A few years into the Orchard stewardship, co-founder Judy Carson and naturalist Elizabeth Hunter planted a butterfly garden in memory of Jan McKinney Conley, a friend who had recently died. Over the decades, this small plot of showy flowers saw very good and equally bad times but always held forth to provide the butterfly and honeybee a plentiful stopping over point.
In March of 2021, the Orchard experienced a loss with the death of Judy; memories of her good work and heart were abundant. In August, under the guidance of landscape architect, Marianne Cicala, we began culling the old and dying, cutting back the overgrowth, freeing the buried, hidden, pulling weeds, and planting new. Now in the spring of 2022, new monarch-friendly plants are poking up in the space (twice the original size) and along paths for walking and reading, benches for waiting and wishing, and views to rival the back deck scenery. It will be an exquisite, educational journey (interpretive signs and plant labels provide useful information) into not only helping to do our part to save the planet, but to continue our mission to “save the good stuff.”
Preserving the natural environment is an important part of our mission and monarch butterflies continue to top that list. Elizabeth Hunter, writer, teacher, and mentor got us started. She wondered if monarchs could coexist in a traditional, carefully controlled, chemical (albeit far fewer than in most commercial orchards) apple orchard. Enlisting cofounders Kit Trubey and Judy Carson, the trio soon discovered the answer was YES.

The Orchard is a natural home of milkweed, the larval host plant for monarchs. Female monarchs lay eggs only on the underside of milkweed leaves. The three women soon planted a flower garden with Monarch-attractive flowers that would fuel their annual migration to over-winter in Mexico. They trained the orchard field crew to preserve the milkweed and the store staff to collect the eggs and nurture them through their amazing life cycle of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

The butterfly "punches through" and dries out from its chrysalis birth, tests its new wings, and flies away. Those born in September, generally the 6th generation of the year, fly all the way to Mexico, more than 1,500 miles from the Orchard, where they spend the winter. Hunter introduced us to Monarch Watch where we trained in the art of tagging the migrating butterflies. Over the years, six of the hundreds the Orchard has tagged have been found in Mexico at the migration site.

Although nationally, monarch numbers are back on the rise (especially the western monarch) after a downslide and then huge decrease in 2018, Orchard numbers have continued to decrease. Climate change is said to be one of the mitigating factors, but the good news is that the monarch seems to be adapting to the fluctuation. And with the rejuvenation of the butterfly garden and the hundreds of pollinator-friendly flowers, we plan on reversing that downward trend.

Our monarch butterfly preservation project was featured in Blue Ridge Country Magazine article by naturalist and Orchard volunteer Elizabeth Hunter. Please take a moment and read the article,  “Saving the Good Stuff”. 

Learn more about monarch butterflies.



AND . . .

Once buried among the overgrowth in the now People's Pollinator Garden, the iris’, black-eyed Susans, milkweed, and fennel as well as butterfly bushes at the original entrance have been released from their weedy graves. The additions will not only offer nectar for the butterflies but serve as host plants and food for other pollinators with pawpaw, aster, coneflower, Russian sage, verbena, zinnias. When the herb portion is completed, dill, oregano and parsley will add to the existing fennel.
Wind chimes high in the trees will serenade both visitors and critters. Tags identify the varieties and iinterpretive signage "talk" to the Orchard's ecosystem. And overlooking the red barn will be a memorial bench for Judy, her smiling face and sparkling eyes shining down on and welcoming visitors to come and share the Orchard's magic of the monarchs.









We would like to thank . . .

We would like to thank the following businesses for their generous donations of time and plants. Please support their efforts to save the good stuff for the peoples in our and surrounding communities.

3 pawpaw trees ~ Lilly Patch Farm
Tree removal etc. ~ Affordable Tree Service
Assorted plants ~ LakeView Garden Center

The volunteers ~ Paul Allen, Bob Ammann, George & Jackie Brothers, James Cooper, Diane Edwards, Denise Hoebeke, Cheryl Kelton, Andrea Laine, John & Karen McRae, Ellen Miller, Gailya & George Walter

And a special thank you to Marianne Cicala for helping us realize Judy's dream


1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)



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The Orchard General Fund
$23,683.00 Raised: $30,000.00 Goal:
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