Biltmore’s Azalea Garden: A Tribute to Chauncey Beadle

A favorite pastime of Biltmore Blooms is visiting the Azalea Garden—one of the largest selections of native azaleas in the country. The 15-acre garden is home to more than 20,000 plants, offering thousands upon thousands of vivid blooms of white, yellow, orange, and every shade of pink imaginable.

Azalea Garden in bloom
Biltmore’s Azalea Garden in peak bloom

But did you know the Azalea Garden was not actually part of the original plan for the estate?

This parade of color is a culmination of the passion of Chauncey Beadle, an avid azalea collector and horticulturist hired at Biltmore in 1890 who later became the estate superintendent.

Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1906
Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1906

Beadle and “The Azalea Hunters”

Beginning in 1930, Beadle, along with fellow botanists and friends Frank Crayton and William Knight—aptly called “The Azalea Hunters”—spent countless hours over long weekends and holidays driving through each southeastern state searching for every species, natural hybrid, form, and color of azalea.

Chauncey Beadle in the Azalea Garden, 1948
Chauncey Beadle in the Azalea Garden, ca. 1948

Beadle maintained his massive personal collection at his farm on the east side of Asheville until 1940, but he knew that he needed to find a home for his azaleas, fondly referred to as his “children,” before he became too old to care for them.

He could think of no better home than the Glen in the valley below Biltmore’s Conservatory and gardens. Edith Vanderbilt Gerry and Judge Junius G. Adams, Biltmore Company president at the time, agreed.

Azalea Garden Ceremony, 1940
Azalea Garden ceremony, ca. 1940

Establishing the Azalea Garden

In honor of his then fifty years of service to Biltmore, the estate held a celebration for Beadle on April 1, 1940, in the Glen, which from that day forward would be named the Azalea Garden. All estate employees and their spouses were invited to the event.

Edith Gerry and Chauncey Beadle, 1940
Edith Vanderbilt Gerry and Chauncey Beadle, ca. 1940

During the ceremony, Edith unveiled a marker that memorializes Beadle’s lifetime of faithful service and gift of his azaleas to Biltmore.

Join us in celebrating the generosity and genius of Chauncey Beadle with a springtime stroll through the Azalea Garden. Plan your visit today!

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden: A Brief History

Each spring, thousands upon thousands of beautiful and brightly colored tulips fill the formal flowerbeds of Biltmore’s Walled Garden. Their vivid hues—this year, boasting shades of yellow, purple, pink, red, orange, and white—are a favorite part of the season for many guests.

But preparation for the show actually begins long before warmer weather arrives. According to Parker Andes, director of Horticulture:

Planting for spring in the Walled Garden begins months before you see the results. One reason we get continuous color is because we plant several varieties of up to six bulbs per hole!

In honor of this seasonal celebration, let’s take a look at the history of tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden.

Archival image of Biltmore Walled Garden
The Vegetable and Flower Garden (now the Walled Garden), cica 1895

The Vegetable and Flower Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted originally envisioned the Walled Garden as a multipurpose space, providing fine fruits and vegetables as well as fresh flowers for Biltmore House. The design was inspired by English kitchen gardens, which were often walled to protect them from wind and wild animals.

George Vanderbilt, however, did not share this vision. Instead, he thought the Walled Garden should be one of “ornament, not utility.” While fruits and vegetables were grown there intermittently, most of them were gradually phased out over time.

Archival image of Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden, circa 1930

The Earliest Hint of Tulips

It is difficult to say exactly when tulips made their debut in the Walled Garden. However, one letter in our archives tells us the blooming bulbs have been planted there for almost a century.

On April 14, 1922, Estate Superintendent Chauncey Beadle wrote to Cornelia Vanderbilt:

The tulips in the walled garden are so glorious that we are trying out an experiment of sending you a box today by express for Easter. We shall hope they will bring you something of their original beauty and charm to make Easter even more wonderful. Spring is very much advanced here, even the yellow rambler roses are opening. 

