Natural beauty is the trademark of the Great Smoky Mountains, and families and folks from everywhere have been coming to the Smokies for generations to share in the serenity and beauty they provide. These mountains are home to more plant species than almost anywhere else in the world, and the climate nurtures life in all forms. In this part of the world, no one is a bigger star than Mother Nature herself!
When Dollywood was first planned, the natural beauty of the mountain landscape was considered a key attraction. Some areas of Dollywood are still untouched, left just as they have been for centuries, while other areas have been carefully cultivated and developed into a fragrant and beautiful celebration of the land. And Dollywood's “nature-al” attractions change with the park’s operating season. Four planting transitions take place—from March’s grand opening to summer’s warm days to the fall harvest to the winter holidays—so that each season blooms with new accents to delight the senses and complement the incredible natural scenery provided by the encircling Smoky Mountains.
A preview of the beauty inside Dollywood is seen even before entering the park. Flower beds of impatiens, Mexican heather, and geraniums decorate the park’s entrance, offering a warm “welcome” to guests.
It’s Just Dollywood’s Nature
Dollywood continues its efforts in Smoky Mountain conservation to reintroduce the American chestnut tree to East Tennessee. The Chestnut Project at Dollywood combines an educational display in the park’s Craftsman’s Valley area and four off-site acres owned by Dollywood to provide planting space for thousands of chestnut trees, which have almost been entirely eradicated due to a blight fungus.
Miles of English ivy incorporated into 50-foot-long, 10-foot-tall arbors greet visitors at each of the two entrances to Dollywood’s Owens Farm, which is carved out of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. More than 100 lush hanging baskets filled with ferns, trailing geraniums, ivy, impatiens, verbena, wandering jew, and mandevilla bring color and beauty to the area. Flower beds filled with colorful and fragrant varieties of impatiens, salvia, vinca, coleus, and sweet William carpet the area. A special drip irrigation system provides water to the area’s many plants.
The hillsides surrounding the thrilling Tennessee Tornado coaster are landscaped with a very natural look to enhance the ride’s theme as an exciting—and beautiful—Smoky Mountain experience that can’t be duplicated. More than 300 native hardwood trees and evergreens, hundreds of shrubs, thousands of grasses and ground covers, and wildflowers have been used to enhance the Tennessee Tornado area’s natural, mountainous look. Varieties of maple, white pine, hemlock, oak, sourwood, sweetgum, birch, ash, and poplar are among the trees that lend their majestic beauty to the area, while native Smoky Mountain shrubs and flowers including azaleas, burning bush, crepe myrtle, mountain laurel and rhododendron add both color and natural variety near the roller coaster.
Several hundred hanging baskets featuring various flowers and plants and thousands of full-blooming perennials, hibiscus and azaleas provide fragrant color in many park areas. More than 1500 perennials, 600 hibiscus and 150 mandevilla vines accentuate the atmosphere and natural beauty of Dollywood. A special irrigation system is used in certain locations throughout the park to promote growth. And, a revolutionary product called Soil Moist provides Dollywood’s tens of thousands of blooming plants and flowers with the necessary water throughout the long, hot summer days. This non-toxic, safe, synthetic acrylic co-polymer was developed to reduce the amount of water needed to maintain vigorous plants. The product is tilled into the soil before the park opens in March, allowing the soil in which it is used to store water and release it throughout the day when the plants and flowers need a “drink.”
A rose specialist works with Dollywood's landscapers throughout the winter, instructing them on how to best care for, nourish and grow this popular flower. Special beds of roses featuring more than 30 of the beautiful, scent-sational bushes have been planted for the enjoyment of Dollywood guests where Showstreet meets Jukebox Junction and Adventures in Imagination and in a garden in front of the Backstage Restaurant.
Among those featured is the fragrant, red/orange Dolly Parton Rose. Along with Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby and Cary Grant, Dolly is one of many celebrities who have had a variety of rose named for them. A hybrid rose, the Dolly Parton is known for its spectacular blooms, often measuring as much as nine inches in diameter. In a June 2000 Los Angeles Times article, renowned Pasadena gardener Jacob Maarse named the Dolly Parton rose one of the 14 best ones for growing in gardens and cutting for display. Maarse calls the flower a “most fragrant” red rose. The flower’s namesake is quite the fan, as well. Dolly says, “I have a yard full of Dolly Parton roses myself. Not just because they’re named after me, but because they’re beautiful.”
“Scent-sational” Stars on Showstreet Shine with Fragrance & Color
When Showstreet “bloomed” at Dollywood in 1992, the tradition of natural beauty was intensified at the scenic park, with the addition of a variety of new floral decorations and beauty spots in the seven-acre area. Tens of thousands of flowers highlight this section of the park alone. The area includes the Friendship Gardens which was redesigned in 2010 for the park’s 25th anniversary by the DIY Network’s King of Dirt Gino Panaro, his wife Gina and brother Ralph. Friendship Gardens features a mixture of ferns, hydrangea, holly, rhododendron and laurel. The plants range in height from eight to 10 feet at the back of the garden to low-growing plants along the edges.
