Visiting the Garden of Audrey and Larry Mellichamp

For our May 2017 meeting we met at the garden of two of our favorite botanists, Audrey and Larry Mellichamp. Over many years they have collected plants and added them to their suburban lot, creating a green sanctuary that reflects their deep knowledge and love of the plant kingdom. Many of the plants are native to North Carolina, but there are also those that earned inclusion with some sort of particular charm, ie. a stinky titan arum.

I hope you were there, but if not, here’s a bit of what you missed. If you were there, enjoy it anew through the photos!


Spigelia marilandica was so happy and plentiful, it could be considered a signature plant for this garden.


Red buds have a surprising reveal — yellow!


Orange kitty doesn’t seem to mind dozens of people invading his territory. He regards us all with an air of nonchalance.


Stones outline this lush bed of mixed perennials.


A few wire hanging baskets, repurposed, provide critter control. Don’t you love the natural edging, too? It’s perfectly in keeping with the overall native plant theme.


Audrey greets visitors and answers questions about the garden and the plants, and occasionally quizzes someone — in other words, me! — about the correct pronunciation of Oenothera. (I’m a former student of hers!) I think I passed the test.


A concrete morel is a charming garden surprise.


Amorphophallus species are found mostly in Asia, but this gorgeous, smelly plant looks right at home amid the penstemons and Itea.


Around back Larry enjoys chatting with visitors on the deck.

Mellichamp Garden tour - group shot

The shady slope behind the house is packed with woodland plants. Larry gave us a tour.

Harper’s Ginger (Hexastylis speciosa) is flowering underneath those light green leaves.


Purple Flowering-raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

Climbing Hydrangea in bloom (1)

Native Climbing Hydrangea (Decumaria barbara)

Young Bigleaf Magnolia

A young Bigleaf Magnolia is on its way to flowering glory. These are just a few of what must be dozens of species (or more?) on that slope.


It wouldn’t be a Mellichamp garden without carnivorous plants!


Their daughter Suzanne Mellichamp is the artist/potter who provided the adorable clay pitcher plants.


Thanks to Beth for the hard work and the smiles — the t-shirt/plant sale was a big success!


Thank you very much to Lisa Tompkins for photos 1, 11, 14, 15!


Thank you especially to the Mellichamps for allowing us to visit your beautiful garden — what a rare treat!


February 2017 Meeting Report

After a brief overview of current Southern Piedmont Chapter business and upcoming events, Dr. Larry Mellichamp gave a mini lesson on what was blooming — rue anemone, bloodroot and tag alder — and how day length (rather than temperature) is the important determining factor for the blooming of many native plants. He noted as well that most winter-blooming plants in the Piedmont are exotic introductions.

Eight-spotted Harvester, one of around 3000 moth species in North Carolina

Next we welcomed Lenny Lample, Natural Resources Coordinator for Mecklenburg County. Mr. Lampel presented a program packed full of interesting and entertaining information on moths: “Discoveries in the Darkness.”

Here are a few of his points from my notes:

  • The easiest way to tell the difference between moths and butterflies is to examine their antennae. Butterfly antennae have little “clubs” on the tips. Moth antennae can be quite variable, from filiform to plumose, but will not have these enlargements at the tips.
  • Moths are important pollinators. Many are specialists, meaning they need one particular plant or genus of plants in order to feed and reproduce. Sometimes the plants also need a particular moth in order to produce seeds. Such is the case with Yucca species.
  • Because moth caterpillars are an important food for birds, their decline can precipitate a decline in bird populations as well.
  • In addition to being important pollinators, moths (the larvae in particular) play an important role in decomposition.
  • There are approximately 150,000 species of moths in the world, 11,500 in North America, 3,000 species in North Carolina, and as many as 1,000 species in your own backyard in the Carolina Piedmont.
Moth identification can be tricky!
  • To observe moths you can set up a light behind a sheet and turn it on at night. Black lights or mercury vapor lights work best. To attract even more species, put out some “moth bait,” a mixture of bananas and molasses.
  • In the daytime, look for moths resting on tree bark, or find their caterpillars on or under leaves.
Moth collection of Southern Piedmont member and passionate insect fan, Cathy Burk
  • Moth ID may be quite difficult requiring dissection to examine the genitalia. (!) But often it is straightforward; a good field guide will be useful. Try Peterson’s Field Guide to Moths which shows the moths in live positions (rather than splayed and flat).
Time for questions and shared musings at the end of the meeting

Thank you, Lenny, for agreeing to speak to our group! We all enjoyed it very much and learned a lot too.

