Susie Harwood Garden and the Mellichamp Terrace

The gardens at UNC-Charlotte are looking great right now. I stopped by this week and took a few photos that I thought you might enjoy seeing. This time of year it’s impossible to keep up with all the new blooms and leaves and fronds, but it’s fun to try. Too bad you can’t pitch a tent there. Although come to think of it, there is a “hang your hammock” area and that’s almost as good.

Columbine and Royal Fern Susie Harwood Garden UNC Charlotte

Just inside and to the right in The Susie Harwood Garden, this bed of Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) and American Royal Fern (Osmunda spectabilis) comes into view.

Osmundastrum cinnamomeum Cinnamon Fern

A Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) with lots of characteristic fertile fronds sits just to the left.

Cinnamon Fern Pinnae Tufts

Even in the absence of spore-laden structures, flip over a frond and look for tufts of hair at the base of each pinna. These, too, will help you determine that you’re looking at at Cinnamon Fern.

Wildflower bed Susie Harwood Garden

A wildflower bed with several species of Trillium, foamflower, bloodroot, and heuchera.

Mellichamp Native Terrace Coreopsis and Phlox

At the edge of the Harwood Garden is the Mellichamp Native Terrace. Coreopsis and phlox are the current stunning pops of color for a background of lush, green texture. The fuzzy Fringe-tree (Chionanthus virginicus) at the back of the garden

Chionanthus virginicus flowers

Fringe-tree shows off the delicate flowers that earned it its common name.

Mellichamp Native Terrace ferns and wildflowers

Cinnamon Fern with Celandine-poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum). Notice all those dangly seedpods?

Stylophorum diphyllum Celandine Poppy

Celandine-poppy likes to spread itself around, but who minds? All those yellow flowers are little spots of sunshine in the garden.

Physocarpus opulifolius Ninebark

A plant that doesn’t do well for me (deer, dry soil) looking great here — Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius).

Physocarpus opulifolius flowers

Ninebark’s clusters of rosy blooms.

Aesculus pavia flowers

Who doesn’t love Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)? Such interesting flowers, and so gorgeous, too, draping slightly with the weight of their lushness. The petals look like little hearts.

Aesculus pavia Susie Harwood Garden

This fabulous specimen is waiting for you on the path out of (or into) the garden.

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For information about visiting, volunteering, donating, or becoming a member: UNC-Charlotte Botanical Gardens

Grow Native

Grow Native — Bringing Natural Beauty to Your Garden by Lynn M. Steiner jumped off the shelf at me when I walked by it in the library recently. I thought you might like to know about it, too.

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At a little over 200 pages it isn’t a huge book, but it is packed with information. Five chapters cover the what and why of native plants, selecting and planting them, how to create an effective landscape using native plants, and caring for what you’ve planted. The last half of the book (Chapter 5) is approximately 100 profiles of good choices for the home landscape. Steiner’s selections are not specific to the Southeast, but most of them work well in the Carolina Piedmont.

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Plenty of sidebars and charts let you know things like what to plant instead of vinca (how about creeping phlox or Allegheny spurge?), or for special uses such as attracting bees or birds (consider columbine, liatris, or dozens of others she lists). Photos affirm the beauty of a native landscape and provide some inspiration.

Steiner’s stance on a number of issues made me either smile or think, Wait, what? She is cautious with nativars, and against insecticides (expected), but put a lot of emphasis on soil preparation and mulch (a little surprising). There are some good tips for dealing with various gardening challenges, such as deer and diseases, and many of the plant profiles provide uncommon and helpful tidbits gleaned from her many years of gardening.

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While it might not be the only book on native plants, I do think it’s a good one, particularly for someone new to the idea. It would make a good gift book for the right person. Hearing another enthusiast’s view of the issues involved with native plant gardening as well as her experience with our favorite species made it quite an enjoyable read for me.

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I just noticed that Amazon is selling it for $3.29 at the moment. I’m not sure how long that will last, but you can’t beat it! Don’t forget to sign up for Amazon Smile if you haven’t already. Then the North Carolina Native Plant Society will get a donation for each purchase you make at no extra cost to you.

