Living in the Southern Appalachian
mountains is an affair of the heart.
And in my case, at least, it is rooted in past
generations of family living on the French Broad River (Asheville)
in the 1790’s, moving westward to the Pigeon, Little Tennessee
and Hiwassee River valleys.
Love of the mountains is
not enough to enable someone to make a living from mountain
soil, though; you must have a vision.
That came to me in June of 1977 on a providential
hike along the Appalachian Trail.
The flame azaleas, mountain laurel and rhododendron
were in full bloom on the trail where it encircles the Nantahala
Kalmia seedling bed
As we began the hike along
Kimsey Creek, we were greeted by the familiar low elevation
Rosebay Rhododendron that was already in bloom.
Above Deep Gap, we found another native rhododendron,
the purple Rhododendron Catawbiense.
Once on top, the high ridge of 5500 foot Standing
Indian was dominated by the orange blooming Flame Azalea in
the understory. It was a surprise and delight to see such
a magnificent display.
As we continued down the spine of Standing Indian,
the ridge became more rocky and was soon dominated by Mountain
Laurel, yet another of the mountain heaths. Seeing such a grand
display gave the inspiration to grow the plants of the coves and
mountains of the region.