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Discovering Biltmore’s Distinctive Shrub Garden

Posted on 07/25/2018 by Jean Sexton

Summer at Biltmore is a glorious season when the estate's historic gardens and grounds reach their peak of intense color and beauty.

Biltmore Gardens Railway

This year, in addition to acres of blooms, you’ll also marvel at Biltmore Gardens Railway in the Conservatory and Antler Hill Village.

From May 24–September 29, 2019, enjoy beautifully executed botanical model train displays featuring a variety of Biltmore area structures, each handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs. With 800 feet of rails and trains traversing six separate lines at different eye levels, this is a one-of-a-kind, fun-for-all-ages garden experience.

Preview of Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

Discovering the Shrub Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed many of the areas closest to Biltmore House as a series of “outdoor rooms” that beckoned guests to step outside and enjoy their surroundings.

A family enjoys a shady area among the trees

The Shrub Garden, located between the Italian Garden and the Walled Garden, invites guests to lose themselves among the winding paths and lush plantings.

Stone steps beckon you to discover new delights in the Shrub Garden

Caring for this distinctive space

For Brooke Doty, a member of Biltmore’s landscaping team since 2017, the Shrub Garden offers a subtle beauty in striking contrast with other portions of Olmsted’s design.

“It’s not as obvious as the Walled Garden with all its bright, blooming flowers, but the Shrub Garden is a place of deep shade and clean structure. The shapes of the mature trees and the open, airy feel of the pathways make it the perfect place for wandering,” said Brooke.

Uncovering a native jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In caring for the Shrub Garden during the past 18 months, Brooke has come to appreciate more than just the overall plan of the area.

“I constantly see things I never saw before,” Brooke said. “Things that you don’t notice immediately. There are plantings that are tucked back away from the paths, and specimens that you won’t find in most gardens.”

Brooke examines the decorative fruits of the Japanese Snowbell 

Notable specimens

Styrax japonicus or Japanese Snowbell is one such horticultural gem; the tree is known for producing cascades of flowers in the spring, interesting fruits in summer, modest fall color, and shapely limbs for winter interest.

State champion river birch with cables to support its branches

The Shrub Garden is also the home of two state champion trees: the golden rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) with clusters of small yellow seed pods that hang from its nearly weeping branches in early summer and a massive river birch (Betula nigra) with distinctive, cinnamon-colored curling bark. In addition to its champion status, the river birch is one of the original plantings in the garden.

Colorful summer blooms against the brick tunnel bridge in the Shrub Garden

“From champion trees to the 'bones' of Olmsted's design, the Shrub Garden offers something interesting for every season,” said Brooke. “I’m always encouraging guests to spend more time here exploring the paths, enjoying the quiet beauty, and discovering the little surprises that await you around each turn.”

Plan your spring and summer visits now

In addition to exploring our glorious gardens during peak season, enjoy all that Biltmore offers this spring and summer such as outdoor activities, our annual Biltmore Blooms celebration, and Biltmore Gardens Railway!

Featured blog image: Brooke Doty at work in the Shrub Garden

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