Update for July 2nd, 2017:
The blooms are here! The areas near Price Lake and south of Blowing Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway are showing peak bloom on rosebay rhododendron shrubs.
June 22, 2017: They’re nearly here! Lots of people ask about when the rhododendrons bloom, and that depends on species, elevation, and local climate. The Rosebay Rhododendron is about to put on a pretty show in Blowing Rock. The pale clouds of rhododendron along the local section of the Blue Ridge Parkway will soon be beckoning you to pull over. “Stop and smell the roses,” right? The buds are almost ready to break, and a few have begun this week. This photo was taken Monday, June 12, and you can see that there are lots of buds waiting to open up.
The Rosebay, also known as the white rhododendron, is a prominent rhododendron along the Blowing Rock areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This particular variety blooms later than similar counterparts found nearby, the Catawba, Carolina, and Piedmont rhododendrons (there are lots of rhododendrons in this area!). The darker, sometimes near-fuschia, blooms of the rhoddies in downtown Blowing Rock and in nearby parks peak in May. Rosebays, which vary from white to very pale pink/purple, typically begin to bloom in mid-June in this area. Now that they have started, we can expect blooms for several weeks.
While there will be some blooms this weekend, it won’t yet be peak viewing time, as many buds are still shut tight. The blooms will still be opening up into early July. Price Park is an excellent location to see large collections of the shrub, and the sheer number of blooms during peak is stunning. Take a hike around the lake on the Lake Trail to get a real immersion into the rhoddie growth, or rent a canoe from the docks and enjoy the blooms from the water. The amphitheater is a nice spot to sit and enjoy, as rhododendron growth surrounds the seating.
Right now, the mountain laurel is still showing impressive clumps of white and pink blooms, though most spots of laurel are just past peak. There is a good collection of them at Sims Pond Overlook and a fair number to enjoy at Price Lake. Though rhoddies are of interest to many visitors, there is always something to see, from flame azaleas in May to asters in September. For a full list of wildflower blooms along the Blue Ridge Parkway, visit the Bloom Schedule page on BlueRidgeParkway.org.