A Garden of Pink Lady Slipper Orchids

The rarest wildflower I’ve ever found in the woods within a half mile of the house is a Pink Lady Slipper Orchid. Seven years ago, I came upon two plants in bloom about a quarter mile to the north, almost totally hidden by Mountain Laurel shrubs. The following year, I found one plant blooming in the same place, but since then, nothing there. Last May I was pleasantly surprised to discover six plants just thirty yards into the woods next to my carport. One bloomed, and I knew that this May, I might find more.

This morning I went into the woods as we returned from our walk, and there they were. I counted six orchids in bloom, seven in the process, and a number more just sprouting. As they say, “Good things come to those who wait…”.

Asheville’s Sunset Mountain

Asheville in mid April four years ago.

Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog

Above the iconic Grove Park Inn, a labyrinth of narrow drives and precipitous switchbacks hides a collection of mansions that would rival anything found in California or the Italian Riviera. Clinging to hillsides so steep that many are invisible as you traverse the storybook lanes, these dowagers also are surrounded by gardens of evergreens and blooming shrubs that have been nurtured for decades to appear as though Mother Nature did all the work.  Mid-April is traditionally the peak of Azalea and Dogwood season in the Mountains, and there’s no better place to observe this annual show than along these winding roads on Sunset Mountain.  Here are images made on April 18th, showing just a fraction of the overall beauty just waiting to be appreciated by the curious visitor.

Sunset Mountain Asheville Azaleas

Sunset Mountain Asheville Wysteria Dogwood and Wisteria

sunset mountain asheville castlesunset mountain asheville azaleas 5Sunset Mountain Asheville Iris 1Sunset Mountain Asheville Iris 2

Sunset Mountain Asheville azalea garden A Garden walkway with Japanese Maple

sunset mountain asheville azaleas vistasunset mountain asheville dogwood

This 50 second video gives a more three dimensional view…

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Clear Horizon at Montford Cove

Four years ago.. worth a revisit…

Living in The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina- A Blog

After four inches of rain on Sunday and Monday, a passing front cleared the air and lowered the humidity to winter levels. The clarity of the mountain views was remarkable for late April. Montford Cove is a farming community a mile north of my home. This is one of my favorite vantage points anywhere along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. This image was made looking to the southeast, with Tryon Mountain in the far distance along the North and South Carolina border. Charlotte would be just over the mountain on the left.

Montford Cove toward Tryon MountainLooking toward the southwest toward Lake Lure…montford cove toward Lake Lure

That’s Tryon and Bill’s Mountains on the horizon with Oak Mountain to the right. New Spring leaves give the canopy a rich glow of every shade of green. Visibility was unlimited.montford cove toward Tryon and Oak Mountains

This was a similar view just three weeks ago…montford cove view of Tryon Mountain

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Springtime Greening of my Mountains

Other than the colors of Fall, my favorite time in the mountains happens when all the deciduous trees are sprouting new leaves at the same time, painting the slopes and valleys every shade of green you could imagine. A trip around my neighborhood at noon today bares this out.

Ten minutes south of me is Apple Valley Golf Club, with views of Rumbling Bald and Shumont Mountains.

Five minutes south of me is a gravel road called Mountain Way, which leads to one of my favorite overlooks of 3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain.

View from my deck at noon…

By the end of April, there will only be one green, dark, blending in with the pines and spruces for the upcoming summer.

Historic Myers Park in Charlotte

After finishing their monumental design for the forest and gardens of Biltmore in Asheville, the Frederick Law Olmstead firm was commissioned to designed Charlotte’s first planned suburb, Dilworth, at the turn of the 20th century. With the success of Dilworth, a large farm just to the east was the next area to become a “Streetcar Suburb”, close to the center of Charlotte. Owned by the Myers family, the farm would be called “Myers Park”, and the first homes were constructed in 1911. Designed by Harvard trained landscape architect, John Nolen, Myers Park’s curvy avenues followed the contours of the hilly land, and featured parks, a country club and golf course, gates, and the expanded campus for Queen’s College, an all female liberal arts school. The design concepts Nolen executed in Myers Park forever changed the concept of suburban planning in Charlotte. Few suburbs in the United States have exhibited this level of planning. The neighborhood’s planning was so significant that it became a model for surrounding cities and saw the rise of many southern landscape artists, who went on to plan hundreds of neighborhoods across the south inspired by Myers Park.

Charlotte had become the leading textile manufacturing city in America, and the wealthy owners of these large corporations chose to build their mansions in Myers Park. Today, that original district is on the National Register of Historic Places, designated as a historic neighborhood in 1995. The architecture in the district is a mix of Colonial Revival, Bungalow, American Craftsmen, and English Tudor. Each property features professionally designed gardens, and there’s no better time to appreciate their incredible beauty than in Spring, when the Azaleas, Dogwood, and Japanese Maples are in full display.

