extraordinary beauty with whatever medium you choose. And, between the snows, the ordinary dense foliage is reduced to a state that allows
some comprehension of its makeup. The evergreens dominate the scene even though the extent of the deciduous growth is much greater. The bare trunks and branches of those trees become the feature, with an infinite variety of patterns and shapes. The holly trees, hemlocks, pines and spruces have their day of recognition. Now, the small leaf of the mountain laurel and the large leaf of the rhododendron can be easily distinguished. The ground mosses seem to glow with green luminescence. All this growth enhances the hollows and ridges of the mountains so, that on those crystal clear days, you feel the bones of the mountains themselves are revealed.
Spring seems to trickle in like the myriad of tiny springs and branches around us. Yet the flow is up slope, slowly gaining elevation as the air warms. The hard, sharp surfaces of winter yield to the softness of the pastels of flower and tree buds and blooms. An unbelievable variety of violets appear. Yellow, large and small whites, and blue to deep violets. Larger white flags of bloodroot and trilliums compete for attention. The buds of the maples wash the ridges with a blush of rouge.
After the show of white of the service berry and dogwood trees of March and April, comes the exotic white blooms of the mountain laurel in May. By June, the show of whites is further enhanced with the opening of the blooms of the rhododendron. The warming temperatures prevent any regret of the enclosing canopy of new leaf growth. Shadows are welcomed during the heat of the day as they will be all summer long.
Summer comes with a rush of overwhelming growth. The competition for light and space produces plant growth possessed with the energy of the tropics. Still, blooming plants can be found in the growing shadows. If you don't see them first, you can hear the attention they have drawn from the insects bent on their share of the sweets they offer. Bird life too explodes as migrants return and begin their competition for territory. The quietness of the two previous seasons gives way to the lift of bird song and the constancy of insect hum. “Lazy summer” has no meaning in this world. This is the season when “smoky mountains” does have meaning. Think of it as the smoke from an industry of plant and animal activity.
Mountain fall harvest is a gathering of colors that come in waves, exploiting the enormous variety of trees. First, there are the reds of the dogwoods, sumacs, and the Blackgum. Then the yellows of the birches, cherries, and poplars slide down the slopes. Next, the splash of the reds and oranges of the maples take over. Then the deep reds of the oaks are all around you. Finally, that red yields to the deep wine of the white oaks. And it's not just in the tree leaves, but flowers as well. The fruits of the summer growth include an abundance of showy large flowering plants such as Joe Pye Weed, New York Iron Weed, Cardinal Flower, and numerous sunflowers. The bounty that is available is such that every year there is much speculation as to whether the upcoming harvest will equal that of previous years, and a listing of all the reasons for a forecast one way or the other - testimony to the attention such riches bring. The crisp cool nights seem to match perfectly the crunch of the fallen leaves. Nighttime fires are a must. Daytime visibility is superb so it's easy to see the march of color down the higher mountain slopes. Rainfall is minimal so most every day seems near perfection.