Friday, May 8, 2015

The melodic beauty of my Appalachian spring

Solomon's Seal is a native that blooms in April and May

The ballet score Appalachian Spring won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945, and remains one of the most inspiring works in American history.

But composer Aaron Copeland didn’t have mountains or forests in mind when he started working on the orchestral suite in 1942.

He initially called the score “Ballet for Martha” for the ballet’s choreographer and lead dancer, Martha Graham.

Graham suggested the name the day before the ballet premiered.

Copeland once said “I gave voice to that region without knowing I was giving voice to it.”

Shooting Stars are spring superstars
And he was often told he’d brilliantly captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music.

As far as I'm concerned, it really doesn’t matter that this region wasn’t the original inspiration for his masterpiece. 

Every time I hear Appalachian Spring I can't help but envision the beauty of the mountains.

Especially this time of year.

 Diverse and dramatic

The mountains that surround me make up one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world with more than 1,600 flowering plants.

Here, visions of violets signal spring is on the way. The Halberd-leaf Yellow Violet is usually the first flower I see. 

Halberd-leaf Violet
Its name comes from an observation that the arrowhead leaves are reminiscent of a battle-ax type weapon used in the 15th and 16th centuries. I’ll have to take the historians at their word.

The humble violet has been celebrated in myths and literature from ancient times, a symbol of modesty and simplicity. Longfellow wrote that it “lurks among all the lovely children of the shade.”

Shakespeare described the violet as “forward” as it trumpets the awakening of the earth following winter. He also writes the violet is “sweet, not lasting. The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more.”

So we should gather our Halberd-leaf Yellow violets while we may. 

Confederate Violet
Along with the other violets that grow along my trail, including the Confederate, Common Blue, Pale and several other varieties.

 Trillium heaven

A couple of years ago, according to folks in the know, a very warm winter caused many wildflowers to go into a tizzy.

Apparently a number of species flowered up to three weeks early and because of the warmth, the bloom period was very short. Trilliums also appeared early and were quickly devoured by hungry deer.

Catesby's Trillium (maybe)
At that time I was new to the mountains, so I didn’t know what I was missing. 

This spring has been an entirely different story.

 Trilliums are members of the Lily family and are among the showiest of springtime wildflowers. The local natives sport three distinctive leaves and when they bloom, the flowers have three petals.

Stinking Benjamin
American Indians used the plant as an eye medication and women boiled the roots to make a love potion. Mountain folk say if you pick a trillium you will bring on a rainstorm.

Wake Robin, a favorite that I did see last year, is back with its deep burgundy blooms. Apparently that is the “nice” name because I’ve learned it is also known as Stinking Benjamin or Stinking Willie because of the putrid smelling flower. Early herbalists used it to treat gangrene.

A number of Painted Trilliums are growing down by the path. It was a happy surprise because I didn’t see many in the past. I’m delighted to have them because experts say they have been virtually bulldozed or picked into extinction.
Painted Trillium

The white and pink trilliums nearby are beautiful, too. But I’ve become partial to the Painteds.

Every time I see one, I hear music.


Christopher C. NC said...

Do you have lots of the Painted Trilliums? Cause I have none. I have Nodding Trilliums a plenty and Trillium grandiflorum carpet thick. I'll trade for a Painted and/or the grab bag of jacks of which I have green, brown and black that I know of.

I have seven or eight species of violets here and neither of the two you showed. It is amazing how you can go over a mountain or round the bend in these hills and the plant community can change dramatically. No wonder we are a hot bed of plant diversity.

Lynn Hunt said...

Christopher, you are so right about changes in the plant community, even within a few yards. While out on my walks I see lots of trilliums in one area, then nothing for a quarter-mile.

I have lots of Painted Trilliums and would be happy for a few to have a happy home with you. Also if you'd like some violets, I'll bring you some of those as well.

Janneke said...

Your Trilliums are wonderful, including stinking Benjamin. So sorry I have no Trilliums in my garden when I see this beauty, I tried them but they won't grow. That special Halberd-leaf violet is a gem too.
Enjoy your life in the mountains!

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Janneke, I just read something interesting about trilliums. Apparently there are about 30 varieties that grow in a few places around the world but not Europe! So don't feel bad that yours didn't survive. Apparently European settlers had never seen the flowers which is why they became so fascinated with them.

I look forward to seeing more blooms from your wonderful garden!

Skeeter said...

Since going up into the NC mountains recently, I have a new appreciation for Trillium! We have some in our woods here in GA but not nearly as pretty nor prolific as in the NC mountains! The ones I see here don't seem to spread but rather are seen one here and there....

Lynn Hunt said...

Skeeter, it's funny, my sister-in-law in Tallahassee says she has one trillium and it has never spread. Supposedly they create seeds after blooming -- I'll have to check it out this year.

The ones here do seem to be quite prolific. Maybe it is the GA and FLA heat!

Phillip Oliver said...

Beautiful and very informative!

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you so much Phillip. It is hard to top your amazing garden but in the spring I do get a few showoffs!

Rose said...

The painted trillium is a beauty! I didn't know there were so many different varieties, nor had I ever heard of the halberd violet before. What a treasure trove of wildflowers your mountain has, Lynn.

It's been far too long since I visited here; so glad I stopped by and read your post on the gnomes at Chelsea--great fun!

Lynn Hunt said...

Thank you Rose! I'm so glad you stopped by and enjoyed seeing the wildflowers. I am always trying to locate a few new ones and plant them down by the trail. Yesterday I found a gorgeous white bleeding heart at a local nursery and am on my way out to plant it this morning.

And I'm happy the latest gnome gnews made you smile!

Rose Petals Nursery said...

An amazing writer you are! I can visualize the whole path never having been there. Please keep us posted with more floral developments....this post just made me smile! I will share♥

The Principal Undergardener said...

Can a simple, "wow!" suffice as a comment? Beautifully written and photographed, but then we expect nothing less!

Lynn Hunt said...

Rose Petals Nursery, thank you so much for your very kind words. I will keep you posted as it seems something new is blooming every day!xx

Lynn Hunt said...

Neal, you are the best! And your comments made my day.

toko baju muslim murah said...
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Lynn Hunt said...

Greetings Toko! I'm so happy you enjoyed the article and photographs. Thank you for your kind words. Please come back and visit often.

Les said...

I did not know the story behind that piece of music, which is one of my favorites. It has been years since I have been able to see the Appalachians in spring, and now that I do not have to work my spring away I should probably make some travel plans.

Lynn Hunt said...

Les, that would be wonderful. I'll look forward to your visit!

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, I love the Solomon's Seal, we have a clump tucked away deep in a dark corner of the garden but I recently bought some more rhozomes and they're very slowly getting established. It's s shame they take so long to grow and multiply otherwise I would have loads more.

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Sunil! Has spring come to your garden yet? We are very far behind last year but I do see some signs that my roses may bloom sometime in 2013.

I went to a native plant sale today and purchased a wild Solomon's Seal. The one in the photo is a variegated one that apparently grows faster than the original and spreads nicely. We shall see.

I also bought a yellow trillium which I had not seen before and a Jacob's Ladder. I don't want to wish my life away but I can't wait to see all of them bloom next year! Cheers.

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, I'll have to see if I can find a recording of that piece of music. I wonder if I've heard it before? I find trilliums utterly fascinating. I can't wait to begin planting them under the trees at the back of the garden, but it could be several years before I restore that part of the garden.

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Sunil! Here is a recording I found on You Tube. I hope you enjoy it! Why not put in a trillium or two every year (and mark where they are) so you can enjoy them before you restore that back garden?

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