Spring in the Virginia Piedmont

SAM_0016The many colors of Spring are in evidence in the Virginia Piedmont during the month of April. When we moved here over 11 years ago our first Spring in the Piedmont was a real revelation.

First of all, let’s look at the geology of the state. The Virginia Piedmont is defined as “a plateau between the coastal plain and the Appalachian Mountains, including parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia is made up of five distinct geological sections. In the eastern part of the state there is the Coastal Plan, oftentimes referred to as the Tidewater. This area is primarily flat with sandy soil. It is referred to as the Tidewater because all of its rivers are tidal.

The dividing line between the Tidewater and the Piedmont is very distinct and noticeable. There is a line that runs from Washington, D.C. through Richmond and on South to the Gulf of Mexico. If one goes to Richmond you can see the line by visiting the falls on the James River above Richmond. The soil is clay and the land begins to slope up to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

President James Monroe always referred to the Blue Ridge Mountains as simply the Blue Mountains because that’s how they appeared to him from his office window at his home Montpelier. The Blue Ridge region is simply the area encompassed by the mountain range that runs on a diagonal from the northeast to the southwest.

In central and northern Virginia the Blue Ridge mountains rise to elevations in excess of 4000 ft. Local relief on the east side of the Blue Ridge is up to 1000 m. In southern Virginia, the Blue Ridge forms a broad plateau-like upland that rises over 500 m from the Piedmont along a prominent escarpmentMt. Rogers (1746 m), in the southwestern Virginia Blue Ridge, is the highest peak in Virginia.

The fourth geologic region is the Shenandoah Valley and Ridge area on the western edge of the state. The Valley runs on a diagonal from the northeast to the southwest. The Shenandoah Valley is still considered among the richest farmland in the United States.

Finally, the state of Virginia has a small part of the Appalachia Plateau in the southwest. It is home to much of Virginia;’s coal mining industry.

Because Virginia has such distinct geologic regions it also has distinct growing and blooming seasons. Here in the Piedmont we are at the SAM_0018height of the blooming season. April is also a month where we can have wildly fluctuating temperatures where it is in the 80’s one day and the 50’s the next. This current week is a trough of colder temperatures that were preceded by 80’s and will be followed by 70’s.

Despite the temperature fluctuations our flowering trees and shrubs are in full bloom. The forsythia in our yard is almost done but the flowering crab apples, redbuds, flowering dogwoods and others are in full bloom.

Dogwoods come in several colors: white, cream and pink. All three are currently blooming. In fact, the local Dogwood Festival will start this weekend. How’s that for semi-rural life? As the flowering trees put out their leaves, flowering shrubs and just plain flowers will begin to bloom.

From now through the summer the Virginia Piedmont is a riot of colors. Unfortunately, we also have a riot of weeds but that’s another story.

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