The showy flower was perhaps chosen for the dramatic beds of the Walled Garden as an homage to the Dutch heritage of the Vanderbilts—and the term “Biltmore.” The name selected for the family’s country retreat derives from “Bildt,” the town in Holland where George Vanderbilt’s ancestors originated, and “more,” an Old English word for open, rolling land.

Tulips have served as a status symbol for the Dutch since the height of “Tulipmania” in the mid-1600s when speculation on rare bulbs created an investment bubble and the price of one bulb was equal to ten years of income.

Tulips in the Walled Garden
Tulips in the Walled Garden delight guests year after year

The Tradition Continues

Tulips in Biltmore’s Walled Garden have long been a favorite element of the season. Even before Biltmore House opened to the public in 1930, the Vanderbilts allowed some public access to the area a few days a week during spring so that locals and out-of-state visitors alike could enjoy estate gardens in bloom.

This tradition continues today with Biltmore Blooms, our seasonal celebration of the estate’s ever-changing progression of springtime color. Plan your visit today and join us as we delight in the more than 80,000 tulip bulbs that lend their dramatic color to the Walled Garden. 

…And the winner is…

The Coral Knock Out Rose has captured the top prize at the recent finals of the 2019 Biltmore International Rose Trials.  Bred by William Radler and distributed by Star Roses & Plants, Coral Knock Out Rose (RADral) took home the George and Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the trials.

Coral Knock Out Rose by Star Roses & Plants

The winning rose was among a collection of roses planted for trials in 2017 in Biltmore’s award-winning and historic Rose Garden. Since 2011, Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials in which more than 200 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s expert horticulturalists. A permanent jury of rose experts judged the plantings four times a year during the trial’s two years.

In addition to winning the Best in Show Award, Coral Knock Out won the Chauncey Beadle Award for Most Outstanding Shrub Rose. Additional winners this year were:

Sweet Hips (KAPswehp) – Winner of the William Cecil Award for Best General Impression, and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant Rose, Sweet Hips is available from Weeks Roses.

Sweet Hips, available from Weeks Roses

Cupid’s Kisses (WEKtriscala) – Winner of the Gilded Age Award for Best Climbing Rose. Bred by Christian Bedard, it is available from Weeks Roses.

Cupid’s Kisses

Bliss Parfuma (KORmarzau) – Bred by Kordes Roses in Germany, Bliss Parfuma won the Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Bliss Parfuma

Moonlight Romantica (MEILkaquinz) – Winner of the Pauline Merrill Award for best Hybrid Tea went to Moonlight Romantica, bred by Meilland in France. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Moonlight Romantica

Trials of this type are open to rose breeders around the world – from professional to beginner. Competing roses are evaluated for overall health and rigor; fragrance; disease resistance; and ability to repeat bloom.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

8 Great Reasons to Visit Biltmore This Fall

Fall is prime vacation time for those who love “leaf-peeping,” and Biltmore offers the best Blue Ridge Mountains views around. The estate’s ever-changing autumnal color, plus its many seasonal activities and offerings, make it the perfect home base for a fall trip.

Here are 8 great reasons to make Biltmore the center of your getaway:

Biltmore House & Gardens in fall
Fall view of Biltmore House & Gardens

1. Prime Location in Asheville, NC

Nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Biltmore is located minutes from downtown Asheville—a vibrant city known for great dining, quaint shops, and its strong arts community—and just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. In addition to your visit to Biltmore House & Gardens, you could easily spend several days enjoying the surrounding area.

Rooftop view from Biltmore House

2. Rooftop Tour of America’s Largest Home®

Discover spectacular views boasting every shade of fall color as far as the eye can see. This 60-minute guided tour offers wildly impressive photo ops—during autumn, especially—and provides a closer look at the design and construction of Biltmore House in areas that many guests never visit.

Bass Pond Bridge in Fall at Biltmore
Bass Pond Bridge in fall

3. Legacy of the Land Tour

Take a motor coach tour of the estate and learn about the history of the land, structures, and former residents with our exciting Legacy of the Land Tour. Enjoy the glorious fall foliage all around you as you visit areas not usually open to guests.

