Piedmont Picnic 2024


A gentle, intermittent drizzle kept the plants, as well as guests, cool and happy in the garden of Rudy Riggs and Jim Phillips at the Piedmont Chapter May Picnic. This magnificent garden is beautifully maintained by Jim and Rudy, and full of well grown examples of plants deemed by many to be ungrowable in North Carolina. Thanks so much for a memorable picnic!


Rudy in blue shares the history of the house and garden


Char Thomann and Amelia Lane enjoy setting up


Kyle Sonnenberg with co-host Jim Phillips


Rock garden  photo by Bobby Ward


The woodland garden begins outside the front door


The rock garden is part of a long berm, bookended by a shady planting and a peony bed


Gorgeous Siberian iris in the rock garden


Visitors are dwarfed by specimen trees surrounding a huge koi pond, where hostas love to grow


Happy picnickers, photo courtesy Bobby Ward


Plant Sale at Raulston Blooms


The annual Piedmont Chapter plant sale April 26 and 27 was a great success!


Bryan Byers of Pine Knot Farms, Jim Hollister and Amelia Lane

We are so grateful for the generous donations by Tony Avent and all our members who shared special plants from their own gardens. Thanks also to the JC Raulston Arboretum, for allowing us space again this year at the exciting Raulston Blooms event.


Bobby Ward and Mitzi Hole

Fantastic leadership by Plant Sale Chair Jim Hollister, assisted by all the enthusiastic volunteers, made for a fun and profitable plant sale!


Chris Glenn catching up with Walt and Kathleen Thompson


Amelia Lane, Jay Yourch and Jim Hollister finish setting up


Jim Hollister, Nancy Doubrava and Barrett Elliott


NARGS Award Winner David Pulman


Piedmont Chapter members David Pulman and Jeremy Schmidt were announced this spring as winners of the NARGS 2024 Geoffrey Charlesworth Writing Prize for their article, Creating a Crevice Garden: A Shared Journey, published in the 2023 Winter issue of the NARGS Quarterly. 

David Pulman with his award certificate in the Georgia crevice garden created with Jeremy Schmidt

The Geoffrey Charlesworth Prize is given annually for the best article in the Rock Garden Quarterly. Congratulations to David and Jeremy! 


NARGS Award Winner Richard Lane


Piedmont Chapter member and NARGS Treasurer Richard Lane was presented with the NARGS Award of Merit by Bobby Ward at the March 16 meeting.

Bobby Ward presents the NARGS Award of Merit to Richard Lane

This award is given to persons who have made outstanding contributions to rock and alpine gardening and to the North American Rock Garden Society, Congratulations Richard!


Scott Zona’s Open Garden


Members of the Piedmont Chapter recently enjoyed touring the garden of our April speaker, Scott Zona. On a cool, rainy day, the rock garden was still singing with color, texture and even a hummingbird or two. Thank you Scott! 

Plant List for Scott Zona Garden



Scott Zona with Jim and Gloria Jahnke, enjoying the garden despite the weather photo by Nancy Doubrava




Marian Stephenson Appreciation Day


Char Thomann presents Marian with a trough from Lasting Impressions and a bouquet in Marian’s beautiful garden.  Photo by Ruth Little

Saturday, April 20, 2024 was designated Marian Stephenson Appreciation Day by the Piedmont Chapter. Bobby Ward spoke about her long service and twenty year tenure as newsletter editor:


The Piedmont Chapter was founded in 1985 and notice of early irregular meetings was communicated by post cards, flyers, or mention in the old Saturday garden section of the News & Observer, which used to include garden columns by Tony Avent and by Sandra Ladendorf, our chapter co-founder.

The first newsletter published regularly as The Trillium (vol. 1, no. 1) was by Bobby Ward using early desk top publishing software called PageMaker. The chapter had a contest to name the newsletter and provide a logo design and chapter member Thurman Maness of Pittsboro suggested the name and design of our original trillium logo. He received a one-year membership to the Piedmont Chapter. Bobby edited The Trillium from Jan. 1991 until July 2004, a total of 14 years. Then Marian Stephenson took over as editor in  Sept. 2004, and she added color in January 2006. She retired as editor in April 2024—a total of 20 years, publishing approximately 100 issues of our newsletter. In the first few years she had co-editor help from chapter member Dave Duch.

Marian brought color to The Trillium and took it into the 21st century with electronic publishing, thereby saving on postage and mailing costs, which Bobby Wilder, our treasurer, greatly appreciated.  She continued the tradition of highlighting articles by our upcoming speakers in each issue. Of all the chapters of NARGS in the U.S. and Canada, Marian has been the longest serving newsletter editor. In addition, Marian served a six-year term as chair of our chapter, during which time she and the board updated our by-laws and in 2004 she chaired the highly successful NARGS annual meeting that our chapter hosted in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. When the Piedmont Chapter celebrated its 30 anniversary in November 2015 with Panayoti Kelaidis, the current NARGS president as our guest speaker, Marian was recognized by our chapter and NARGS with the NARGS Award for Service given by chapter chair Charlie Kidder. 

We thank Marian Stephenson for her many years, contributing her time and talents to the Piedmont Chapter. As a token of our gratitude for her service we have a planted trough from “Lasting Impressions” by Amelia Lane and Beth Jimenez. We ask you here today and at home to give Marian a round of applause in appreciation for service to our chapter. 


