We have been away. We took a driving trip to visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home and garden in Virginia, and we went to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina to see not just the ostentatious house the Vanderbilts constructed, but the glorious landscape created by Frederick Law Olmsted.
Those created scenes and tended gardens paled in comparison to nature's glory on display as we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, through the Great Smoky Mountains.
Something about those layers of misty mountains rippling in the distance makes my heart stop. I have seen the Rocky Mountains and I have traveled through the Swiss Alps. I have ridden horses in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and I have spent a lot of time in the Green Mountains of Vermont, but those smoky blue ridges of the Appalachians make my soul ache. I don't know why.
Upon our return after a wonderful week on the road, I discovered fall had arrived in my own patch of the world. It is now late September and autumn wants us to know it.
White wood asters, wild purple asters and goldenrod announce the season in the meadow. This past summer the normally rampant Queen Anne's Lace was nowhere to be seen for some reason, and that was odd, but the asters have not disappointed. They are appearing everywhere.
Shiny black jewels of seedpods have formed on the blackberry lilies.
The flowering dogwood now has red berries and the leaves are turing russety. Later in autumn the leaves will be fiery red all over the whole tree.
Rosa glauca has lost most of its gray blue leaves, but now, in early fall, it has big candy orange hips on its spindly branches.
The seedpods on false indigo are odd. In early fall they turn shiny charcoal black, and they rattle when you shake the branch, with a satisfying clatter. This baptisia is a vase shaped, arching white one, Baptisia pendula 'Alba'.
'Orange Dream' Japanese maple is very coppery bronze colored when the leaves emerge in spring, then turns light green all summer. But when fall arrives, it goes all orange again, and you can't beat the combination of the leaves against a blue sky on a September afternoon.
The pretty pink fall anemone, 'Robustissima' finished blooming while we were away on our trip. When I got home, all I could see were the spent flower stalks, but I like the way they look.
It's always good to go away, see awesome new places, and then return to the place that is home. So much is familiar after the exotic new sights, and yet so much changes in that short time.