Visiting Laurel Hill Preserve

The Southern Piedmont Chapter’s recent visit to Laurel Hill Preserve was a fabulous walk amongst paths carpeted with Partridge Berry and Club Moss under a canopy of Bigleaf Magnolia Magnolia macrophylla.

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Bigleaf Magnolia canopy, photo by Jennifer Daggy

While we never made it to the biggest Bigleaf Magnolia on the site (shown below in a tree hug by Larry Mellichamp), our group enjoyed wandering in the forest under those massive leaves. Larry Magnolia macrophylla Best IMG_20170907_180951570

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Partridge Berry Mitchella repens

Our hike was lead by Laurel Hill Farm owner, Amy Nason, and former NCNPS President, Dr. Larry Mellichamp. As Dr. M pointed out, this is such an important conservation site because Bigleaf Magnolia is only found in 5 counties between Statesville and York in the Carolinas. It’s always fun to learn botany factoids from Dr. M, for instance…Bigleaf Magnolia is distinctive because the leaves have ears, and is one of only 3 Magnolia with that distinctive trait. The other 2 are M. fraseri (found only in the mountains, bright red fruit cone) and M. ashei (found in a limited range in Florida, but grows well in the Piedmont, blooms at a young age).

On our way down to the swinging bridge over Long Creek, we were fortunate to happen upon a wooly aphid dance on a Beech Tree branch. The rich woods have benefited from the summer rains and our group spotted Beech Drops, Collinsonia, Hearts-a-Burstin’, Galax, Indian Ghost Pipe, and Sourwood.

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Bigleaf Magnolia cone

Laurel Hill is a working farm in Gaston County with goats, chickens and pigs. Amy milks the goats daily and if you’re interested in some of her farm products such as goat milk and cheese or eggs, contact her to join her farm email list at amygnason@yahoo.com. Amy and her family encourage visitors and are planning an invasive work day in September.  There are several study sites on the property from area university graduate students looking at snail and mushroom populations.

IMG_5648Laurel Hill Preserve was put into the Catawba Lands Conservancy by Frank Ewing, the former owner, and we were fortunate to be joined on this hike by his daughter Robin Ewing. During their tenure the property was primarily used as a plant nursery. Since we just happened to be there on Hurricane Irma eve, Robin commented that Hurricane Hugo, in 1989 changed the landscape due to massive amounts of tree fall and possibly opened the canopy to a greater population of Bigleaf Magnolia with huge number of fallen trees leading to more light openings.

 

 

Native Plants Make Great Urban Neighbors

I have been impressed on several recent trips to New York City with the palette and emphasis on native plants in New York’s city parks. I’m not talking about the High Line, which in itself is a fabulous array of native plants in a linear park on an elevated rail bed. And I don’t even know if the High Line inspired the parks department or if they all just got Doug Tallamy’s message (Bringing Nature Home at the same time. But from Central Park’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary, to Governer’s Island new installation “The Hills”,

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Governer’s Island in New York

or the waterfront park at Randall’s Island , New York City Parks department has installed some very impressive beds dominated by native plants.

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Randall’s Island in New York City

Additionally impressive is that NYC Parks have planned for interpretive signage explaining what visitors are seeing and why it is important. These parks are attractive and inviting to both human and wildlife visitors. Some parks include both saltwater and freshwater mitigation and reclamation with appropriate signage explaining the process and identifying wildlife.

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Wildflower Meadow signage, Randall’s Island

These beds are mixed among soccer fields, greenway paths, concert lawns, golf courses, baseball fields, picnic areas, and reclaimed land such as in The Hills.

All I can say is….C’mon Charlotte….take this as a challenge! Incorporate broad sweeps of locally sourced native plants that benefit wildlife, that are attractive and interesting and different. Almost all of the foliage beds in in ALL of the NYC parks that I have seen over recent years feature huge sweeps of Heuchera, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Lobelia, and many more native plants. Grasses are used extensively to blend the beds together. It’s inspiring on so many levels, and beneficial in a city, that is undoubtedly covered in concrete. Charlotte is the city of trees….but we can do so much more.