Spring often arrives in the blink of an eye in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The higher elevations can see snow while the lower elevations are just beginning to blossom and bloom. The temperatures in the valley might be in the 80s one day but then overnight lows could go down below freezing. The flowers might start blooming but then become stunted with sudden ice storms or freezing temperatures.
There is a park on the south side of Roanoke County in Virginia – Happy Hollow Gardens. I discovered it a couple winters ago while out driving around looking for photo opportunities when the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed during the winter months. At the time of my initial discovery, I had no idea that it was the home of several rather large azalea bushes. When I looked it up on Google Maps, several people commented that it was one of Roanoke’s secret treasures.
The trick is knowing when to head to this remote park at the right time so that you see the blooming azaleas. It would probably help if I had azaleas blooming in my yard to have an idea of the timing. This year, I was at the dentist’s office on a rainy Monday morning in mid-April and the hygienist mentioned that her mother’s azaleas were in full bloom. That’s all I needed to hear!
When I arrived, it was raining steadily and it was only in the mid-40s (Fahrenheit). Not surprisingly, there weren’t any other visitors to the gardens. I donned my raincoat and proceeded to balance my umbrella under one arm so that I could use my Canon and 400mm lens. The light in the mid-morning rain was phenomenal. The vivid colors of the pink and red azaleas stood out brilliantly against the muted colors of the green budding forest.
Even though not all of the azaleas had bloomed, it was still worth wandering around in the rain.