March meeting: Join us as Dr. Larry Mellichamp presents, “Early American Ecology and Early American Botany” — in costume! Sunday, March 12, Reedy Creek Nature Center, 2:00. RSVP:


All it takes is one good idea

“We’re building a highway,” says Angel Hjarding, creator of the NC Wildlife Federation statewide Butterfly Highway program. Angel had an idea…to provide native plants in garden plots for underserved neighborhoods. The results would provide both beauty to the underserved neighborhoods and benefit to all manner of butterflies and other pollinators. From this initial project of 50 gardens the idea spread statewide to over 1600 by the end of 2016, in just 1 year. The Butterfly Highway project is a pledge to protect and conserve native plants for pollinators and to not use pesticides that will harm pollinators. It is not a certification, making it much more accessible to all types of gardens–from patio or deck size to farms 100 acres+.

Dr. Larry Mellichamp, President of the NC Native Plant Society has often challenged members to get involved locally, plant local gardens, talk to our neighbors and children and introduce new friends to the pleasures of native plant gardening and the benefits native plants provide. At the January 2017 Southern Piedmont Chapter meeting Angel told stories of neighbors talking with neighbors about the butterflies and bees they observed visiting their Asters and Butterfly Weed and Blackeyed Susans in their new gardens.butterfly-highway-1

In our November 2016 meeting, Carrie DeJaco shared research noting the positive impact interactions with the natural world have on all communities…both underserved and well to do. Clearly native plant enthusiasts and our environmental friends and supporters already reap the benefits of our time outside among plant and animal friends. Hopefully we, the Southern Piedmont Chapter, can harness Angel’s enthusiasm in participating in more local projects in 2017. Please support our efforts with your time and talent at these upcoming events. Email if you can help.

  • MCSWCD Tree seedling distribution, 9-12 Noon, Feb. 25
  • Reedy Creek NC Arbor Day celebration , March 18, 2-5:30 PM
  • Earth Day, numerous community events and festivals, April 22 and 29

img_4791One more thing, if you’d like to identify the fluttering visitors to your own backyard gardens, Angel recommends this book, Â Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jeffrey Glassberg. And another thing…we do acknowledge that even one great idea takes a lot of work to make it happen. We applaud Angel’s success and hope you will see her hard work as an incentive to all of us. For more information on how to create a Butterfly Highway stopping post in your backyard visit





December 2016 Meeting Report

Reedy Creek Nature Preserve in December

Now that it’s nearly time for our January meeting, I thought I should give a quick report for December! For those of you who missed it, December is always special. In addition to the program, we bring our favorite foods to share …


and exchange native plant seeds.


Seeing what everyone brings to the seed exchange is so much fun! This year’s offerings included Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), titi (Cyrilla recemiflora), stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigida, syn. Solidago rigida), and fevertree (Pinckneya bracteata). Milkweed, columbine, several species of Rudbeckia, and other interesting seeds were available as well. Growing from seed is one of the best ways to get varieties not commonly available in nurseries to add to your garden. Our “Compost Queen” has done a post about starting any seeds you might have picked up: Native Plant Seed Propagation

Between the food and the seed exchange, Reedy Creek naturalist and educator Laura Domingo presented the program, “Backyard Wildlife.” It is delightful to know, isn’t it, that the more native plants you have in your garden, the more local wildlife you are likely to see. Laura has a passion for nature that is infectious! She introduced us to dozens of fascinating animals we could encounter as we spend time outside in our neighborhoods and gardens. From graceful butterflies and birds to elegant turtles and snakes, when you know what to look for, your backyard is exciting during all seasons.

Thank you to Laura, and all who worked to make the meeting happen, to the many who brought food and seeds, and to those of you who came and supported the effort to spread the word about native plants. You are all appreciated!

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