With the last days of summer waning and autumn’s vibrant reds and oranges dotting the landscape, I find myself slightly nostalgic for the summer blooms that greeted me upon my arrival in Asheville. I invite you to join me as I take one last look back at some of the beauties that I stumbled upon…sometimes quite literally.
When I first arrived in the spring, I was greeted with the North Carolina state flower, the dogwood. At first, I was perplexed that the state flower was actually a tree, but however you want to classify this darling, she blanketed spring with her abundant, white blossoms. North Carolina folklore says that the flowering dogwood tree once stood straight and tall, and for these qualities it was chosen as the cross for Jesus Christ. This horrified the tree, so it was transformed into its current slender, twisted shape.
At the beginning of summer, all the highways were lined with fields of red poppies. Turns out that red poppies are the official emblem of remembrance of the American Legion. The poppies were planted by the N.C. Department of Transportation in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I and in memory of servicemen and women killed during the war. This was a spectacular commemoration and constant reminder of WWI veterans.
Near the end of a long hike at Shining Rock, I came upon a couple, Tom and his wife, who were tending to the wilderness trail. They have spent their free time for over 20 years making sure that hikers have a recognizable trail, but leaving nature as intact as possible. At various points on the trail, water would trickle down and cross the path making it somewhat slippery, therefore putting me (the klutz) on high alert to watch my footing. If not for Tom, I might have missed the very delicate, feathered mountain orchid. He informed me that an orange variety can often be found growing in the spots where the water trickles down the mountain, but the purple ones are very rare. I spent a moment soaking in the allure of this exquisite flower that I almost missed.
In stark contrast to the delicate beauty above, the next flower I encountered screamed out to be noticed. It was clearly a hydrangea, but left untouched by man it had grown to an enormous size on what appeared to be an oak tree. Thanks to Google, I discovered it was an oak leaf hydrangea…a very large one…with a snow-white bloom much bigger than my hand.
While touring the campus of Mars Hill University, I strolled by this lovely, pink hibiscus bush. Its tropical feel seemed out of place in the mountains, but it appeared to be thriving.
One of my favorite flowers in the stargazer lily – either you love them or hate them – I love the way they look and smell. I first noticed what appeared to be gigantic Easter lilies growing near my home. My first thought was that I had been fooled all these years by the slogan “Everything is bigger in Texas”. But later as the blooms unfolded on the six-foot tall plants, I came to realize it was just another flower that I had never seen in the wild.
As the days grow shorter and cooler, one last cluster of black-eye susans fights to show off their colors against the stormy skies.
As one season ends and another begins, I am reminded that each part of the year comes with unique challenges and blessings. The changing of the seasons make me more fully aware that everything is in motion, life is ever changing, and paradoxically the repeating cycle is familiar. I experienced the budding of life in spring and the beautiful flowers of summer. Now the leaves will begin to change color and fall from the trees, reinforcing the impermanence of all things, but promising the familiar chill and restful times of winter to follow. I am thankful for all the people, places and things that I stumbled upon during my first spring and summer in Asheville. I gratefully journey towards the adventures that fall and winter will bring.