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Controlled Approach: Preserving the Road to Biltmore

Posted on 06/09/2017 by Jean Sexton Comments(1)

For Western North Carolina native Jason Mull, his daily work at Biltmore can sometimes seem very invasive—but that’s only because he heads up a crew of six gardeners who are primarily focused on the Approach Road, and their work includes control of invasive plant species.

“Jason is one of our unsung heroes working behind the scenes. He has great technical know-how and a wealth of knowledge for plants,” said Parker Andes, Director of Horticulture. “He also has a special skill in controlling and eradicating undesirable plants while preserving native species,
including some endangered ones.”

Jason Mull removes invasive plants along Biltmore's Approach RoadOne of the main tasks Jason’s crew tackles is dealing with non-native plant species, such as invasive grasses, shrubs, and vines. Most troublesome are Chinese silver grass, porcelain berry, and elaeagnus. These plants crowd out native species, threatening the integrity of Olmsted’s Approach Road design.

“We use all kinds of equipment from tractors to dump trucks to get rid of these plants,” said Jason. “And then we grind up the material we remove to make mulch that we use across the estate.”

When they are not fighting back invasive plant species, Jason and his crew have a long list of seasonal tasks, including tree pruning and planting, mulching, and using chain saws to clear brush and dead wood. It’s a never-ending list, but they enjoy keeping the historic landscape true to Olmsted’s plans, often referring to original notes and drawings made by Olmsted that are part of Biltmore's collection.

The crew uses original plans to inform their workIn addition to his commitment to Biltmore, Jason has a deep connection to these mountains. He grew up loving the outdoors, a trait instilled in him by generations of family who also hail from this area. His job as Approach Road crew leader at Biltmore keeps him outdoors most of the time, and he’s happy about that.

“I’ve been with Biltmore for two decades working on various gardens here,” said Jason. “We work every day to assure that our guests see Biltmore in the best possible light, the way landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted wanted it to be viewed.”

-- Featured image: Jason Mull and his team at work on the Approach Road
-- First image: Jason Mull removes invasive plant materials
-- Second image: (L-R) Team members Erika Emory, Brannen Basham, James Carroll, Jason Mull, and Jeff Spencer review landscape plans

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Posted on 07/02/2017 By Judith S

Jason, Mulching of the invasive materials and using on the property, would that not seed future or more invasive growth?

Excellent question, Judith! That is an on-going challenge for our horticulture team. While mulching invasive species does create potential risk for future growth, one thing we have on our side is composting. We compost both native and invasive species to produce our mulch. So long as the temperature of the compost pile stays between 140 and 160°F for the appropriate amount of time, the seeds of most invasive species are killed, greatly reducing the risk of future growth. – Biltmore Blog Editor

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