Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Green Up Time

Green up in spring

“Have you noticed? It’s greening up!” That was a common expression among my Scots-Irish folks in the mountains of Choestoe Community, Union County, Georgia. I like the time of early spring, even maybe seeing some green-up happen when frosts and/or snow still threaten. One year in May, my father had his fields of corn planted and the rows looked lush with green-up growth, the plants abundant, an inch or two high. Then a hard freeze–frost and maybe even snow–came to obliterate the green. The whole field had to be planted again after the cold snap passed. That’s part of the unpredictability of spring weather in our beloved mountain area. Green up can occur early; and then have to burst forth again.”

~ Ethelene Dyer Jones 2015


I have heard the phrase green up used to describe the greening of spring my whole life. The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has this entry for green up:

green up, green-up time noun Springtime.
1976 Dwyer Southern Sayin’s 23 = springtime. “It’s comin’ green up.” 1991 Haynes Haywood Home 56 Springtime, just at green-up time, was the time for making popguns and willow whistles….It’s the time when buds come on the willows and elders along the branches and creeks and their bark gets loose.


Every Spring I wish that I could put my finger on the exact moment green up magically occurs. I know it’s not an instantaneous thing, instead it happens in small increments until finally it arrives.

Green up happened sometime since Pap’s passing last week. As I looked out my car window this morning I thought “The world is green again.” And it is.



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  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 28, 2016 at 12:59 am

    This evening my four (soon to be five) year old grandson came by and we walked up to where my garden was last year. He shied away from where he remembered vegetables growing last year. “What’s that Papaw? Do I need to go around?” “It’s just a weed son, Papaw didn’t plant anything yet.” Still he hesitated to walk across my little garden plot as if it was sacred ground. “Run!” I said and off he took across the garden and back around to walk with me again.
    Suddenly he stops and looks toward the ground “What’s that Papaw?” pointing to the ground. I looked and there were acorns lying all around. “They are acorns.” “Acorns?” “They are seeds that fell from this white oak tree right over here.” Then I thought of you.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    April 27, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Asheville town, Asheville town I’m goin back to Asheville town I’ll sit & watch the leaves turn brown Back in Asheville town
    Asheville town, Asheville town Prettiest town I’ve ever seen I’ll sit & watch the leaves turn green Back in Asheville town
    More verses to come,
    Love from Uncle Chuck

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    Beautiful Time of of year,, Around here many hearts are heavy today because 5 years ago the Tornado’s took some of our neighbors homes and family members, but God still reminds us he’s in control, and we are part of his plan, the healing is still going on.. as our prayers for each family effected. It will for ever be the worst power outage I’ve ever been on, not the destruction but the helpless families, trying to scrape up any thing to salvage what was left of their lives.. touched me deeply..

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    Dear Tipper,
    I’ve not been able to read your blog for the past few days and I’m so sorry to hear about your sweet Pap’s passing. Believe me, I know EXACTLY how you feel. My own dear Daddy has been in Heaven for almost 12 years. I love him and still miss him so much!
    BUT, we know we’ll see them again. What hope we have–a hope that alive and real!
    You and your family are in my prayers. May He give you comfort.
    Shelia (a reader) and an Appalachian Girl

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 27, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    We live on a mountaintop and can see lots of houses below in winter. At least three houses disappear every day this time of year, and I mean literally, there one day, gone the next.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Your picture is really wonderful, and, yes, I love the greening up of spring. Here in the foothills the Irises are beginning to bloom as well as many other beauties. My knockout roses are budding and blooming. I enjoy this time of the year even if the pollen drives my nose and sinuses crazy.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 27, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Along with the greening up comes the yellowing up. I drive a black pickem up truck. The first sign of spring in my world is when the black becomes yellow. All vehicles seem to attract pollen but for the most part only on their windshields. I have a theory that if all motor vehicles were painted a glossy black, the pollen counts would drop drastically.
    Along with the green up comes the rise in humidity and the fading of our beautiful Carolina blue sky. Even if the leafing out of the trees hadn’t already pulled the curtain across my view of the distant mountains, the haze has already changed their almost violet color to the same faded blue of the sky.
    Rare are these days when through the haze I see the mountains attired in their amethyst raiment.

