In a natural setting of rich meadows of rare moss and heather, surrounded by forests of evergreen balsam, and crowned overhead by the bluest of blue skies, the gardens are breath-taking in their beauty. Towering above the Appalachian valleys, the gardens are often actually above the clouds, giving rise to the name “Cloudland.”
“It is the most beautiful of the high mountains… with Carolina at its feet on one side and Tennessee on the other, and a green ocean of mountains rising in tremendous billows around her.”
-Dr. Elisha Mitchell (for whom Mt. Mitchell is named)
The Rhododendron Gardens are located in a Canadian temperate zone. Each year, thousands of people flock to the mountain at the peak bloom period during late June. In a good year a single bush might boast over 100 clusters of flowers while hundreds of bushes spread out over the mountain. Catawba Rhododendron bushes are so plump and round that they appear to have been pruned by the hand of man to achieve their perfect shape, yet the only sculpture work on Roan Mountain is that of Mother Nature. At first, visitors are captivated by the broad panorama of crimson, but if they look closely enough they may find the individual blossom of rhododendron has its own unique beauty. Each petal is sprinkled with an intricate pattern of tiny spots along its lip that acts as a kind of runway for bees looking for a flower to pollinate.
EXCERPTS FROM “ROAN MOUNTAIN, A PASSAGE OF TIME” BY JENNIFER BAUER WILSON