Charlotte Hilton Green Park

Where we left the mystery . . . 

In September 2017 I told the stories of several RGC members who left big footprints. The projects are one way of looking at the RGC’s footprints, and that is what our History Books track.

But really it’s people who make footprints. And as Joyce likes to say, “Gardeners are the friendliest, most generous people you’ll ever find.”  Maybe that is partly because a garden club is made of people doing what they love – and sharing what they do.

Charlotte Hilton Green was one of the RGC gardeners whose footprint is a garden, in this case now a park, named in her honor. Charlotte Hilton Green was an early and influential champion of the Tar Heel state's natural environment. She was, in the words of her friend and neighbor William Joslin, “the one person in Raleigh most clearly identified with conservation of natural areas.” 

In 1938 the Greens purchased a large tract of land on White Oak Road. Mrs. Green began developing Greenacres into a wildlife sanctuary and arboretum. Her consultant in this project was Dr. B.W. Wells, a professor of botany at N.C. State (Green 1939) and the author of The Natural Gardens of North Carolina. Forestry students from the college treated damaged trees, and neighbors helped remove refuse, fallen branches, and undesirable plants. The area became a special place to the many children who loved to play on the rocks and hills, to follow trails once traveled by Indians, and to build dams in the stream. Greenacres was still visited annually by horticulture classes from N.C. State University in 1986.

The Greens were active birders and conservationists, hosting many ornithological sightings at Greenacres. Ornithologist Dr. Arthur Allen recorded many of his first southern birdsong recordings there. Charlotte did a lot of her research on birds here—she had a banding permit from the federal government in the 30s.  (*)

Her footprint was a bit of a mystery still in September of 2017. I had read that private citizens raised money to buy and preserve her garden, and planned to make it a park and give it to the city. Named after her, of course. But it wasn’t listed as one of Raleigh’s parks on their website.

making the park.png

So what happened?

Well thanks to the research of RGC member and researcher extraordinaire, Laurie M., we have the next piece of the story…..

We found out the park succeeded, in a way. Laurie located the park. it is located along White Oak Road, tucked between East Lake and West Lake Drives.  She lives close by and runs through it. And then she found the map that showed it as part of Raleigh.  But there are no signs to tell you what it is. So she kept digging… and found more.

Laurie found out:  Two of the 3 houses the Greens built are still up along White Oak Rd. The first house they built was torn down at some point.  They called their home garden “Greenacres.” 

Laurie also spoke with a woman who grew up a few houses away from Charlotte—this was Nell Joslin, and her parents set up the Joslin Conservation area along W. Lake Dr.  According to Nell, the northern part of the tiny park was always city property.  In the 1980s, a developer bought 3 lots at the lower end of the park which abuts White Oak.  Nell’s father William Joslin got the neighborhood together and basically had the land condemned and the developer was forced to sell the lots back to the city, and along with the money the neighborhood raised, they added these lots to the end of the park and named it the Charlotte Hilton Green Park.

Then we found the deed that did indeed give the land to the city for a park. The donors made 3 conditions:  1) the property shall be used and maintained so as to preserve to the maximum extent possible the natural scenic value of the property.

            2) the property shall be devoted exclusively to public park purposes

            3) there shall be no destruction or removal of trees (except if unsafe or diseased).. there shall be no erection of buildings, signs or structures, and no changes is the appearace or topography of the property except in developing and maintaining greenways or trails, or park facilities.

And I found the Park is listed in the Adopt a Park Program by Raleigh Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.

But as a footprint, it is still fairly obscured. No passer by would know this is a famous wildlife garden turned park and named in honor of Charlotte Hilton Green.

*  Source:


Charlotte Hilton Green Biography

Charlotte Hilton Green was an early and influential champion of the Tar Heel state's natural environment. Charlotte moved to Raleigh with her husband for his job at NC Dept. of Agriculture in the 1920’s. She became the Nature columnist for The Raleigh News & Observer in 1932, where for the next 42 years she wrote “Out of Doors in Carolina” and supported numerous conservation causes. Her gift was for putting science in layman’s terms and she had major impacts on how Carolinian farmers handled wildlife problems. Mrs. Green worked very hard to emphasize the human- interest angle. Her first goal was to develop in others an appreciation of Nature.

Charlotte was an avid bird lover, helped found the NC Bird Club, and she gardened to attract birds with bird boxes, water and plantings – the cornerstones of our wildlife habitat gardening today.  Her columns were collected into a book: Birds of the South, a beautiful book first published in the 1930s.

"Up from the thistle-sown fields, on both sides of the road, rose a veritable golden, black-flecked cloud, as several hundred goldfinches mounted the air, singing. I think that picture and experience started my interest in birds. I had not realized before that birds could be so beautiful, or so plentiful. Later, in a book by a New England naturalist, I read about "collecting" birds in the memory instead of specimens in the bag. And that picture, of a northern field sun-flecked with goldfinches rising on wings of song, ranks first of my many "memory-chain" pictures."

From Birds of the South: Permanent and Winter Birds, by Charlotte Hilton Green, The University of North Carolina Press, 1933, 1995.

A second book was Trees of the South.  The tree book was the first to outline the leaf, fruit and flower of Southern trees, and as you see, the Club Historian included this photo from the book in her 10 year history of the club in 1935.


