Catching Up

I’m coming up for air from writing deadlines, but only for a moment, because I’m spending the afternoon with the current class of Greenville Master Gardeners and then later this evening the first speakers of our long-awaited 2016 GGMG Symposium, For the Love of a Garden, begin to arrive. Tomorrow, I’m showing off the best my endearing city has to offer, checking logistics at the event center, and dining with speakers and friends.  And then Saturday is show time!


I assumed this pre-chilled bulb would bloom without a dark period, but you can see the result has not been successful.

But, backing up a bit (In a Vase, January 11), I thought you might like to see the hyacinth in bloom. Though not terribly successful, the no-neck flower does have the expected fragrance, an overpowering floral perfume that lingers in the air.

And for my fellow bird fans (Hello Mr. Sapsucker, February 3), I wanted to pass along this LINK showing an animated migration map put together by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology using millions of observations from participants in eBird and the Great Backyard Birdcount. It follows 118 species north in spring and then south in autumn.   Fascinating!


The Rainbow Falls trail, wide and easy to navigate, offers tremendous views in winter and a wide array of native plants throughout the year.

Finally, my husband, Tim, and I recently hiked through Gorges State Park and the Pisgah National Forest to Rainbow Falls, one of the most powerful waterfalls in our region, and I wanted to show you a few photos. We selected this adventure on the advice of a friend, Tim Spira, who’s recently published book, Waterfalls & Wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), features 30 great hikes.  Now living in Asheville, North Carolina, Tim recently retired from Clemson University where he taught field botany, plant ecology, and natural history.


Horsepasture River below the waterfall.

Rainbow Falls proved to be a winner. Though 4 to 5-inches of snow remained on north-facing slopes, the wide and well-marked trail offered tremendous views beyond the barren tree tops, as well as a close look at thickets of gorge rhododendron (R. minus) and mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).


Rainbow Falls

About 1.5 miles out, an overlook provided a fabulous view of the falls, a near vertical whitewater cascade which falls 125 feet into a deep plunge pool. Not many waterfalls are as strong as Rainbow Falls and with the river swollen with melting snow, it created a crashing roar and thick mist which drifted up the hillside to soak visitors.

Spira’s book is a winner, too. Organized into four sections which offer, in turn, background on the southern Appalachians, brief descriptions of ten plant communities, detailed information on 30 waterfall hikes, and profiles and photos of 125 of the most common and conspicuous wildflowers, it proved to be the perfect guide.

30 thoughts on “Catching Up

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Michele–I love the way Tim Spira intertwines information about plants, animals, and geology. This book and earlier one by Tim, Wildflowers & Plant Communities, have really opened my eyes to the rich habitats in the Appalachians.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Beth–I think it’s about time for the Raleigh girls to make another visit to the Upstate. We’ll make a point to look at some natural communities in addition to gardens. I know some great places that don’t require too much trekking.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Chloris–It was a great hike and I hope to get out again soon. In the winter, I mostly walk in circles around the neighborhood, which is not bad because there is always lots to see. But when I’m on a new trail with native plants, it doesn’t even seem like exercise.

  1. Sharon Lanier

    You are AMAZing! I don’t know how you do all that you do. I am so looking forward to seeing you and Marie for lunch tomorrow! And being at the Symposium for Show Time! Much love, Sharon

      1. Lisa Wagner

        And I haven’t even been to Rainbow Falls, so thanks for taking me along. Glad you had such a great hike, and have enjoyed the inspiration of Tim’s books.

  2. Julie

    The migration map is fascinating Marian, our migratory birds either go else where or arrive here but wish we had something similar. Your hike looks beautiful. Rhodo thickets are a real nusiance here, are they a problem where you are or do you just enjoy them when in flower?

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Julie–the Asian Rhodos are not invasive here and the ones in the mountains are native species. If you look closely at the photo of the Horsepasture River, you can see the natives growing along the banks.

  3. Jan B

    Marian, I am a bird enjoyer also! The Cornell map and article are fascinating! Your hike to Rainbow Falls appeared invigorating! There are so many great places to hike here in South Carolina. See you on Saturday! Jan GGMG AAMG

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jan–When I hike with the Master Naturalists, there is often someone who knows birds by their calls and that’s lots of fun. I can’t seem to get the knack. See you tomorrow!

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Eliza–Rainbow Falls is about 90 minutes from Greenville, but worth the effort. It’s a great trail and there is a very nice welcome and interpretive center near the trailhead at Gorges State Park. Let me know when you are headed this way, I would love to see you.

  4. Tim Spira

    Glad you had a chance to hike to Rainbow Falls and to see how powerful (and beautiful) it is! I hope that you’ll have a chance to hike it again in in early spring when the wildflowers are at their peak. Best, Tim Spira

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Tim–Rainbow Falls is on the list for a repeat visit in late March. We plan to allow enough time for Whitewater Falls, too, since it is so close and such a short hike. (We left home later than expected on our first visit to the area and couldn’t fit it in.) I was a bit worried the trail at Rainbow Falls might be a bit much for me since we don’t get out much in winter, but it was fine, though a bit messy in spots with snow melt. Anyone in reasonable shape should be able to do the hike without too much effort. Hope to see you soon. I would love to hear about the Richmond event.


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