Riverview. It sits on a rise in the topography, overlooking everything that surrounds it, including Barren River.

Vicki Fitch, director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, thinks that Riverview as a historic home tour rivals any in the state.

“It’s about as good as it gets,” she says. “The docents do a great job of weaving a story of the role the house played during the Civil War and what life was like for a fairly well-to-do family during the Victorian period in Bowling Green.”

Sam Terry, director of Riverview, makes every effort to keep Riverview fresh for tourists.

“We try to create special events that will make people keep coming back again,” Terry offers. “We’ll be featuring a quilt show in April. They’ll be displayed throughout the house and will date from the 1840s to the turn of the 20th century.”

Another attraction, the Kentucky Museum, located in the Kentucky Building on the campus of Western Kentucky University, is sometimes overlooked.

The museum has become a must visit for schoolchildren throughout the region. Permanent exhibits detailing the history of transportation, as well as depicting what it was like growing up Victorian in Kentucky, are a staple of the museum’s tours. Soon there will be an area dedicated to one of Bowling Green’s most well-known citizens, Duncan Hines. Long before the cake mixes, Hines was a publisher, writer, and traveling salesman. You’ll learn about how a “Recommended by Duncan Hines” sign or the lack of one could make or break a restaurant.

Another attraction that doesn’t get a lot of hype is BRIMS (Barren River Imaginative Museum of Science). Although it is mainly geared toward children, it is often adults that come away equally impressed by the hands-on exhibits dealing with electricity, forced energy, motions, and the solar system, just to name a few.


Riverview at Hobson Grove
(270) 843-5565
Located on Main Street in the downtown area. Closed Monday, open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m., closed on holidays and entire month of January. Admission $5 adults, $2.50 children.

Kentucky Museum
(270) 745-2592
On the campus of Western Kentucky University. Open for self-guided tours Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m., closed on university holidays. Admission $5 adults, $2.50 children, seniors $2.50, and family $10.

BRIMS Children’s Museum
1229 Center Street
(270) 843-9779
Open Thursday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Groups by appointments. Admission $5 adults, $4 children.

Other Area Attractions
National Corvette Museum
350 Corvette Drive, I-65/Exit 28
(800) 53-VETTE
Open year-round except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hours are 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Admission $8 adults, $4.50 children.

Corvette/Cadillac XLR Assembly Plant
600 Corvette Drive, I-65/Exit 28
(270) 745-8019
Tours available 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday-Friday only. Cost is $5 per person, ages 7 years and older. Call or go online for hours before visiting.

Beech Bend Park and Splash Lagoon
798 Beech Bend Road
(270) 781-7634
More than 40 rides, including the new Kentucky Rumbler wooden roller coaster. Open daily Memorial Day to mid-August, weekends only May and September. Ticket prices vary.

Lost River Cave
U.S. 31-W (Nashville Road) at Cave Mill Road
(866) 274-2283
Kentucky’s only underground boat tours. Admission $11.50 adults, $10.50 seniors, $8.50 ages 5-12, $2.50 ages 4-under. Open year-round (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s), 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. Call to check weather conditions.

Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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