Fall Highlights of Arboriculture at Biltmore

When George Vanderbilt purchased the acreage that would become Biltmore, much of the land was overworked and vacant of trees due to activity from the previous settlers. Biltmore’s landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, advised George to make most of his estate a forest.

Luckily for today’s guests, some of the tree species handpicked by Olmsted are now recognized as North Carolina State Champion Trees—meaning they are essentially the superstars of our historic gardens. And there is no better time to view these estate beauties than leaf season.

golden rain tree fall colorGolden-rain Tree in the Shrub Garden

Perhaps one of the more unusual champion trees, the Golden-rain tree in the Shrub Garden lends grace and charm to the landscape. Its showy fall color generally includes various shades of yellow and chartreuse. If you look closely, amid the autumn foliage you’ll find inflated seed pods, reminiscent of Chinese lanterns, hanging elegantly.

katsura tree fall colorKatsura Tree in the Azalea Garden

Among the larger champion trees is the Katsura tree, found in the Azalea Garden. This tree has magnificent fall color with hues ranging from gold to apricot, accompanied by an unusual, sweet fragrance that permeates the area around the tree. Some describe the smell as cinnamon-like, while others think it is more similar to cotton candy—either way, it’s sure to satisfy the senses!

Fall katsura leaves fall colorOther champion trees of note on the estate are the Dawn redwood in the Azalea Garden with its lush bronze fall color and the Persian parrotia boasting brilliant warm autumnal hues between the Conservatory and the Gardener’s Cottage.

Fall is a favorite season for strolling the gardens and grounds of Biltmore, and these champion trees make an autumn estate experience that much more memorable.

Images
Feature: Fall color in the Blue Ridge Mountains
First: Golden-rain tree
Second: Katsura tree
Third: Fallen Katsura leaves

8 Must-See Spots for Fall Color at Biltmore

The gardens and grounds of Biltmore during fall are nothing short of dramatically beautiful. An autumnal palette begins just inside the Lodge Gate and continues around every turn. But where exactly are the best places on the estate to find views of spectacular fall color?

1. Top of the Esplanade

Found at the top of the Esplanade near the statue of Diana is a “signature shot” of Biltmore House, framed by enormous hemlocks, pines, and rhododendron, with a majestic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.

2. South Terrace

The wide open terrace on the south end of Biltmore House offers long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains with dramatic fall color.

3. Rooftop

The Rooftop Tour of Biltmore House provides you with a bird’s eye view after a climb up the Observatory’s spiral staircase and onto the balconies and rooftop of America’s Largest Home®.

4. Walled Garden

The fall color continues as this formal garden is transformed with hundreds of vibrant mums in autumnal shades—this year, boasting brilliant blooms of red, purple, orange, and yellow.

5. Bass Pond & Boathouse

Follow the Azalea Garden path to the Bass Pond path and discover vivid leaves reflecting upon the water. The geese and other birds and wildlife around the water also add excitement to the season.

6. Lagoon

Any spot near the Lagoon offers dramatic fall color from the wide variety of hardwoods that surround it, but the Boat Ramp towards the middle provides particularly vibrant hues with a view of the west façade of Biltmore House in the distance.

7. The Inn on Biltmore Estate™

Set upon a hilltop near Antler Hill Village, The Inn’s grand panoramic views are not to be missed. Relax on the Grand Terrace and enjoy a glass of Biltmore Wine as you take it all in.

8. Estate Trails

Lastly, Biltmore’s more than 22 miles of trails offer spectacular views throughout each season, but fall provides full immersion of color as your stroll through the beautiful woodlands of the estate.

Don’t miss these special must-see estate locations to experience fall color at its absolute finest. Plan your visit today!

Fall Getaway: A Day and A Half at Biltmore

Perhaps 36 hours doesn’t seem like enough time to truly experience fall in the Blue Ridge Mountains, right? Think again! With 8,000-acres of ever-changing autumn hues and harvest season celebrations, Biltmore guests can enjoy Western North Carolina at its best.

