(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 29, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions or comments.)
Last summer I attended a business conference at beautiful Lake Junaluska near Asheville, North Carolina. This was my first trip to the south and I didn't quite know what to expect. I arrived at 10:00 p.m. and the shuttle driver mentioned I was missing out on the beauty of the Blue Ridge and Smoky mountains as we drove on in the dark. I was completely knackered so I just nodded and gave one of those "Yeah's?" which more or less meant "That's nice, please let me rest."
The next morning I was able to appreciate his words a bit more. I arrived a day before the conference actually started so I could be tourist for a day. My oh my is this area beautiful! Breathtaking would be a better word. I walked the entire trail that surrounds the lake. It is 2 ½ miles and such a walk would normally take a half-hour; it took me three hours.
The first thing I did was descend an embankment to get to the lower end of the path more quickly. As I did this I stopped every few feet to notice the rose cleome growing, the bumble bees swarming the purple Salvia near a pine tree, and what's that over there? What a beautiful Oxalis! It turns out the Oxalis was everywhere which wasn't a surprise since in this climate it would very much be a weed but not to me. I love Oxalis and the flowers on this specimen were exquisite. I looked for seed heads but there weren't any.
Before I reached the path at the bottom I discovered a multitude of flowers growing. I was particularly enamored by all the Cranesbills that were growing here, there and everywhere. This is a plant I grow in Arizona but should not because it is way too warm. These Cranesbills were so healthy and received a fair amount of light. I actually felt like I was being cruel to allow my struggling specimens to languish in the heat trying desperately to survive. Perhaps I should pack them up and send them to someone in Zone 8 where they belong.
Once I started down the path at the bottom, I discovered so much more. Hollyhocks were growing EVERYWHERE! Most of the plants appeared to be starting their first season so there were no blooms. Others were finishing their second and final season and had seed heads. As I noticed all the open pods, the plant seemed to call out to me. "Won't you come and partake in the bounty of seeds I have provided?" "I don't mind if I do, thank you!" I just so happened to have a small paper bag with me. I planted these seeds in the autumn and they are growing nicely.
Continuing on, I took delight in the blooms of a giant hibiscus and a multitude of so many other plants. Just when I thought it could not get any better I discovered the rose walk. Planted along a very long stretch of path were rose bushes as far as the eye could see. It turns out there were 240 of the most beautiful rose varieties one could ever hope to encounter. I placed my nose into the blooms of every single one of those rose bushes. Some had deep, rich fragrances, others were sweet and subtle while others were incredibly gorgeous but had no fragrance at all. Each variety had attributes all their own.
I took a break and marveled as people walked by all these roses without even stopping to have a quick peak at all the beauty right there beside them. How incredible I thought to myself. For every ten people that would walk by maybe two would stop and - for lack of better words - smell the roses. I wanted to shout out. "These are so beautiful! Please stop and take a moment to enjoy them."
I would be willing to bet that those that stopped for a moment to admire the beauty of the roses were gardeners. I cannot think of a single gardener that would not make it a point to stop and enjoy all of the beauty that is around them when they travel to a new destination. There seems to be an inescapable curiosity deep within that allows us to seek out what is growing in another part of the world. We take delight when we see a plant that we too have growing in our own gardens. When we see something we DON'T have and believe we can grow it, the temptation is great to sneak a seed or two. So it has been since the very first gardener decided to make something of their bit of earth.
I share this story with you to encourage you to take time to discover and enjoy. There is a whole world of beauty out there just waiting for someone to stop and appreciate it.
All Images are courtesy of and used with permission from Robert Ludlow. I would like to thank Robert for his kind and generous nature and allowing me to use his breathtaking images for this article.