University City

Hillside terrace honors past director of UNCC Botanical Gardens

This wooden staircase leads to a wooden terrace on the right and the brick terrace on the left in the new Mellichamp Natives Terrace garden, which is part of the Botanical Gardens at UNC Charlotte. People gathered for the ribbon-cutting May 31 at the new garden honoring Larry Mellichamp, who retired this spring after 35 years of service.
This wooden staircase leads to a wooden terrace on the right and the brick terrace on the left in the new Mellichamp Natives Terrace garden, which is part of the Botanical Gardens at UNC Charlotte. People gathered for the ribbon-cutting May 31 at the new garden honoring Larry Mellichamp, who retired this spring after 35 years of service. MARTY PRICE

UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens’ Mellichamp Natives Terrace garden offers examples of native plants homeowners can use in in landscaping to beautify their environment while managing stormwater runoff.

The fifth-of-an-acre tract, named after former gardens director Larry Mellichamp, is laid across the hillside across from the trees that line the gravel pathways of the 3-acre Susie Harwood Garden. The wooden and brick terraces invite visitors to explore the planting possibilities for their own backyards and patios.

Running underneath the wooden terrace, a dry creek bed emerges and meanders down the hillside, framed by groups of grasses and flowers that thrive on storm water runoff.

May 31, before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Carla Vitez, a member of the advisory council, was standing on the wooden terrace with her friend Beth Hawfield admiring the plants growing in and around the dry creek bed.

“This shows how you can handle stormwater drainage to enhance your landscape, instead of piping it under ground,” Vitez said before the two went over to the brick terrace for the ceremony.

Paula Gross, interim director of the UNCC Botanical Gardens, said there’s always been native plants in a natural setting at the 7-acre Van Landingham Glen, but this is the first garden there to feature plants in a landscaping display.

“So many of us do appreciate the native plants in the wild when we are hiking or doing other outdoor activities. But what we don't realize is that you can bring those plants into your home and they can serve that same ecological function that they serve in the wild,” she said.

Addressing the crowd Mellichamp said, “This garden is the most fitting capstone to my 35 years here. We hope it’s going to benefit a lot of people.”

His wife of 41 years, Audrey, smiled, hiding from the sun under her Japanese umbrella as he acknowledged her and the contributions she made to the gardens.

In closing he urged the crowd to “Enjoy the birds and the bees; and the flowers and the trees that attract them,” before cutting the ribbon and joining his guests in the garden.

Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at martyprice53@gmail.com.

Want to go?

The UNCC Botanical Gardens are open seven days a week during daylight hours. Information: https://gardens.uncc.edu.

For information on the Mellichamp Natives Terrace garden: https://gardens.uncc.edu/education-events/native-plants-display-garden-for-the-home-landscape.

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