Variety is the watchword for Friendship Gardens flora. At the Gardens’ entrance, a 20-foot-tall topiary of English ivy in the shape of a guitar and banjo greets visitors. Evergreens including hemlock, viburnum, and witch hazel provide the backdrop for the more prominent flowering plants, and, when in season, contribute their own blooms to the show. Tens of thousands of flowers, including coleus, sweet illusums, impatiens, and many other species blanket the Gardens with color. Annual plants are blended with perennials so that the grounds are constantly in bloom. Most plants are fragrant, so the air is filled with natural perfume, dazzling the nose as well as the eyes. The 300-foot-long walk through Friendship Gardens provides plenty of room—and time—to soak up its splendor.
Seasonal Changes Bring Special Beauty to Dollywood
Visitors to Dollywood during the spring and summer might find it hard to believe that the park could be any more beautiful than when its hundreds of thousands of colorful flowers and plants decorate the entertainment park’s more than 150 acres. But a special kind of beauty comes to Dollywood in the fall and winter, as the Great Smoky Mountains put on their fall color spectacular and the celebration of a Smoky Mountain Christmas lights up the Dollywood landscape with a kaleidoscope of four million twinkling lights to accent the mountain’s natural beauty.
In October, Dollywood celebrates a bountiful harvest season by adding festive autumn décor to the park to complement the naturally occurring colorful fall foliage of the Great Smoky Mountains. Harvest sights celebrating the richness and productivity of the land give Dollywood a special look and scenic beauty along with the brilliant orange of giant pumpkins, the rich maize of cornstalks, and the colorful hues of a variety of chrysanthemums, pansies and other fall flowers.
Dollywood is perhaps never more beautiful than during its celebration of the holiday season when the park is transformed into a true winter wonderland. Colorful pansies weather winter’s cold, offering vibrant color. A bounty of evergreens adds to the scenery and scents, and boughs of garland, miles of ribbon and colorful wreaths highlight the holiday atmosphere as the foliage of fall gives way to winter’s wonder at Dollywood.
Landscape Accents Enhance Authentic Mountain Setting at Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass
Timber Canyon, home of Dollywood’s Thunderhead™ and Mystery Mine™ coasters, and Wilderness Pass, where Wild Eagle rises 21 stories in the air and FireChaser Express takes families on a thrilling ride, are areas located in Dollywood’s highest ridge. With the coasters’ tracks actually traveling alongside, around and above the mountains, Dollywood’s landscape crews paid special attention to the selection of trees, shrubbery, annuals and ground-covering plants to ensure a setting true to East Tennessee’s famous mountain vegetation.
Guests entering Timber Canyon travel an 800-foot walkway landscaped with a variety of deciduous trees including sycamore, maple, ash, birch, poplar and oak. As the trees mature, they eventually form a beautiful shaded canopy during the spring, summer and fall seasons. As fall turns to winter, spruce, pine and cedar trees offer rich evergreen foliage.
Spring in Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass welcomes a colorful assortment of blooms from flowering ornamental trees including white dogwood, redbud and magnolia along with fragrant azaleas and lilac. Visitors also experience a dense forest feel—similar to that of Great Smoky Mountains National Park—with sprawling rhododendrons and mountain laurel.
Holly, ivy, fern, pachysandra and vinca minor create an ever-expanding lush carpet throughout the area’s plant beds. Hosta, sedum, viola, phlox, dianthus and vinca are just a few of the many flowers used as accents throughout the area. In keeping with the turn-of-the-century sawmill setting, old timber equipment is the focal point of the area’s landscaping near Thunderhead, helping bring the theme to life. A ramshackle old building houses Mystery Mine, heavily themed to represent what was once a thriving mine in the mountains of East Tennessee. Special attention to detail gives guests the sense they are entering a long-abandoned building with an eerie past.
Adjacent to Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass also is home to FireChaser Express, Wild Eagle, SkyZip ziplines and the park’s River Battle water adventure ride. Wilderness Pass is heavily themed after one of the Smoky Mountains’ most popular attractions—nature! The area relies on some of the area’s most popular critters—skunks, beavers, deer, bears, otters, and more—to set the scene for the River Battle water ride. The park’s “furry friends” are at home amid a landscaped environment that includes a focus on native plants, such as American Holly, pine trees, hemlocks, maples, birches, rhododendrons, ferns, ivy, and a variety of wildflowers.
Wild Eagle, the county’s first wing coaster, takes passengers soaring on a 3,127-foot track, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountainous terrain that surrounds Dollywood. By design, Wild Eagle passengers have nothing above or below them on the coaster train. Thus, views of the beautiful scenery are yet another of the coaster’s attributes. Passengers experience the freedom of flight at a top speed of 61 mph as Wild Eagle’s track maneuvers the park’s highest peak and plummets from a 135-foot drop. The landscape, filled with a wide variety of lush vegetation, is an integral part of the coaster experience.
Volunteer fire “recruits” on FireChaser Express speed from Fire Station #3 through the rugged terrain of the hillsides in Wilderness Pass in an attempt to save the surrounding area from treacherous wildfire. High above the pass is Crazy Charlie’s Fireworks and Gas Emporium, known for its volatile combination of high-octane fuels and explosive fireworks like Big Bertha. After arriving at Crazy Charlie’s, passengers are launched backward, once again hugging the terrain of Wilderness Pass as they rush back to Fire Station #3. Riders feel like they’re truly racing through the hills of East Tennessee because of the natural surroundings.