It was captioned:  This is one of the illustrations from a book written by CHG a member of the RGC who labors in the garden as well as at the typewriter (and gets results!)

For a lovely piece on the Trees of the South, read here

Because of her many services to the people and wildlife of NC, Mrs. Green received the Conservation Communications Award from the NC Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation.

Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden

Margaret Reid was an active member of RGC, and her renowned  wildflower garden is another major footprint of RGC. This is not to say that RGC created or maintained the garden – it was strictly a personal endeavor of Margaret.  However, her RGC membership supported and encouraged her gardening efforts.  Which were a little unusual:  She acquired her first plant in 1932, when Herbert Hoover was president, when she heard of a road widening in Raleigh that threatened some green and gold, a native plant. “That’s too pretty to be scooped up,” she thought, and so her garden began. Every time she heard of any development, she’d get 2 steps ahead of the bulldozer and dig plants until the trees started falling.

Her garden, created over a period of 50 years, contains an extensive collection of plants native to Wake County and the surrounding region. Margaret used principles of gardening and ecology she learned from her friend and mentor, Bertram Whittier Wells. We’ll be hearing a program on BW Wells and his “natural gardens” later this year, thanks to Penny, our Environmental Chair.

“You can go three times around the garden without repeating yourself,” says Amy Mackintosh, who lovingly looks after the Margaret Reid Wildflower Garden, which is owned today by the Triangle Land Conservancy.  Look for open days announcements … on their website.

Mary Lee McMillan Garden

She was president of RGC in 1934 -6, and also president of the NC Camellia Society, and of the GCNC.  But she went far beyond these roles, and helped create a state Camellia Day, lead a Camellia Study Group in the Garden Club in the 40s, and for over 40 years made about 800 pillow corsages a year for hospital and nursing home patients.

The 10-Year History wrote of her:

History on McMillan.jpg


She also wrote – a column for the Raleigh Times on gardening for 25 years, and she is credited with starting the first Garden School of the Air ( see my blog post on this footprint).

The McMillan garden was a joint effort between the RGC and the WCR, and filled a need for landscaping of their new clubhouse in the 1970s. Mary had also been active in the Women’s Club of Raleigh, and president. 

They hired a landscape architect, Wayne McBride to design it, and Clarence Steppe, of Wayside Nurseries to install it. The president of the RGC awarded both a certificate of appreciation in 1974 when it was dedicated.

They planted a cherry tree in honor of Mary, and it was the star of the spring season because it was so floriferous, so strikingly so that it was featured in the paper each spring.  And the center of the landscaping was called the Mary McMillan Garden… today it is used for weddings.

The RGC maintained the garden for quite a number of years, mulching and replanting as needed.  Now I believe it is maintained by the WCR lawn service.  But it was refurbished and there was a little ceremony just recently, in 2015, largely by the efforts of Irregardless Café.  You can visit it as it’s open at the side of the WCR clubhouse.

Arbor Day Tree Plantings at Fletcher Park

  • 1989 5 dogwoods for L Powell, Bess Milhonen, Frances Erdahl, Marion Troxley, Muriel Steppe

  • March 20, 1992

    The Arbor Day ceremony was held to honor past president and friend Connie Troutman. A beautiful tulip magnolia in full bloom was planted in Fletcher Park. No information as to where this tree was planted.

  • March, 1995 – 2 magnolias,  Fletcher Park for Glennie Freeman and Bessie Buck. No information as to where this tree was planted.
  • April 2005 –  A scarlet Oak was planted for Annie Mae Horton (link to October Footprints treasure hunt for the pictures).  We know approximately from pictures where it was planted

  • April 2007 Styrex japonicus ‘Emerald Pagoda’  - Japanese snowbell for Pat Olejar.  The pictures show it wasplantedby a white house next to fletcher Foundation bldg., with retaining wall. Can see in Google maps…3d, pix dsc_0057 & 55

  • 2008 –  -to left of brick, 2-story building, facingwhite entrance porch

    Golden Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) for Julia Riley. See the directions and the pictures in Oct footprints #3.                Pix dsc_0053

  • 2010 – Fletcher Park(no pix) tree sheet and program forJackie Henry, Joan Little and Bessie Widenhouse (DSC-005-6).  Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’ (Black Tupelo), Carpinus caroliniana (America hornbeam)

  • April 2012 – Fletcher Park – map arbor day/dsc_0079 marks places. In honor of Mabel Barbee ( Pin Oak), Mary Bode (White Oak), Muriel Roberts (Swamp White Oak), Elizabeth Uzzell(tulip poplar)-- with signs


Dawn Redwoods in Pullen Park - planted for the US Bicentennial in 1976

The club planted 40 Dawn Redwoods in Pullen Park to commemorate the Bicentennial.  They were planted on “Liberty Hill”… but 40 years means a lot of change in Raleigh!  No one in the Park had heard of Liberty Hill.  I walked all over and didn’t find them.  AND THEN… driving home on Pullen Park Rd …. There they were. About 30 have survived. 

It’s a lovely grove… almost an Alllee with the redwoods planted on each side of the path and then a few more on the hillock to your left.  And they’ve grown!  3- 4 stories tall now!