Carriage and horses
Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

4. Deerpark Carriage & Trail Ride Barn

Located in the heart of the estate, this historic structure is the headquarters for Biltmore’s Carriage Rides and Horseback Trail Rides. Whether you prefer a relaxing journey in an elegant carriage or a western-style adventure on a horse that suits your riding style, few things are as majestic as traveling our woodland trails enveloped in fall color.

Fall music in Antler Hill Village
Live music in Antler Hill Village

5. Live Music Daily

Biltmore turns up the volume with live music daily at the Bandstand in Antler Hill Village! Enjoy special evening performers at Cedric’s Tavern, and on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the season, join us for Live After Five featuring energetic jazz and pop bands, casual dining options, and gorgeous sunsets, making it the perfect way for the whole family to unwind at the end of a fun-filled day on the estate.

Holiday decor inspired by Biltmore
Holiday decor inspired by Biltmore

6. Get Ready for the Holidays!

After strolling through a kaleidoscope of colors in the Walled Garden, join Biltmore floral design experts at A Gardener’s Place shop beneath the Conservatory for Illuminated Holiday Tablescapes–a complimentary demonstration offered daily on creating a stunning holiday tabletop centerpiece by combining natural elements such as plants, pinecones, and twigs with festive holiday ornaments and lights.

7. Vineyard Harvest Season

Grapes ripening in the vineyard
Grapes ripening in Biltmore’s vineyard

Biltmore’s bounty takes center stage at the Winery in Antler Hill Village as we celebrate a successful harvest season. Savor complimentary tastings of more than 20 handcrafted wines, plus specialty wine experiences such as our Behind-the-Scenes Winery Tour & Tasting to see how science and nature intersect as you learn about the estate’s vineyards, discover the unique factors that affect grapes grown in North Carolina, and take an in-depth look at our wine making process.

Guests arriving at The Inn on Biltmore Estate during Fall
Guests arriving at The Inn on Biltmore Estate

8. The Ultimate Fall Getaway

An overnight stay at Biltmore offers the unique experience of waking up on George Vanderbilt’s estate with autumn beauty just outside your door. Enjoy warm hospitality in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at the charming Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate®, or experience world-class service with a luxurious four-star stay at The Inn on Biltmore Estate®.  

Plan your visit today and discover for yourself why Biltmore is the perfect home base for your fall getaway.

Painting with Plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory

From brilliant bromeliads to elegant orchids, painting with plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory is how Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturist, describes his work.

Painting with plants such as bromeliads and orchids in Biltmore's Conservatory
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory

Caring for Biltmore’s Plants

Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory
Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory

Caring for this glorious garden under glass—filled with tropical treasures from around the world—is no easy task, but Todd enjoys his work in such exotic surroundings.

“It takes a lot of effort to keep the Conservatory looking so lush and beautiful,” said Todd. “All these plant species have different moisture needs, so we spend the first several hours of each day watering everything by hand—it helps us keep a close eye on the thousands of plants in our care.” 

Tropical Plant Treasures

Pink anthurium in Biltmore's Conservatory
Pink anthurium thrive in the Conservatory

Todd has been part of Biltmore’s Conservatory staff for the more than four years. Prior to joining the estate, he worked as a horticulturalist for a historic estate in southwest Florida, which gave him an appreciation for tropical plantings.

“I focus on adding to the diversity of what we offer in the Conservatory,” Todd said. “We have some palms that are very old, and some Cycads that date back to the time of the Vanderbilts, but we’re always adding new things for guests to discover and enjoy.”

Painting with Plants

Painting with plants and colorful foliage in the Conservatory
Todd incorporates colorful foliage into his designs

Along with his horticultural skills, Todd has a background in fine art, including painting and photography. His work in the Conservatory gives him a living canvas for expressing his creativity.

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn map shows the details of one of Todd’s designs

“From flowers to foliage, there are so many colors and textures to work with that it really is like ‘painting with plants’. My designs often begin with the color and pattern of foliage and how I can best create multi-level displays that intrigue our guests and engage their imagination,” said Todd.

