Saturday, 28 April 2012 18:03

Tour of the Biltmore Estate Garden

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Biltmore EstateModeled after a french château, construction on this beautiful home estate began in 1889 and finished in 1895. Richard Morris Hunt, who designed the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty was the architect of the house. The landscape was done by Frederick Ohmstead, the same man who created New York's Central Park. Both men considered their work on the Biltmore as the crowning achievement of their lifetimes.

You may remember our tour of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens a while ago, today we travel northward to the neighboring Carolina and bring you along for a stroll at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. 

The Biltmore estate was the life work of George Washington Vanderbilt, the youngest son of William Henry Vanderbilt. Today it remains the largest privately owned home in the United States, covering over 135,000 square feet and featuring 250 rooms. The home and gardens are still owned by Vanderbilt's descendants, and stands today as a testament to the jardin à la française gardens of the Gilded Age.  

After passing through the gates, we drove through miles of windy roads until we finally reached the home. When the home was constructed, it sat on an astounding 125,000 acres of land. Since since, large portions of it have been sold off to the federal government, which created the Pisgah National Forest. Today the estate still covers approximately 8,000 acres, including the Biltmore House, Gardens, and Winery.

After we parked we climbed to the apex directly across from the home, there sat a small shrine with a statue of Diana, overlooking the home.

The house looked almost miniscule from such a distance. After taking in the sights and the fresh air of spring, we made our trek back down to tour the main house.

Old vines covered the stairway from the green space towards the estate below, 

Ornate granite fountains were carved into its sides. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like dragon fish sculptures from the Ming dynasty were a symbol of opulence at the time.

As we approached the house, its more intricate details came into view, from the copper roof tops and its gilded sculptures to the pair of lion statutes guarding the front door.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the house, but we will leave you with a teaser of the entrance hall, dubbed as the Winter Garden and used as an aborteum for plants through the cold season. 

Image courtesy of the Biltmore Estate.

The tour of the house took the better part of the day, the self guided tours and the helpful staff providing insights into each of the 250 rooms. We took a breath and grabbed a pork-brie-sandwich at the local deli, then proceeded onto the gardens and rollings hills surrounding the Biltmore House.

Outside, we passed under lattices of wisteria vine, just opening into bloom.  The house opened up to a series of Greek water gardens to the south, and a terrace to the west. Unfortunately the weather has been unseasonably cold, and the planters that usually populate these areas are still safetly tucked away in the arborteum and greenhouses.

Overlooking the terrace, we admired the rolling hills beginning to show the colors of a spring bloom.

Moving on southward, we pass through the walkway gardens beneath the house, covered under newly emerging vines.

About a hundred steps down, we begin to see the outlines of the large flower garden beyond some trees.

Here, the tulips are in full bloom, in shades of red, white, and purple, stretching up into the sunlight.

On the perimeter of the flower gardens was the nursery and greenhouse, where the plants of the house terrace and water gardens find their winter respite. Inside we found a small pond with water lettuce and tiny koi fish.

Along the walls of the garden, we saw square-shaped trees. These carefully manicured plants were tied along wires to faciliate their horizontal and vertical growths, an interesting way to provide green cover along a wall. 


Moving beyond the flowers, we trekked to the less manicured areas of the estate, passing rollings hills of pink, yellow, and green in bloom.

Finding a stream, we followed it down, across quaint wooden bridges until we arrived at a small lake and boat house. 

Having reached the end of the trail and tired from our trek, we ended our garden tour and proceeded to the Biltmore winery, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon. A brisk garden walk followed by an afternoon of wine, what it must have been like to a be a Biltmore?

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