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Exploring our ornaments in detail

Posted on 11/30/2015 by Jean Sexton

Each Christmas, Biltmore’s floral team weaves their magic throughout America’s largest home and across the estate, dazzling guests with trees, garlands, wreaths, and more. In addition to lights, greenery and flowers, the team also uses thousands of ornaments to bring the season to life. Let’s take a closer look at some of the details that make Christmas at Biltmore so special.

Sailing ships

Because the Vanderbilt family fortune began with “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt’s shipping business, guests will almost always find at least one tree that features tiny sailing ships in his honor. And since George Vanderbilt was a world traveler, the graceful ship ornaments also represent his sense of adventure.

Ribbons and bells

Red velvet bows with jingle bellsIn the Banquet Hall, you’ll marvel at our enormous Frasier fir hung with ornaments as big as basketballs and as long as baseball bats, but that’s not the only wonderful sight. At the opposite end of the room, the triple fireplace is swagged with greenery highlighted by glorious velvet bows. Look closely and you’ll see that the rich red fabric is adorned with hundreds of tiny jingle bells which add a lively note to the formal scene.

“We saw a very similar ribbon when we were making final plans for decorating,” said April Partain with Floral Displays. “It was perfect for the Banquet Hall, but it was just crazy expensive, so we thought we could do it ourselves. And we did!”

April was responsible for decorating Biltmore’s Banquet Hall this year, and purchased enough heavy red velvet ribbon to create the bows. “Then we pinned each jingle bell on by hand until we had the look I wanted,” April said.

Bell decorations on Banquet Hall treeMore bells are incorporated throughout the room, from decorations to the enormous topper April created as a finishing touch for the Banquet Hall tree.

For children

One tree in Biltmore House is always decorated as a “children’s tree,” with ornaments such as vintage dolls and teddy bears. You’ll find it this year in the Oak Sitting Room, with wrapped packages, a doll’s carriage, and old-fashioned games piled around the base to complete the nostalgic look.

Children of all ages will love the old-fashioned handkerchief dolls that Lucinda Ledford of Floral Displays made for the tree in the Servants’ Dining Room. They add a warm note of homespun magic to the scene.

Framed memories

Another special detail you’ll find among our ornaments is small frames that hold pictures of the Vanderbilt family and their friends. “The holidays have always been meaningful at Biltmore,” said Gloria Brank, Floral Supervisor, “and by using these pretty portraits, we can help connect today’s story to the Vanderbilts’ holiday traditions.”

Deer ornament in a bowBeyond Biltmore House

Of course, the decorations extend well beyond Biltmore House to our restaurants, shops, Antler Hill Village & Winery, and our two hotels. If you’re dining at Deerpark Restaurant this holiday season, note the wreaths on the inside doors near the host station--they feature delicate gilded deer in honor of the location’s name.

You’ll even find a touch of Biltmore in downtown at the Asheville Visitors Center, where our Floral team decorated a tree to represent Western North Carolina. “The tree is decorated with 'natural’ ornaments and the whole thing is gorgeous and lush,” said Tracy Ross with Floral Displays. “It gives you a feel of walking in the woods.”

To experience more Christmas at Biltmore details, consider becoming an Annual Passholder so you can enjoy visiting as often as you like throughout the season.

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