A special project in 2019

Biltmore Gardens Railway includes this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory
In 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway included this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory

In addition to his regular responsibilities, Todd was instrumental in preparing the Conservatory to host Biltmore Gardens Railway in 2019.

The charming botanical model train display featured replicas of estate landmarks, handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

“Once the structures and the trains were installed, we had to create displays around them that both complemented the exhibition and showcased the Conservatory itself as one of Biltmore’s historic gardens,” Todd said. “It was an enormous project, but our guests really enjoyed it!”

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns in 2020

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns to Biltmore this summer; you can enjoy it in Antler Hill Village from July 7 through September 7, 2020.

This year, the botanical model train display will showcase iconic American railway stations, some of which have ties to the Vanderbilt family.

Featured blog image: Todd Roy displays a brilliantly-colored bromeliad in Biltmore’s Conservatory

Exploring Biltmore’s Conservatory in Asheville, NC

Imagine the luxury of having a house full of tropical plants to delight your senses—ranging from 40-foot palms to four-inches tall bromeliads. George and Edith Vanderbilt enjoyed that experience with Biltmore’s Conservatory, a beautifully designed greenhouse built for nurturing plants. 

Beneath its expansive glass roof, the Conservatory contains hundreds of plant varieties grown in several purposefully designed spaces, including the Orchid Room, Hot House, and Cool House. From spring to late summer, the Biltmore Gardens Railway is on display. The seasonal botanical model train display features small-scale replicas of the estate’s structures and includes approximately 800 feet of miniature rails.

Palm House at Biltmore

As you enter into this section of the Conservatory, you’ll immediately see why it was designated as the Palm House on architect Richard Morris Hunt‘s original plans. The grand space rises 40-feet high and contains our tallest plants, including the Queen Palm and Golden Hawaiian Bamboo that reach to the ceiling. Other notable specimens are the Mast Tree, a tall and narrow tree species once used to build ship masts, and the broadest plants in the building: Silver Bismark Palms, spreading 15 to 20 feet wide.

Orchid Room at Biltmore

To the left of the Palm House is the Orchid Room, filled with exotic orchid blooms in myriad colors and forms. There are more than 1,000 orchid plants in the Conservatory’s collection, ranging from the familiar corsage and lady slipper varieties to rare examples that perfume the air with tantalizing fragrance. Our year-round orchid display is made possible by Biltmore’s expansive collection. Blooming orchids are rotated into the room year-round, ensuring an endless show of color.

Exhibit Room

From over-the-top spring floral designs to a holiday wonderland, the Exhibit Room to the right of the Palm House hosts seasonally changing displays. This is a favorite location for guests to capture photos year-round.

Hot House at Biltmore

You might recognize some of the residents of the Hot House, as the tropical environment promotes the lush growth of philodendrons, pothos, and other species sold as popular houseplants.

Cool House at Biltmore

This is a subtropical zone, featuring Australian tree ferns, banana trees, and the aptly-named Lollipop plants and Shrimp plants. Note the overachieving Thai Giant Elephant Ear; with leaves 4–5 feet long, this plant has the biggest leaves in the Conservatory.

Alleys

Each summer, the alleyways adjoining the Hot House and Cool House are filled with plants for guests to enjoy. The Hot Alley features Bromeliads, while the Cool Alley showcases plants from the ginger and Heliconia families.

Potting Room at Biltmore

This workspace in the Conservatory has been used for over a century to re-pot plants as needed.

Enjoy 365 Days of Biltmore with an Annual Pass

Enjoy the grandeur and beauty of the 2,000+ plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory year-round. Purchase a Biltmore Annual Pass so you can return season after season to enjoy our gardens!

Keeping Track of Biltmore Gardens Railway

Twice a year, Biltmore’s Conservatory is home to Biltmore Gardens Railway, an elaborate G-scale railway with locomotives and rail cars weaving through the historic greenhouse’s exotic botanicals and miniature replicas of estate landmarks – even one of the Conservatory itself! A second railway display is located in Antler Hill Village where trains travel past replicas of the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, and other European landmarks visited by George Vanderbilt during his world travels. 