Of course, a visit to Biltmore House is at the very top of our list, but what should you do after spending a few hours touring America’s largest home? Our autumn itinerary below offers suggestions for how to make the most of a day and a half at Biltmore.

Leaf-Peeping

Couple on South TerraceSouth Terrace (.5 hours)
Take your time on the four-acre terrace next to Biltmore House and enjoy a sweeping scene of the surrounding mountains that truly seem to go on forever. Fun fact: George Vanderbilt once owned all of the land he could see from this terrace—even Mt. Pisgah more than 30 miles away!

Rooftop Tour of America's Largest HomeRooftop Tour (1 hour)
Build your architectural knowledge of Biltmore House while taking in picture-perfect long-range fall views from its rooftop and balconies on this behind-the-scenes guided tour.

Garden Strolls

Walled Garden (1 hour)
Next, head to the Walled Garden, transformed by a carpet of vivid chrysanthemums. This year’s color show features brilliant blooms in red, purple, orange, and yellow.

Biltmore Bass Pond BridgeBass Pond (1 hour)
Stroll the Azalea Garden trail to discover fall color radiating across Biltmore’s Bass Pond. Fun fact: The Bass Pond bridge was featured in the film Last of the Mohicans.

Antler Hill Village & Winery

Taste of Biltmore Culinary ShowcaseTaste of Biltmore Culinary Showcases (3 hours)
Relish harvest flavors as you mingle with estate chefs, local purveyors, and artisans who share their expertise in crafting distinctive fare from fresh estate-raised and local ingredients.

Biltmore Wine and CheeseWine & Cheese Hour (1 hour)
End the day with a social hour hosted by our most knowledgeable wine aficionados and savor delicious pairings of Biltmore wines and a variety of artisan cheeses.

Outdoor Adventures

Couple BikingBiking (1.5 hours)
Wake up the next morning with a bike ride across the estate and discover our woodland trails enveloped in fall color. Bring your own bike or rent one from us!

Biltmore VineyardsWest Side Segway Tour (2 hours)
Travel by Segway across the French Broad River to the estate’s west side and enjoy beautiful views of our pastures and vineyard while learning about Biltmore’s agricultural program.

So you see, a day and a half is plenty of time to experience our most colorful time of the year. 

Behind the Scenes: Fall Care for Biltmore’s Gardens & Grounds

As summer ends and fall beauty begins to blanket the estate, our dedicated garden crew is busy preparing the grounds for the change of season.

After Labor Day, crews are busy pulling all of the tropical plants. Elephant ears in the massive terra cotta pots lining the front of Biltmore House and other areas are stored for next summer.

Koi and lily pads in the Italian Garden pools

Once they’ve faded, lilies and lily pads are gathered from the Italian Garden pools to be composted. Many of our guests ask what happens to the koi in the pools, but they actually remain in the ponds and hibernate during the cooler months!

Dahlia bulbs in the Walled Garden’s Victorian border are lifted out of the ground to allow the soil to dry naturally. The bulbs are placed in a cool dry place to store over winter to be replanted in the spring.

Walled Garden crew member

The gorgeous second-round blooms in the Rose Garden are pruned in preparation for the International Rose Trials, September 22–23. The historic garden has hosted the event since 2011, providing breeders from all over the world a place to trial and display their roses.

And of course, the seemingly never-ending task of blowing and raking leaves across the estate will soon commence. There will be several leaf clean-ups throughout the season to minimize final efforts at autumn’s end. Along with some of the tropical plants, all raked leaves are composted and eventually become part of Biltmore soil.

West Facade of Biltmore House with fallen leaves

Don’t miss those autumn leaves and our fall gardens in all their glory. Book your stay at Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® or The Inn on Biltmore Estate® today.

Fall Color Abound: Biltmore’s Gardens & Grounds

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed Biltmore’s gardens, he planned their beauty to last through all four seasons, so it’s little wonder the blooms of estate gardens continue well into fall.