Chapter member David White Receives NARGS Award

Cyndy Cromwell, NARGS Awards Chair, presents the Marvin E. Black Award to David White. Photo by Sandy Harwood

On April 20, David White was presented the NARGS Marvin E. Black Award. Established in 1990, this award is given to a member of the Society who excels at promoting membership in NARGS; organizing study weekends, national, and international meetings. They should also be involved in such activities as planning trips to study plants and to meet other plant people. The emphasis shall be placed on a member who has helped other people to reach their potential in the plant world.

December, 2023: Piedmont Chapter Members Pack Seed for NARGS Seedex

photo by Bobby Ward

Thanks to all who helped with this great project, and will receive an extra 10 seed packets in first round ordering! Ordering begins December 15. Check out the list and plan your order at the website – you must be a NARGS member to order.

Piedmont Chapter Member Open Garden

Chapter members enjoyed a wonderful visit to  Jay and Kim Yourch’s garden following the September 16 meeting. Lucky visitors toured almost three acres of tropicals, an extensive woody plant collection and lovely perennials, followed by refreshments, including homemade persimmon pudding. Thanks to our amazing hosts for a memorable visit!

Piedmont Chapter Picnic, 2023 

About thirty chapter members enjoyed delicious food in beautiful surroundings at Kyle and Mary Sonnenberg’s Sunny Mount Gardens. Thanks to the Sonnenbergs for hosting a memorable year end event!

Delicious spread!   with Sandy Harwood, Sandi Dabrowski and Roy Dick
Englemann’s daisies putting on a show
Happy picnickers at Kyle and Mary Sonnenberg’s Sunny Mount Gardens        

Piedmont Chapter Fern Table Workshop 

Piedmont Chapter members gathered recently for a fern table workshop on a chilly afternoon in March. We combined ferns and companion plants with stones, moss, cones and wood to make beautiful displays featuring our favorite fancy fronds.

Amelia used ferns, saxifrage and a variegated Brunnera
Marty with curved wood, ferns and seed pods
Juliette adding a very special eyelash fern, Actiniopteris australis
Sandi and Sharon consulting
Aparna and Sita
Sandi and Amelia
Marilyn used a fancy Rhodea

Photos from Piedmont Chapter’s Visit to Montrose Gardens

On Saturday, November 19, chapter members thoroughly enjoyed a perfect afternoon viewing Nancy Goodwin’s famous snowdrop plantings! Thanks to Nancy and our guides, Jen and Tom, for a memorable visit to this extraordinary garden.

Perfect warm afternoon to see the snowdrops with our guide, Jen
Rivers of large, fully open Galanthus elwesii v. monostictus flowed through the woodland
Nancy digging snowdrops for Bobby Ward, 2008
photo: Bobby Ward
Montrose snowdrops at their best

Photos from Piedmont Chapter’s Visit to the Bristol Briar Garden

Thanks Jeremy Schmidt and Meghan Fidler for a wonderful day visiting your extraordinary garden!

Did you miss the tour? Check out Jim Putnam’s video on his HortTube channel!

Open day at the Bristol Briar                                                              photo by Bobby Ward
Bristol Briar drone shot                                                                                photo by Jim Putnam
photo by Bobby Ward
photo by Bobby Ward
photo by Cheri Elliott
Jeremy Schmidt                                             photo by Cheri Elliott
Mark McClure                                                  photo by Cheri Elliott


Bobby Wilder, 1932-2022

Bobby Wilder at Montrose Gardens, 2013
photo by Bobby Ward

One of the Piedmont Chapter’s longest members, Bobby Wilder, died September 25, 2022, age 90.

Bobby attended the organizing meeting of our chapter in the fall of 1985, when he responded to a newspaper notice of a rock garden meeting in Chapel Hill that was organized by Edith Boyer, Nancy Goodwin, and Sandra Ladendorf. Sandra was elected first chair of our chapter and would go on to become national president of NARGS in 1990. That meeting was attended by 25 people and thus, Bobby became a founding member of the Piedmont Chapter of NARGS.

Bobby became our fourth chapter chair, serving from 1990 until 1993. In 1994 he took over as treasurer serving 20 years through 2014 until David White became treasurer. But Bobby continued to handle the membership records and email The Trillium to our membership.

Bobby served a two-year term on the NARGS board of directors in the mid-1990s and attended many national meetings in the United States and Canada, representing our chapter.

Our Piedmont Chapter has hosted five national meetings: in 1990, 1999, 2004, 2013, and 2017. Bobby served on the planning committee for each of those five meetings—volunteering in various capacities including registration, making name tags, and treasurer.

Over the decades, until recent years, he home-hosted scores of our chapter’s out-of-town speakers, who stayed overnight while visiting our chapter. Many were repeats from previous years—except one who found Bobby’s liquor cabinet after dinner guests had left and Bobby had gone to bed.

Bobby grew up in Johnston County, North Carolina, in the Corinth community. He served four years in the U.S. Navy, stationed initially at San Diego, and upon discharged earned a B.S. degree in Science Education at N.C. State University. He then taught science at Daniels High School in Raleigh for several years.

Bobby had a 43-year relationship with his partner, Jack Lamm, who died in 2001. Together, they co-owned a picture framing business on Dixie Trail in Raleigh, called Century Framing.

His health had been gradually declining during the Covid pandemic when he was unable to venture outside and it worsened with a collapsed lung this summer. He recovered from that and was in a rehab facility but making plans with his extended family to return home when he unexpectedly died.

The Piedmont Chapter has made a donation to the Bobby Wilder and Jack Lamm Horticultural Scholarship Endowment at NC State University in Bobby Wilder’s memory.

By Bobby Ward