Working from original floor plans, drawings with elevations, and photographs of Biltmore House and other estate structures, a team with Applied Imagination constructed the Biltmore replicas using natural materials they gathered from estate grounds. The result is a stunningly accurate version of Biltmore. 

Scale model replica of Biltmore House inside Conservatory.

Some fun facts and figures to consider about Biltmore Gardens Railway: 

“Luxuriant” bamboo, as Frederick Law Olmsted called it when planning George Vanderbilt’s gardens and grounds, was harvested and used as the roofing material on the Biltmore House replica. Grapevine was also collected and fashioned into Biltmore’s iconic gargoyles. 

1,700 – The number of hours it took to construct the 10-foot-long replica of Biltmore House, compared to… the 6 years it took to build the 250-room Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

6 – The number of artists it took to build the scale model of Biltmore House, compared to… the 1,000 workers it took to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s.

5,000 – The number of tons of Indiana limestone used to build Biltmore House in the late 1800s, compared to… the 25 types of items harvested from estate grounds to create replicas of Biltmore House and other buildings. This included horse chestnut, magnolia leaves, hickory nuts, lotus pods, bamboo, pine cone scales, acorn caps, winged bean, star anise, grapevine, honeysuckle, ash bark, oak bark, pine bark, elm bark, hickory bark, eucalyptus leaves, day lily stem, rose of sharon, cedar branch, walnuts, stewartia, wisteria, turkey tail fungus, and contorted Filbert.

Artists from Applied Imagination suited up in waders to snip a few treasures from the Italian Garden pools. The lotus pods growing there were just too perfect to pass up, and ended up in the creation of the Stables. 

Woman gathering seed pods from the Italian Garden pool.

6 – The number of separate railroad tracks running through the Conservatory carrying locomotives and rail cars around the buildings. The trains cross bridges and trestles on varied levels and through multiple rooms.  

8 – The number of estate building replicas in the Conservatory. 

7 – The number of artists it took to create all of the replicas in the Conservatory.

3,745 –The number of combined hours it took to construct eight estate building replicas for the Conservatory exhibition.

Overhead trellis carries scale model train through the Conservatory.

8 – The number of buildings in the display at Antler Hill Village. 

1,050 – Amount of railroad track in feet required for the displays.

1 – Amount of weeks to install Biltmore Gardens Railway at two locations on the estate.

Biltmore Gardens Railway is a wonderful, fun-for-all-ages feature at Biltmore this summer. Plan your visit now

Experience Biltmore Blooms in 2019

When winter finally loosens its grip to make way for spring, you know Biltmore Blooms can’t be far behind!

Bringing the outdoors in with Biltmore Blooms

From the earliest flowering shrubs and vivid tulips in our historic gardens to the glorious progression of color along the Approach Road, we’ve been delighting guests with our annual celebration of the season for more than three decades.

The splendid spring show isn’t limited to the outdoors, however; our floral displays team brings the outside inside with beautiful arrangements throughout Biltmore House and across the estate.

Breakfast Room floral arrangement

A lovely floral arrangement highlights the Breakfast Room table

Welcoming the return of spring

“For Biltmore Blooms we create florals that reflect not only the welcome return of spring, but they also showcase the scale and grandeur of America’s Largest Home®,” said Lizzie Borchers, floral displays manager. “This year, we’ve also designed arrangements that enhance our guests’ experience of A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age.” 

According to archival notes and records, the Vanderbilts frequently entertained family and friends at Biltmore House in the early 1900s. It is that love of gatherings and celebrations that inspired A Vanderbilt House Party—an exhibition that took more than two years to plan and carry out.

Opera singer mannequin and floral arrangement in Biltmore House Organ Loft

Overlooking the Banquet Hall, a mannequin of opera singer Elizabeth Mayo Dodge shares the Organ Loft with a stunning floral arrangment  

Gracious hospitality

“Because George and Edith Vanderbilt were such gracious hosts, we believe they would have wanted something amazing right at the Front Door to make their guests feel special,” said Lizzie, “so we started with a grand floral display for the Vestibule.”