  • Reply
    Jose L. Sahagun
    April 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Am reading all of you folk’s comments about “Green-up” time. I live in California so I miss out on on this emotional, uplifting and happy time of the year that you folks are so blessed with. I miss the mountains, valleys and rivers of Oregon where I and my family once lived…..You are truly blessed. But I have learned that one can truly be blessed no matter where you are at….Reminds me of the song: “Open up your heart and let the Sun Shine in.”
    I “stumbled on” to your internet site (not by chance I’m sure) about 6 months ago. I like pap play guitar. I was searching for the chords for the song “Tear drops falling in the snow” I clicked on your site and there was pap with his son and grandson playing the song….I keep it on my site and play in often. Regarding Pap’s “Passing”……Pap….like my Mom and Dad did not die……They just changed addresses! Our eternal hope and assurance is that there will be a big and happy reunion soon!
    God Bless…..Keep up the great gift of encouragement that the Lord has blessed you with.
    Numbers 6:24-26

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 27, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Well this year it seemed to me that “greening up” came in like a “giant entity” in the night here in my neck of woods. I am positive, due to my heritage he does arrive this very way!
    Oh, there was the little “leafing out” that occurs right about the time the March flowers bloom. Then it slips up on the crabapples, button bushes and forsythia’s forming quick buds and bloom…Then suddenly the blooms begin to fade on the purple and star magnolias, step by step it creeps, as the blooms fade on the crabapples, closer and closer it gets. While the Quanzan blooms wait on the bracts of the dogwoods to fade, the cherry blooms drop their big fluffy puffs, in the meantime the azaleas leap into full bloom.
    That very evening when I went in the house, I thought I saw some “fairy children” flitting about the tiny leaves on the Oak, which were the size of mouse ears. It was a warm evening and we had just a quick mist of rain that afternoon. It is a mystery still why my eyes were suddenly transfixed on the sacred Oak, to watch the tiny movements therein, I could not say…or would anyone believe me anyway!
    Sometime during the dark dawning morning, I heard a loud bursting sound with rustling akin to something running over old dry wooded leaf litter. It kind of scared me as I just knew the large Oaks, Poplars and Hickrys were going to split. All I can tell you is that It must have happened then! When daylight came on and I dared peer out the window. Like a huge roving elf, he went up the ridge and over into the valley. The green Oak leaf covered face, turning once to look back at his work, he ran on and on as I strained to watch him. It was the “Green Man” deity!
    I stepped out that morning into his work of art. “Greening up” does happen overnight! I know it did here on my hill in East Tennessee…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I always enjoy the greening up period every year. It’s amazing how one day you see a little green and just like it seems like the trees are full and everything is new again!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    April 27, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Here in Michigan, we are especially anxious for “green up” time. The winters are so stark and long, it’s a source of great joy and comfort to see the first green heads poking out of the ground. We still have a couple of weeks before we’ll truly be able to expect a lack of frost, but getting close is still a relief.

  • Reply
    Guitar Man
    April 27, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Greening up is always my favorite event and time of the year. It really makes the mountains come alive and is the epitome of life in Appalachia. It’s a time of life, warmth, promise, and, most importantly, new birth, the concept that Pap was so obsessed with that he included the phrase on several of his new songs. I hear Dad is going to plant some of the garden this year, and I hope to help next year when I’m back.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 27, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Green-up Time
    “It’s coming green-up.” -Bill Dwyer
    (in Southern Sayin’s for Yankees and Other Immigrants, 1976).
    The winds of winter taper;
    Calm reigns on hills and lea.
    A fulsome warmth comes creeping
    In subtle ways toward me.
    “It’s coming green-up!” Springtime!
    The birds return again;
    The tender grass is peeping forth;
    Pregnant limbs their buds begin.
    “Hallo!” we shout as in the sod
    We plant seeds of sustenance and hope;
    Another cycle has begun—
    ’Tis Spring! Again we cope
    With all the work it takes to till
    The garden patch and farm
    We still rejoice at nature’s signs:
    “It’s green-up time!” “It’s warm!”
    -Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 27, 2016