Biltmore Walled GardenThe Walled Garden

In the formal gardens, the show continues with carefully planted flowers designed to blossom through cooler temperatures. The Walled Garden hosts an array of fall mums that provide color from late September through the end of October. This year’s color show includes brilliant blooms in red, purple, orange, and yellow.

Biltmore Rose GardenThe Rose Garden

Rose lovers can enjoy a sneak peek of the judging of the annual International Rose Trials September 22–23. Since 2011, Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden has served as the home for the trials. More than 90 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s horticulturalists.

Fall Azalea BloomsThe Azalea Garden

The glory of fall blooms continues through the estate’s informal gardens. The Azalea Garden, filled with 15 acres of native azaleas, enjoys a second bloom in the fall. Other gardens are also alive with late blooming annuals, perennials, and vibrant leaves on the estate’s native and exotic trees.

Biltmore Bass Pond Boat HouseEstate Grounds

For those looking for fall color beyond the gardens, a scenic drive through the estate provides a wonderful opportunity to slow down and savor views of forests flush with color and panoramic vistas. The road by the Reception & Ticketing Sales Center is populated by vibrant orange and red sugar maple trees, while an afternoon drive by the Bass Pond offers views of bright fall foliage reflecting in the water. 

The Lagoon

A trip to Antler Hill Village & Winery provides the chance to drive by the Lagoon and enjoy views of the house’s western façade framed by vibrant leaves. Between the estate’s gardens and grounds, the promise of fall color begins in early September and continues until late October, making any time a perfect time to experience autumn on the estate. Plan your visit today.

A Photographer’s Tips for Capturing Fall Color

Asheville photographer Sandra Stambaugh has captured images of Biltmore’s stunning gardens and landscapes for more than 20 years. We asked her to share some of her favorite spots for photographing beautiful fall color.

I don’t think of Biltmore being completely covered in a blaze of color during the fall; it’s more like a brilliant performance that pops up in one location, then moves on to dazzle in another one. This gradual movement gives estate guests the opportunity to experience varying fall color throughout the season.

Reception Ticketing & Sales Center
Some of the most spectacular color arrives early in the season. Gorgeous bright red and orange sugar maple trees greet guests at Reception Ticketing & Sales Center, just beyond the estate’s entrance.

Bass Pond bridgeBass Pond
Some of what I call the “signature shots” are those that compel guests to get out of their cars and take pictures—like the maples bordering the Bass Pond, for instance. It's beautiful there any time of the day, but in the afternoon, when the leaves are backlit by the western sun and glow against a blue sky, this area is especially gorgeous. With the vivid leaves of the trees reflecting in the water, a walk around the Bass Pond is a must-do for capturing fall color.

Diana & the Esplanade
Another signature shot is along the Esplanade, the hill across the Front Lawn of Biltmore House leading up to the statue of Diana. Every year I try to get a shot from the statue’s perspective. Here you have a full view of the house, framed on the right side by tall colorful trees. With leaves swirling around and covering the ground, it can be magical. I have even witnessed several proposals here during the fall.

Statue of Diana and Biltmore HouseRampe Douce
One of my favorite shots near Diana is of the English Ivy that covers the wall of the Rampe Douce. It drapes down over the fountain and turns a gorgeous red with sprinkles of dark gray berries. I have photographed the leaves floating in the fountain for a beautiful shot.

Lagoon
Another signature shot is from the Lagoon with the view of the back of Biltmore House. I’ve most often seen people taking pictures from the open center view on the Lagoon’s northern edge, but I prefer the view from the boat ramp. This location will give much more depth to your shot. Your eyes are led through the curves of the banks, and often, ducks are swimming about, making the shot even more iconic. From this spot, the surrounding trees frame the house, and if there’s no wind, the structure will be reflected in the water—creating a perfect upside-down mirror image of Biltmore House.

West Facade of Biltmore House and LagoonPergola
And then there's the “tree that's on fire,” as I have heard many guests describe it. This impressive Japanese maple spreads out below the Pergola next to Biltmore House, and its lacy leaves turn a vivid red. A beautiful shot is from the south end of the Pergola looking toward the house, with this brilliant tree sitting below.