For the Banquet Hall, which you’ll see at the end of your tour during A Vanderbilt House Party, Lizzie and her team designed an exceptional spring showpiece for the formal table that is set as it would have been for an evening dinner party.

Flower arrangement in the Library of Biltmore House

Flowering spring shrubs add movement to more traditional arrangements

Adding native plants

Throughout the house, there are plenty of beautiful and traditional cut flowers including roses and lilies, but many arrangements incorporate plants that are native to Western North Carolina such as rhododendron, viburnum, and japonica—all of which might have been used during the Vanderbilt era.

Orchids in the Salon

Orchids in pots and Wardian cases add layers of floral interest to the Salon

Bringing it all together

“Using botanical materials that flourish on the estate this time of year is a perfect way to highlight both Biltmore Blooms and A Vanderbilt House Party,” Lizzie said. “In addition, we’ve been able to open the Winter Garden this year, allowing our guests to walk through that amazing space, just as if they were guests of the Vanderbilts. Enjoy all the color we’ve added to this ‘indoor jungle’ for the season—it’s full of bright begonias, crotons, orchids, and anthuriums, which symbolize hospitality!”

Biltmore Blooms floral arrangement in Vestibule
Don’t miss a moment this spring!

Experience all the excitement of Biltmore Blooms now through May 24 and A Vanderbilt House Party – The Gilded Age, which continues through May 27. Both events are included with your daytime admission to Biltmore.

— Featured image: Vivid florals for Biltmore Blooms
— Left inset image: Grand arrangement in the Entry Hall of Biltmore House
 

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Biltmore’s Conservatory Now

Chihuly At Biltmore Was On Display From May 17 To October 7, 2018.
Please Enjoy This Archived Content.

When Todd Roy says there are plenty of reasons to visit Biltmore’s Conservatory in late summer, he’s not exaggerating.

Once you enter the historic structure located at the end of the Walled Garden, it’s like stepping into another world—one filled with lush tropical treasures and venerable vines plus dazzling array of colors, scents, and textures to delight your senses!

Todd is a member of Biltmore’s horticulture team who care for the thousands of exotic and interesting plants that fill the Conservatory. While that much responsibility might seem daunting, he enjoys meeting the needs of his botanical “co-workers,” from hand-watering them every morning to knowing their preferences for light and shade.

George Vanderbilt chose plants with the same attention and interest as the art he collected,” said Todd. “Some of the specimens he selected are beautiful, some are rare, and some are just odd and interesting.”

It was hard to narrow down the list, but here are 10 of Todd’s top picks to see during your next Conservatory visit:

10. Longest Lives

The Conservatory has an impressive collection of Cycads with a few dating back more than a century to the time of the Vanderbilts. Cycads only grow about one inch per year, so the size some of these have achieved is especially impressive.

Between the bench and the palm towering overhead, a lush Cycad makes a photo-worthy backdrop 

9. Largest Leaves

Just inside the Cool House, look for a grouping of Thai Giant Elephant Ears (Colocasia gigantea) featuring some of the largest leaves in the Conservatory.

Thai Giant Elephant Ears sport umbrella-sized leaves in the Cool House

8. Intriguing Alleys (Edible)

Each year, Todd creates special themes for the two alleys located between the main wings of the Conservatory. This year, they’re showcasing useful/edible plants in one alley and water features in the other.

Have you ever wondered how coffee, cotton, or allspice (Pimenta dioicaa) grows? You’ll find examples of each along with black pepper vine, Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) that makes sour foods taste sweet, Barbados cherry (Malpighia emarginata), an important source of Vitamin C, and many more.

Close-up view of the aptly-named Miracle Fruit

7. Intriguing Alleys (Water Features)

Once you’ve admired all the edible plants, take a stroll down the opposite alley to experience the soothing sounds of water trickling and splashing over pebbles into small pools surrounded by lush container plantings. Linger here to watch the play of light on water and absorb the peaceful atmosphere of this relaxing space tucked away and just waiting to be discovered!