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 27, 2016 at 9:36 am

    One of my favorite aspects of greening up is the up part here in the mountains. You need to be at a place where you have a view of a mountainside with a couple thousand or more feet of elevation range. Down at the lower elevations, the trees will have taken on their dark summer hue, The shade of green grows lighter and lighter as you look up the mountain until there’s but a faint hint of green that’s taken holt in the warm pocket on the south face of a hollow.
    Above that, occasional splotches of white-pink from sarvis blooms or maple seed reds show all the more brightly against the unashamed naked browns and grays at the higher elevations.
    How sad it must be to live in a city surrounded by things made by man.
    Flowers springing, birds singing, mountains greening, and the gloaming lingering are reminders that in spite of all the craziness in this world, the One who made it is still in control, as Robert Browning asserted a couple of centuries ago:
    The year’s at the spring,
    And day’s at the morn;
    Morning’s at seven;
    The hill-side’s dew-pearl’d;
    The lark’s on the wing;
    The snail’s on the thorn;
    God’s in His heaven –
    All’s right with the world.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Like Tipper, I have wanted to capture “Greening Up” and all its teasing and whimsy. Like Vernon, I am fascinated by the number of shades, hues, tints, and tones this living color can have. I decided to try to capture it this year. As usual, my intentions were good: take a photo of exactly the same spot at exactly the same time beginning in February. Didn’t get started until March. The “exactly the same time” rapidly went by the wayside. The “every day” soon followed. But I have a sequence that shows the progression of the early greening and some recent ones that show the hill decked out in full glory. Next year I must start earlier and try to capture that first moment of green haze that means that spring is trying to sneak in.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2016 at 9:06 am

    The post today was exceptional, as was the comment section. It always makes me want to kick myself when life gets so busy that I don’t notice the stages of spring. My favorite was always that dusty rose hue as you look over the mountains just before greening up. All the kazillion new buds make such a subtle color that is gone before you know it–I missed it this year.
    I find spring so very healing and helpful. When I lost my own dear Dad, I would marvel at how the seasons and weather just go right on. The warm sunshine on my face and the thunderstorms helped me so much to stay out of the doldrums. God is good and always so real when we see his beauty. As children we always heard that lightening was God’s hand and thunder his voice. Somehow the child in me never quit believing this.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 27, 2016 at 8:10 am

    It has been greening up for a few weeks here at the bottom of Oglethorpe Mountain. It seems this past weekend everything became full of mature green leaves and the woods became too dense to see very far. I love the new birth of each spring. It is good for the soul to see the world coming back to life after the bleak days of winter.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 27, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Us forester types use ‘green up’ as the flag to mean dormant saeson burning is over. It also marked the end of tree planting time.
    I have been a spring watcher for years and years but I have never caught it arriving. It is like Carl Sandburg said about fog, it slips in on little cat feet until suddenly it’s there. I think one of the reasons is that some of it happens at night. Like Vernon, I love the intermingling of so many shades of green.
    I lived in Gilmer County, GA years ago and traveled into the Valley each day going to work. Greenup came first in the Valley and reached about 2/3s of the way up the Cohutta mountains then stalled for about a week. Then suddenly one morning it would leap to the top and go racing east.
    It’s always a lift to see greenup again.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 27, 2016 at 7:22 am

    A couple of days ago I noticed the greening up. I don’t know why but it always surprises me when one day I look up and see green. It shouldn’t surprise me, it happens every year. What would really be surprising was if it didn’t green up.
    I think of the green up as hope, it means light and warmth are coming. Of course when it gets full force summer I’ll complain about that very same warmth as being too hot. I guess that’s just human nature.
    I love the greening!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 27, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Tipper–Spring (greening-up time) comes to the high country in fits and starts, and to a certain degree it is that unpredictability, never mind that we know that earth’s eternal cycle and comforting rhythm will eventually happen, that makes spring so enchanting. So do the endless variations on green Vernon Kimsey so astutely points out, along with the fact that greening up means promise, newness, a release from cabin fever, and rejuvenation.
    Of course there are always the interruptions, and hardy mountain folks in their winsome way gave many of them names–dogwood winter, blackberry winter (due anytime now), and my favorite term, catbird squall.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    April 27, 2016 at 5:50 am

    I love the different shades of green at greening up time….Truly Johnny Cash’s Forty Shades of Green….. My Grandmother always said, don’t plant your tender plants until you start to see green at the top of Double Knobs…

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