Saturday, March 28, 2009
Biltmore Estate Spring Gardens, Asheville
Since I have written about the Biltmore Estate before, here I will focus on the gardens. A friend invited me to go with her to tour the outdoor gardens at the Estate one lovely spring Sunday afternoon.
The ride in from the main gate was beautiful with stands of bamboo and flowering shrubs lining the drive. The gardens are located to the left of the main house and parking is just past the Walled Garden. The gardens and landscaping were originally a project of Frederick Law Olmsted, highly sought after during his time.
The prime time to view the gardens is in spring. During early April the gardens are a profusion of the last of the daffodils, tulips, bright yellow and white forsythias, pink cherry and magnolia trees. Later in the month dogwoods and redbuds add their two cents worth to the abundance of color.
In May the azaleas, poppies and snapdragons are the featured flowers. It is hard to visualise such a large expanse of land covered with flowers. I am sure it must look similar to the tulip displays in Holland in spring.
The Italian Garden boasts three pools, manicured lawns and ornate statuary. The Shrub Garden features all sorts of flowering shrubs in delicate pinks and whites. The Walled Garden that day had mainly daffodils and small blue pansies and hyacinths. It was too early for most of the tulips to be blooming.
The glass Conservancy designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt, is a grand testament to the turn of the century with its ornate details. This building houses the plants and flowers used for decorating the main house and bedding plants for the gardens. Inside here are also the Palm House and Orchid House filled with ferns, tropical plants and exquisite orchids of all colors and sizes. It would be a pleasantly warm sunny place to visit in the cold winter months.
The Spring Garden veers off on path of its own past huge banks of forsythias, cherry trees and various evergreen shrubs. Further down the path the Azaleas (not in bloom when we went) brighten the day with their intense pinks, oranges and deep mauve. Visitors were camped out for the day with blankets on the lawns and Frisbees to pay catch.
We hiked through the gardens for several hours, coming back to the main house to to use the rest room and peek in the shops.
To top of this beautiful spring day we drove over to the Inn at Biltmore Estate near the Winery. Along the route we had a great view of the French Broad River, full from spring rains. Walking paths line the river in many spots and visitors were taking full advantage of the warm sun. At the Inn we sat ourselves on the balcony of the main foyer overlooking the river and ordered sodas and snacks. Many others had the same idea and the tables were full. Surprisingly the drinks were very inexpensive - $3 for a never ending flow of ginger ale, cherry coke and a triad of nuts, wasabi peas and chex mix to nibble on. In cooler months you can order the coffee tray at the same price and towering heaters keep you toasty warm while enjoying the view from the balcony. Completely relaxed and worn out form the day we finally headed off home.
In April the Biltmore Estate is open from 10 - 7 daily with the gates closing at 4pm. Full admission is required to view the gardens and access the Inn. Call ahead for more information and reservations/tickets. Their number is 800.411.3812 or go to www.blitmore.com.