South Terrace
The grasses beneath the South Terrace at Biltmore House are also lovely this time of year. This area is a beautiful place to take family photographs. Just have your loved ones sit on the ground with the grasses in the background. This is really nice in the afternoon light.

Italian Garden
You might not think of the Italian Garden as a fall destination, but this area can be very picturesque. The large lotus leaves turn a golden yellow and mingle with the dry pods popping up like dark shower heads.

South End of Biltmore HouseBiltmore is a wonderful place to take pictures any time of the year, but there is something truly magical about fall at Biltmore. Brilliant colors off set the splendor of the gardens and landscapes. The fields soften and the light sharpens, intensifying the architectural details of Biltmore House. It’s a great time to bring special friends and family for a cherished portrait.

Hummingbirds and Butterflies Abound at Biltmore

Summertime is when some of our tiniest, most delicate guests come for an estate visit. Drawn to the large colorful patches of zinnias and bee balm, hummingbirds and butterflies flutter and dart around garden beds brimming with flowers planted there months earlier just for them.

The gardens in Antler Hill Village are particularly abuzz with these pretty creatures. Dusty Hafer, a crew member on Biltmore’s horticulture team, plans the planting beds for the village area, and he deliberately includes plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.


We asked Dusty for some tips on what plants the home gardener can plant to attract their own tiny visitors, and what’s working well in the village’s gardens.

“Variety is key to attracting butterflies and hummingbirds,” Dusty says. “Each has different preferences, so more garden variety yields more wildlife variety. Not only that, plant variety throughout the growing season is key. Layering your garden with overlapping bloom times will result in having the most options available throughout the year.”

According to Dusty, here’s what’s attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to Antler Hill Village right now. 

  • Bee balm (monarda didyma) – Its red tubular flowers are a hummingbird favorite, but butterflies love it as well. After the first flush of flowers fade, cut the plant back about halfway and to get additional flowering later in the summer.
  • Butterfly Bush – This species has a long bloom time, from spring through frost in the fall. It’s also a great choice if your gardening space is small. Hummingbirds like it just as butterflies do. Dusty warns that some species of the plant can become invasive, so select a sterile cultivar.
  • Salvia gauranitica 'black and blue' – Another Hummingbird favorite that has a fairly long bloom time.  
  • Verbena bonariensis – This one doubles as a nectar plant and host plant to a few species. It self-seeds, but will take over if you don’t pull its seedlings from places where you don’t want it. Goldfinches are also drawn to the seeds.
  • Ironweed 'Iron Butterfly' (vernonia lettermannii 'Iron Butterfly') – Butterflies love this newer, very attractive, cultivar of native ironweed.
  • Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' – Another butterfly favorite with a very long bloom time. Trim spent blooms to encourage better re-blooming and a tidy look.
  • Zinnias – A wide variety of zinnias is on the market in different sizes, colors, and flower types and most are very attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Put them out after danger of frost has passed and they will bloom practically non-stop until the first frost in the fall.

Dusty suggested additional strategies to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

  • Host plants – Include host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs and for their caterpillars to use as a food source. “Each species of butterfly has certain plants it will use as a host plant,” Dusty says. Monarch butterflies, for example, only use milkweeds, and they prefer certain milkweeds over others. Other good host plants for other types of butterflies are pansies, violets, fennel, hollyhock, switchgrasses, tall verbena, maypop, tulip poplar, black cherry, oaks, ash, and willows.
  • Water sources – Though hummingbirds are too small to use the depth of water in a typical bird bath, they love moving, splashing water, so consider a bird bath with a falling water feature. Mist stations also attract hummingbirds.  A small pond with a waterfall is another good option. Butterflies land on wet patches of soil where they get water and minerals. Dusty says you can place a very shallow dish in the garden and fill it with sand and pebbles to create a puddling station. Water it often enough to keep it thoroughly moist and butterflies will love it.

