Showing posts with label rhododendrons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rhododendrons. Show all posts

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Devil's Steps and the Eye of the Needle

The Devil's Steps Trail


After our visit to the site where the Sweet Pinesap grew, my friend Dr. Matt Klooster had to get back to his family, so he drove me off back to the Hemlock Lodge. It was a bit late for lunch at this point, but I had the rest of the afternoon ahead, so I went back out to explore more of the Natural Bridge park trails. The most challenging trail led back up the ridge to a place called the Devil's Steps on the left, flanked by the Eye of the Needle on the right.

The Eye of the Needle

Although it had stopped raining during the night, as I climbed up the hill I noticed there was a good deal of run-off filtering down through the sheer limestone cliffs, making virtual waterfalls in some places. I reached the place where the trail forked and saw there were many steps going up either side. Upon closer examination, I decided it would be smarter to ascend up the Devil's Steps-- harder work, but since the trail seemed wetter, footing would be easier going up hill. Once on the ridge, I could walk around and descend from the Eye of the Needle, which seemed to have less run-off.


Going up the Devil's Steps
Looking down

It was hard work getting up all those steps, but the spectacular views and the pockmarked cliffsides were more than enough reward. I can't imagine what it must take to maintain a trail like this... There were quite a lot of folks on the trail, thought the trail was wide enough only to allow passage single file. I gave priority to those coming down, especially some who had young children with them.

Hikers descending the Devil's Steps

Last stage of the Devil's Steps

I held my breath as I saw this young couple going down those slick rock steps carrying their toddler...
They made it in one piece, whew! Then it was my turn to start up.  Looking down this chute from the top was incredible.

Looking down

Once on the ridge it was easy going. There was more Trailing Arbutus growing on the rocky ledges among the rhododendrons. The Eye of the Needle could not be seen while standing on the ridge, only the steps leading down showed the way.

Trailing Arbutus among Rhododendrons

Coming down from the Eye of the Needle

Eye of the Needle steps

After the Devil's Steps, these steps seemed tame by comparison, and I was glad these were much drier. I was all tuckered out by the time I got back to the lodge in the late afternoon, but happy to have accomplished my purpose. I only hoped my photos of the Sweet Pinesap had turned out well enough to be usable for my paintings.

Eye of the Needle steps

This would be my last hike here, as I would be leaving early tomorrow morning for the seven and a half hour drive back home. I felt a great sense of accomplishment, and to have hiked such a beautiful site as Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky was an extra bonus. I hope to return some day, perhaps when the Rhododendron maximum is is bloom.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Spring Garden

Dawn and Dusk.

This year my spring garden has been more floriferous than ever. My climbing 'New Dawn' rose and clematis 'Etoile Violette' on the porch are looking even fuller than last year! Other plantings that were just getting established last year are starting to come into their own, like this old-fashioned iris my mother used to grow in her garden. It may not be as showy as the newer varieties, but its wonderful perfume, which many of the other varieties lack, more than makes up for it.

Old-fashioned iris

With such warm weather during the winter the grape hyacinths bloomed early, although the new batch I planted last fall (a mixture of several varieties) didn't bloom until late April, along with the Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides). The new pink dogwood in the background complemented the soft blues beautifully.

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) with pink dogwood

The rhododendron planted on our first spring here (I've forgotten the variety, probably 'Yaku Princess') finally put out a few blossoms this year, though the leaves sustained a lot of winter damage. I hope that now that it's getting more shade it will continue to improve. In this alkaline soil, it's hard to grow acid-loving plants such as azaleas and rhododrendrons.

Rhododendron 'Yaku Princess'

The 'Admiral Semmes' azalea planted last year didn't put out much bloom his year, it will need more time to get going. I had expected the flowers to be yellow, but the soft peach color is as lovely as the fragrance (It's a cross between the southern Azalea austrinum and Exbury hybrids).

'Admiral Semmes' azalea

Clematis

I had ordered a metal arbor structure for the clematis that my sister Bea gave me last year but
I've been having trouble assembling it, so the poor vine is just leaning against a couple of bamboo stakes at the moment. Lovely flowers, though I can't remember the exact variety-- it looks like it might be 'Nellie Moser'.

The east bed

The Japanese maples on the east side of the house are growing nicely. Recently I put in two new native trees--a sourwood (Oxydenrum arboreum) to shade the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia caroliniana) partly visible on the left in this photo, and a honey locust in the back yard. The trees came bare-root and the recent rainy spell has helped the locust to start budding out, but the sourwood appears to be dead--I may have to call the nursery where it was bought to replace it.

Irises and Double Knockout rose

The front walk.

The irises in the front didn't perform as well this year--perhaps they need to be given a bit more room to spread? But the general tapestry by the front walk is finally starting to look as I had envisioned. The expansion and consolidation of the backyard beds continues, with two new shrubs: a Fothergilla gardenii and a Blue Mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue').



Today, I have quite a number of annuals and a couple of perennials to plant, so I'm off to toil in the garden. Happy springtime, dear friends!