September 24, 2013

Upon My Return

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.

Welcome, autumn!

22 comments:

  1. Right. Any time you travel during the growing season it is like you return to a different garden at home. All looks so fallish here. Welcome home.

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    1. Lisa, thanks. It is a little disorienting to go away and then come back to a changed scene.

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  2. How wonderful that you got away! And that shot of the mountains is stunning in its colors and fading forms! Autumn has kissed your garden in the most perfect way! Your photos are amazing lady! Enjoy your week back home in the garden!!

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    1. Nicole, I like how you say that autumn has kissed the garden --- love that!

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  3. I have always wanted to drive the complete Skyline Drive but fog or snow have prevented that. I grew up in the Green Mountains and just spent some time in the Big Horns... I totally agree that each of these ranges has their own personality and that the Smokeys stand as being particularly inviting.... Larry

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    1. Larry, We had dense fog the first day of our drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina. Thick, soupy, blinding fog that made the drive terrifying and obliterated all views. But day two, in the Virginia part of the mountains, we had nice weather, thank goodness.

      How great that you were just in the Big Horns -- few people visit that side of Wyoming. Special place.

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  4. Every year I get caught off guard when summer seems to turn to fall overnight. It nevers feels gradual-more like somebody flipped a switch.

    Did you enjoy the Biltmore? I've heard varying opinions. My garden group is considering North Carolina next year for the annual get together and will be looking for places to visit.

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    1. Sue, I sent you an e-mail with some suggestions for your group if you go to North Carolina -- hope it helps with your planning!

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  5. I feel the same way about the Smoky Mountains. They make my heart ache, and I don't know why. Any time I've ever visited, it was hard to say goodbye and leave. I love all the different seeds/hips/berries you captured. And those asters are fabulous!

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    1. Holley, there is just something so evocative about those blue, foggy, smoky mountains. I'm glad to know you feel the same way.

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  6. You just took the trip I'm hoping to take. Monticello, then the Biltmore if I can persuade my husband. He nixed it on our previous trip to Asheville as too expensive and not worth it! Is that true? Please say it was worth every penny!

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    1. Sarah, Monticello was totally worth it. I was blown away by the quality of the guided tours, especially the very open and informative slave tour which really helped us see how complex the relationship between enslaved people and Jeffferson's family was. Worth every penny.

      Asheville was great -- the NC arboretum is a gem, the city is cool, the place we stayed (Bent Creek Lodge, I recommended it heartily to Sue above) was so nice. We had a great time there. But the Bitmore Estate itself is waaay expensive, it's basically a $60 tour of a big hotel, over-decorated in Victorian style. Not my thing, and overpriced. The gardens were wonderful, though, and of course are included in that price. You'd enjoy those and can spend most of a day just walking the grounds. But I have to agree with your husband that the Biltmore house tour wasn't worth so many pennies.

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  7. I live in the flatlands but grew up in New York, so I miss mountains. We have hiked in the Bighorns. We used to drive west most summers when the kids were small (Judy spent her own childhood summers in and around Evanston, WY.) I have fond memories also of the the Uintas and the Wind River Range. I have never seen the Blue Ridge, though.

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    1. Jason, when my kids were small we went every summer to the Big Horn Mountains too. Fond memories. I hope you make it eventually to the Blue Ridge Mountains -- they are not to be missed! We had one day in total white-out fog, but a second day brought sun and lovely vistas. The road is hundreds of miles of winding beauty, especially the part through Shenandoah National Park.

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  8. Oh Monticello...I want to visit there one day....the Appalachians are stunning...they seem to go on and on like heaven. And autumn seems to have made a lovely visit to your garden.

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    1. Donna, I am very happy to welcome autumn to my garden. Here's hoping you get to Monticello when you are retired : )

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  9. What a wonderful trip you must have had! The Biltmore was on the top of my "bucket list", and I was so excited to see it last year. The house is amazing, but I agree the landscaping surrounding it is just as beautiful. I would love to visit Monticello, too. It's always nice to get back home, though, and what a lovely garden to come home to! Aren't blackberry lilies just the coolest thing in fall?

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    1. Rose, the best part about a trip is to come home! Especially after seeing really interesting sights that are so different in time and in style from my own home and garden.

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  10. How ironic – you were enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway (one of our favorite drives) while we were savoring our visit to friends in North Georgia's part of the Blue Ridge. Nice to come back to your own autumn, isn't it. Yours is beautiful. Enjoy.

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    1. Lee, It was my first ever visit to the Blue Ridge mountains and it was beautiful. N. Georgia must be just as stunning. What a drive we had!

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  11. You were so close! I love Skyline Drive. We like to drive up there to see the leaves, visit wineries, and get cider donuts. Monticello is a great place. I was just there a few weeks ago. Glad you had a great trip.

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    1. I figured we were near, and I know I passed near other bloggers when we got to Asheville. Such a great part of the country for gardeners! Monticello really impressed us, especially the really informative slave tour -- I got so much information. Monticello has been on my bucket list forever, so I was glad to finally see it.

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