Have You Noticed the Beauty All Around You Today?

Views and opinions expressed in Bob’s Blog are solely those of the author and do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of the CAC Office on Aging or its staff. Posted 04-03-2024

People who grew up in Knoxville and East Tennessee quickly notice I don’t have an accent when I talk. I am not a local and I didn’t grow up here. Actually, I moved here from Illinois in 2016.

Many ask me what drew me to Knoxville.  I typically give them a one word answer – Mountains. They didn’t expect that and it confuses them. So, I have to tell them more.

You see, I grew up in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Those mountains brought me a lot of peace and happiness. I lived most of my adult years in Michigan, Indiana, or Illinois.  If you’re not familiar with those states, each one is pretty flat. Indiana and Illinois have corn fields which stretch further than a person can see. All those corn fields and flat land drove me crazy.

I needed to be around mountains. Sadly, It is about a 4 hour drive to get to mountains of any type from where I lived outside of Chicago.  I couldn’t make that trip that often.

So, I decided to move here to be close to the Smokies.  Because of some health problems, I picked Knoxville so I would be closer to medical care if I needed it.

I have to tell you I have encountered something that I didn’t expect. That brings me quite a bit of peace and joy. It’s the natural beauty in Knoxville and East Tennessee. A plus is, it is totally free.

Just like in most of the Midwest and Northeast, winters here are drab. While they’re not as cold as those up north and there is basically no snow, the grass is brown, the trees are bare and nothing is growing.  Then all of a sudden in late February or early March, . . .

There is an Explosion of Color

First yellow daffodils pop up. These are not only in gardens but also along the major highways.  It’ seems like overnight, we go from the barren landscape to a sea of yellow. Shortly afterwards, trees, shrubs and other flowers start to bloom.

Azaleas, tulips, and hyacinths appear with a variety of colors Then there is the shock of yellow from the Forsythia bushes. Around the same time, the Bradford Pear, the Cherry, the Redbud, the Plum and Southern Crabapple trees are in full bloom.

My eyes are overwhelmed by the beauty all around me.  I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy it. And, I don’t have to pay anything to enjoy it.

Just when I think I’ve seen it all, the Dogwoods blossom along with the Tulip and Magnolia trees.

It Doesn’t End There

As summer approaches, this natural beauty continues. There now are Sunflowers, Roses and Day Lilies, Rhododendrons and the Crepe Myrtles

.Fall Does Not Disappoint Either

Pansies, Violas, and Flowering Kale bloom. Suddenly the leaves start changing colors and beautiful colors appear in the Sugar Maple, Tulip Poplar, Black Gum, Sweet Gum, Red Oak, Birch, Red Maple and Crepe Myrtle trees.

I think the main purpose of winter is to give us a break and let us settle down so we can be blown away by the color in store for us the following year.

It Wasn’t Always This Way

There is an article about the Dogwood Arts Festival on Wikipedia.  It talks about a journalist and author, John Gunther. Mr. Gunther visited every state in the US in the1940’s starting with California. Afterwards he wrote a book, Inside U.S.A. In it, he talks about what he saw in each state.

The book was published in 1947 and became a best seller.  In it, he said Knoxville was the ugliest city in the country.  Others who visited Knoxville around the same time also had negative comments about what they saw here.

Needless to say, the leaders here in Knoxville were upset. They did not appreciate Mr. Gunther’s comment or those of the others. They quickly started a campaign to clean up and beautify the city.

A part of that campaign was to plant Dogwood trees. An outcome of that was the opening of the first Dogwood Trail in Sequoyah Hills in 1955.  Other trails opened in 1956 and 1957.

The Origin of the Dogwood Festival

 In the early 1950’s, people started to host a Ramp Festival in Cosby, TN.  Afterwards, there was an annual festival for many years.  It got national attention when former resident Harry Truman attended the first two festivals.

 A columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel, Carson Brewer, saw how successful the Ramp Festival was. In 1959, he suggested Knoxville host a Dogwood Festival.  The Chamber of Commerce and the Junior League liked the idea and supported it. The first Dogwood Festival was held in 1961.

 The Dogwood Festival has come a long way since then.  Every April, one is held with special events on Market Square and throughout the county to celebrate the arrival of spring.

I wonder how much the interest in the Dogwood tree and Festival spurred residents to start planting all of the other ornamental trees, shrubs, and flowers which we see today.

The Rise and Fall of the Bradford Pear

 You may like the beautiful white flowers on the Bradford Pear.  I know I do.

This tree is a native of Asia.  It was introduced into Tennessee in the 1960’s.  The trees were prized for those beautiful springtime blooms and quickly became a favorite in landscaping.

Bradford Pears are all over now. We can’t escape seeing them in all parts of Knox County.

 There is a problem.

When they are young, their shape is almost a perfect oval. As they grow, they start to fall apart. Their roots don’t go deep into the soil.  In strong windstorms they can fall over.  They have very narrow branches. These can break off in a stronger wind or icy conditions and fall on cars and houses causing much damage.

 While their blooms are beautiful, they emit a very foul smell.  People say the smell is like that of rotting fish.

 These trees are considered invasive. They spread very quickly and take over entire areas crowding out native trees. Native insects like caterpillars don’t live in them. Birds eat the berries produced by the trees and drop the seeds from the berries in the surrounding area.  New trees spring up.

 Even when they’re cut down, a new tree can grow from the roots.  Frequently the stump will have to be ground down to prevent this from happening. This causes any landowner an additional expense.

Because of these problems, the state of Ohio banned the sale of Bradford Pears in 2023.  South Carolina will ban the sale of these tress starting October 1, 2024.The states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas are also considering doing the same thing.

It is truly sad to see this happen when the blooms are so beautiful.

Enjoy the Beauty Around You

 Frequently, when I am exposed to something over and over again, I become numb to it.  It’s still there but I no longer see it or pay attention to it. It really is sad when that happens.

If you are like me, don’t become numb to the beauty in nature that is available to you.  Take some time to appreciate it and that you don’t have to pay for it.


If you have any comments on what you have read in this post, I would love to know them. Please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like to see discussed in future posts, please email me and let me know. My email address is bob.ooablog@gmail.com