We spent this week in Gatlinburg, TN, enjoying the beautiful colors that autumn painted across the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was gorgeous.
The condominium we rented was just a five minute walk from the main street that winds through town, which gave us easy access to great food and entertainment. The condo also had all the comforts of home, so it made for a nice oasis when we wanted to escape all the tourist-traps that line the downtown area of Gatlinburg.
We arrived on Monday afternoon, so we didn’t do much besides walking around and eating dinner. We did manage a ride on the chairlift that overlooks the town, but I made the mistake of looking at how our “chair” was attached to the cable and spent the remainder of the ride with sweaty palms and a prayer on the lips.
Tuesday morning, we got dressed and went to stand in line at the famous Log Cabin Pancake House. Thankfully, they got us in quickly and we enjoyed an amazing breakfast complete with peanut butter for my pancakes. Yum!
Later in the day, we drove into the mountains and burned off a few calories by taking a half-mile hike to Clingman’s Dome. I had to stop to rest a few times during the steep climb, but I managed to get to the top for the amazing view. Even though it was breathtakingly beautiful, it was also sad to see all of the spruce and fir trees that have died due to pollution and insects.
On Wednesday we traveled to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. It is the largest home in the United States with 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms. It was something to see, but it was hard to miss the absurdity of it all. The gardens that surround the home are absolutely gorgeous, and although it was quite windy, the weather afforded us a wonderful opportunity to explore some of them.
Thursday was our last full day in Tennessee, so we decided to take things easy. We visited the Log Cabin Pancake House again for breakfast, then just relaxed until our dinner reservations at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it was great fun! The evening started off with entertainment from a bluegrass band, then we entered the main arena for dinner and a show. The food was very good, but served without utensils. Thankfully, they provided warm, wet hand towels afterwards. The entertainment was fantastic and funny. Dolly appeared via video at the end to sing a patriotic song, and even though I am not too keen on that sort of thing, I teared up a little at the sentimentality of it all. It was a great way to conclude our vacation.
I was unfamiliar with Sedum until I noticed some coming up in a flower bed here three years ago. The light green buds open to pale pink flowers that darken in the weeks leading up to cold weather.
I stumbled upon this Black Diamond Red Hot crape myrtle at Lowe’s a few weeks ago and immediately knew I had to have it. I love the contrast between the bright red flowers and the almost black leaves. I can easily see this becoming one of my favorite plants.
My former neighbor gave me this Bluebird Rose of Sharon tree for my birthday earlier this year. Although the blooms are more purple than blue, it makes a nice addition to our landscape.
Another one of my favorites, the Surprise Lilies were out in full force a couple of weeks ago. Although the blooms don’t last long, they are always a treat when they seem to spring from the ground and bloom virtually overnight.
Since I’m trapped in the house today by rain, I thought I might share some of the photos of plants around our lawn that I have taken over the summer.
The beautiful orange flowers on this plant attract a multitude of butterflies – which is certainly why it is commonly called “Butterfly Weed.” It’s actual name is Asclepias tuberosa and it is a native perennial plant in our part of the country. Several of these popped up during our first summer here, but I have transplanted most of them to more suitable locations in the yard.
These double orange lilies were another gift from the previous owners of our property. I find them much more interesting than the standard variety of lilies.
I planted this purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) a few months ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed the long-lasting blooms. I hear the birds love to harvest the seeds from the round heads during the winter.
Honey and I purchased and planted this October Glory Red Maple tree in the fall of 2011. It has grown by leaps and bounds, and has the most glorious red leaves in late autumn.
Another tree that I planted the first year we moved here (2010). I got it for half of its original price because it was during a hot, dry summer. The ground was so hard I had to use a pickaxe to get it planted, but I kept it watered and it has become one of my favorite trees.
I stumbled upon this Admiration Barberry (Agracejo Admiration) at a local garden center a few months ago and fell in love. Each burgundy-red leaf is rimmed with a chartreuse green, which makes for a wonderful combination.
Another gift from Bessie, these two crape (or crepe) myrtles were among the largest I had ever seen when we purchased our home. Knowing little about them, I committed the dreadful sin of “crape murder” a couple of years ago by trimming them down to about 6 feet tall. Thankfully, they have recovered nicely and put on a fantastic display this year. I absolutely adore the contrast in color between the purple and pink. It’s like having a firework display in your yard that lasts several weeks!