Look for a series of relaxing water features in one of the Conservatory’s two alleys this summer

6. Hummingbird Haven

According to Todd, the Red Button Ginger (Costus woodsonii) growing near the end of the Cool House is a hummingbird magnet. “When it flowers in late summer, each ginger cone produces a single red bloom,” said Todd, “and the hummingbirds know it’s there, almost as if they’ve mapped out the Conservatory. I see them early in the morning, visiting each flower, then flying away before it gets too warm inside.”

Red Button Ginger displays a single “button” or bloom

5. Tropical Travel

Want to visit the tropics without leaving Biltmore? Don’t miss the fragrant display of Plumeria in containers along the back wall behind the Conservatory. Also commonly known as Frangipani, Plumeria is native to many of the world’s tropical regions and the beautiful blooms are often used in Hawaiian leis.

Pretty pink Plumeria flowers smell as lovely as they look

4. Signature Scent

If you’re a fan of Coco Chanel’s iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume, your nose may lead you to a very special specimen growing in Biltmore’s Conservatory. The Ylang Ylang Tree (Cananga odorata) produces creamy yellow flowers with long petals, and their heady floral scent is the signature note associated with the world-famous fragrance.

A fragrant yellow bloom of the Ylang Ylang Tree

3. Cereus Secrets

The area of the Conservatory dedicated to members of the cactus clan definitely keeps some secrets from our day guests!

“It’s actually very hard to catch a night-blooming cactus at its peak,” Todd tells us. “You have to be here late at night or very early in the morning to see the full potential of the flowers.” Lucky for us, Todd has captured some elusive blooms from the Cereus family like this stunning Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) example.

‘Queen of the Night’ cactus in bloom

2. Pitcher Perfect

While the idea of carniverous plants may seem like an oxymoron, Slender Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes gracilis) and other varieties offer a fascinating glimpse into a highly-specialized world in which plants attract and trap insects as their main source of food. The year-round warmth of the Conservatory provides a perfect environment for both the pitchers and the insects on which they feed.

A staff member shows off the pitcher portion of the Slender Pitcher Plant

1. Glorious Glass

No visit to the Conservatory is complete without marveling at the glorious glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly during Chihuly at Biltmore and Chihuly Nights at Biltmore. As you approach the Conservatory, note the Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds installed in the Butterfly Garden.
Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds aglow in front of the Conservatory during Chihuly Nights at Biltmore

Inside the structure, look up to the ceiling to spot three intricate Burnished Amber, Citron, and Teal Chandeliers; you’ll find them at the far left, far right, and in the center of the main room. Their time is limited, however, as these breathtaking “blooms” are only here until October 7.

One of Chihuly’s three Burnished Amber, Citron, and Teal Chandeliers inside the Conservatory at Biltmore

Featured blog photo: Biltmore horticulturalists at the Conservatory

Discover Biltmore’s Distinctive Shrub Garden

Summer at Biltmore is a glorious season–and the perfect time to discover Biltmore’s distinctive Shrub Garden.

Discover Biltmore’s distinctive 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.

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
A family enjoys an outdoor picnic in the Shrub Garden

Biltmore’s 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 in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Stone steps beckon you to discover new delights in the Shrub Garden

Caring for this distinctive space

For Brooke Doty, a member of the estate’s landscaping team since 2017, Biltmore’s 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.

Jack-in-the-pulpit plant in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Uncovering a native jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In caring for Biltmore’s Shrub Garden during the past several years, 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.”

Notable specimens

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
Brooke examines the decorative fruits of the Japanese Snowbell tree

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.

The Shrub Garden is also the home of two state champion trees. One is the golden rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) with clusters of small yellow seed pods that hang from its nearly weeping branches in early summer.

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
State champion river birch with cables to support its branches

The other is 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.

“From champion trees to the ‘bones’ of Olmsted’s design, Biltmore’s 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.”

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

Plan your summer visit today

Kids in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
Guests of all ages love discovering Biltmore’s “outdoor rooms” like the Azalea Garden

In addition to exploring our glorious historic gardens during peak season, enjoy all that Biltmore offers this summer, including Biltmore Gardens Railway, on display in Antler Hill Village July 1–September 7.

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