My daughter is home for the holidays and to get in the spirit, we visited Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. It’s a fascinating home, and I highly recommend a daytime visit. Be sure to rent the recorded tour or take one they offer as you will learn all sorts of history and tidbits about the construction of the house you might not otherwise see.
Our first visit was several years ago during the summer. We toured the house first and wanted to tour the gardens, but it rained on us that afternoon. This trip was not much more fruitful in touring the gardens in terms of seeing the plantings, but it is always interesting to visit a garden in the winter because the layout is more visible.
The grounds and gardens of Biltmore are the work of Frederick Law Olmstead. One of his most well-known works is as co-designer of Central Park in New York City. Below is a diagram of the Walled Garden. A long vine-covered walkway leading to the grand, glass Conservatory is indicated by #6. The seasonal garden is #3. Number 8 indicates the extensive rose garden. The butterfly garden is #9.
A view of the rose garden in the Walled Garden looking toward the Conservatory. This area is indicated by #8 on the diagram above.
I was most interested in the Conservatory as winter and the gardeners had already disposed of any plant remains in the Walled Garden. Unfortunately, the lighting was terrible, so getting good pics of the structure was impossible. So take a look here at the magnificence of this glass beauty.
At this time of year, the Conservatory was filled with poinsettias of every possible color, orchids, and other beautiful exotics.
The remnants of the butterfly garden at the entrance to the Conservatory was evident. The structure of the plants and the beautiful seed heads were a welcome surprise. Although the Walled Garden that surrounds this area was completely tidied up, this area was left for its winter cover and food supply.
Other garden areas were left to winter without the heavy pruning or cleanup typically seen. The cover sheltered many small birds and the berries were plentiful.
With foliage long gone the structure of the various espaliers created garden sculptures.
We entered the house at dark for one of the Candlelight Christmas Evening tours.While the decorations and trees were beautiful, we were underwhelmed. I expected the house to be brilliantly lit and quite festive…but I was a little disappointed. It was dark and more than a little dreary…hence the candlelight tour. There are grand, beautifully decorated trees in nearly every room of the house, but it is really too dark to enjoy the house itself. I felt like I was more on a tour of Christmas trees…maybe I missed the point…but I was very fascinated with how they got an enormous tree (and I do mean enormous) into the dining hall.
They won’t let you take pictures in the house (it was too dark anyway) but Rhoda over at Southern Hospitality has posted many pics that the Biltmore Estate elves sent to her. Keep in mind that when you tour, the rooms are not lit as you see them in these pictures.
I would love to return when the gardens are in their full glory in the spring. Maybe that goes on the calendar for 2015!