The Duke Mansion 1916
The Duke Mansion Dogwoods

Pink Dogwood

This small cottage, a later addition to the district, was one of my favorites…

A Very Late Spring along The Escarpment

A Spring storm moved through over the weekend, bringing heavy rain and wind, but when the fog lifted and the Sun came out, the mountains of northern Rutherford and southern McDowell counties had barely begun to show any color except for the early greens of trees reluctantly pushing out their first leaves. The Bradford Pears had already come and gone, but the Dogwood were only showing buds, and the cherries and apples and most other trees that normally would have been in full bloom by this time, were still dormant. With very cold temps in early April, not even the Hummingbirds had arrived, the latest that has happened since I moved here twelve years ago. The Redbud bloom was late, and is still visible in the woods. Here is what I found as I toured within five miles of my valley.

3,100 foot Hickory Nut Mountain
Along Tight Run Road
Long Mountain in Montford Cove
Greasy Creek Farm under Oak Mountain
Sheep Grazing
Historic Log Cabin under Brushy Top Mountain
One early Bloomer
A Dogwood in Bud
Wolf Pen Mountain

This is a photo of Hickory Nut Mountain from three years ago, made in early April.

North Rutherford County Mountains

During the pandemic, cabin fever requires that I make short jaunts to places that inspire me near the house. One of my favorites is about five miles south, along a dirt road that hugs a ridge where I get an amazing view of the mountains that surround my valley, and the ridges in southern McDowell County just north of me. Only three houses are along this seldom used dead end gravel road, and I’ve never encountered another car on my visits there. Thanks to a clear cutting of the area just below the road in 2019, the views are limitless, and yesterday was especially clear, with winter forests still dominating the distant slopes.

Entering from the paved road, I was greeted by this Forsythia bush at the first home…

This panoramic view of the entire area always gives me goose bumps…

3,000 foot Hickory Nut Mountain to the northwest…

Pinnacle Peak to the northeast…

Cove Creek Valley to the northeast

Looking East
Loblolly Pine

Sometimes you just have to listen to the words of Robert Frost, and take the road less traveled. That can make all the difference…

First Signs of Spring around Otter Creek

With the first storm of Spring, five inches of rain fell on the Valley this week. Much needed.

The Bradford Pears are about two weeks later than last year…

Daffodils just emerged this week…

The Trout Lily is the first wildflower to arrive…

Next comes the Blood Root, a Cherokee medicine staple…

The Corn field in the bottomland along Otter Creek has been plowed…

Otter Creek was swollen by the rains, but Buddy never noticed…

Spring Skiing at Sugar Mountain

In a banner year for snow in the high country, almost seven feet of snow fell after the middle of December, and when you add to that all the manmade white stuff, that leaves quite a lot of snow on the slopes at Sugar Mountain, even for mid March. Hoping to make my last run of the season, my friend and I went early on March 10th to be the first to come down on the newly groomed slopes. Unfortunately, the slopes had not been groomed from the day before, where warm temperatures made for slushy runs. Because the temperatures had dropped way below freezing the night before, the slopes were a sheet of treacherous ice, not conducive for an intermediate, once a season skier like me. I made a run anyway, and got to the bottom without falling, but that was it for me. My friend being a snowboarder, and having skied three times already this season, made six runs from the mile high summit. We would have waited until the afternoon thaw, but he had to get back to Marion to pick up his seven year old son from school. I didn’t mind a bit.

For what it’s worth, here is a short video from the morning...

Late Winter on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cruising west toward the Blue Ridge Parkway on I-40, the Black Mountains loomed large on the horizon

At the 3,000 foot level, the sky was even more blue…

Opposite the view above, the rugged ridgetop was the perfect home to Pine trees…

At the 4,000 foot level, this ice wall was a dramatic reminder that this area is the main Watershed district for Asheville and much of western North Carolina…

At the 4,500 foot level, Craggy Gardens, usually crowded with tourist hiking to the Rhododendron Gardens in late May, had a few hardy visitors, some who chose to climb to the summit of Craggy Peak, in spite of near freezing temperatures.

Looking toward the east, the Asheville Reservoir was a deep blue, and the Piedmont Plateau was clearly visible over the Eastern Continental Divide and the mountains along the Blue Ridge Escarpment…

Toward the northwest, the suburbs of Asheville far below, contrast with the wall of mountains along the Tennessee border…

Climbing to the 5,500 foot level below Mt. Mitchell’s 6,700 peak, a wildfire above the reservoir added blue smoke to an already blue natural haze…

At this level, the bare winter forest is replaced by Balsam Spruce and Douglas Fir to mimic the Canadian mountains a thousand miles to the north…

Moving past Mt. Mitchell, the Canadian forest gave way to the bare woods below 3,500 feet. Looking toward the east, the colorless ridges of the Pisgah National Forest framed the mountains north of Lake Lure…

This Skeleton Tree was a fitting site to end a remarkable drive on America’s most scenic roadway.