Featured image: Hummingbird with Crocosmia plant

–First photo:   Butterfly with Butterfly Bush 

–Second photo: Butterfly with Gomphrena

–Third photo: Hydrangea

A Legacy of Innovation: Hydroponics in our Production Garden

Lisa Peek, one of Biltmore’s Field to Table gardeners, recently received a new title: Hydroponic Specialist. 

Hydroponic Specialist Lisa Peek

So when it comes to growing plants without soil in our Production Garden, she is truly a pro.

“I’d have to say my favorite thing about working in the Production Garden is learning new techniques to better meet the needs of our estate restaurants,” says Lisa.

And the hydroponic process is doing just that.

Why Hydroponics?

“Because we have such high demand from our chefs for estate-grown produce—greens, in particular—we had to figure out a way to produce higher yields that are still top-notch quality,” Lisa explains.

Hydroponic greens

Simply put, the hydroponic system allows our gardeners to provide a plant with exactly what it needs, when it needs it, and in the amount that it needs. 

To consistently meet all of those requirements while growing a plant in soil is far more difficult. 

Throw in the volume necessary to meet the demands of six full-service estate restaurants and the challenge becomes clear. 

The benefits of hydroponics for our situation are undeniable. In addition to higher and more consistent yields, the system results in better taste and texture because the plants are not as vulnerable to variables like sunlight, wind, and temperature.

The hydroponic greenhouse protection also results in less waste as outer parts of the plants are not damaged by these elements.

Plus, all of our leafy greens are grown in deep water cultures, resulting in such high H2O content that their shelf-life quadruples!

More Greens, More Greenhouses

To meet the increasing demand for estate-grown produce, we have also found the need to increase our Production Garden space.

Edible snapdragons in dutch buckets

The addition of two greenhouses will provide Lisa and her team with basically triple the square footage.

The new greenhouses are being built exclusively for our deep water cultures. One will house solely lettuce, while the other will house spinach, mustards, kale, collards, and other leafy greens.

Our existing space will be home to starter plants for the other two greenhouses as well as various types of hydroponic systems.

For edible flowers like snapdragons and herbs such as sage and thyme, we are implementing a Dutch bucket system, which essentially functions as a regulated reservoir. This technique allows us to use a variety of growing mediums while also producing less waste.

The Production Garden on the west side of the estate is the backbone of our Field to Table Program. And thanks to dedicated employees like Lisa, we are able to honor George Vanderbilt’s original vision of a self-sustaining estate as well as his unswerving passion for innovation.

Images
Feature image: Hydroponic greens packaged for delivery to estate restaurants
Top right: Lisa Peek and intern Emily West inspect greens before packaging
Left: Hydroponic greens
Right: “Snaptastic” snapdragons growing in Dutch buckets

 

Preserving Biltmore’s Pools of Delight

The Italian Garden next to Biltmore House was created to offer a tranquil spot for enjoying magnificent reflections of America’s Largest Home®. The design, which includes three large pools filled with aquatic plants, remains remarkably true to the intention of Frederick Law Olmsted, Biltmore’s landscape architect.

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

Chihuly at Biltmore

In 2018, the Italian Garden is just one of the estate's settings showcasing Chihuly at Biltmore—an exhibition of large-scale glass sculptures by American artist Dale Chihuly now through October 7. The vibrant colors and organic shapes that distinguish Chihuly’s creations are captivating presented within Biltmore’s artfully designed landscapes. 

Caring for the Italian Garden

For the past several years, Chuck Cissell’s primary responsibility as a member of Biltmore’s landscaping team has been the Italian Garden with a focus on the aquatic plants. It’s a job he enjoys year-round, especially he can be in the pools caring for the breathtaking blooms that reach their peak in the summer months.

Water lily blooming in the Italian Garden pools at BiltmoreBlooming water lily

Planning for the seasons

Beginning in the fall, Chuck creates a plan for the Italian Garden pools. He places plant orders in April and May, and completes plant installations in June. Most of the aquatic plants come from Tricker’s Water Gardens—a company that was one of the first commercial water lily growers in the United States. Amazingly, it’s the same supplier that Olmsted used.

“I order many of the same plants that Olmsted used from Tricker’s, but today there are new colors and hardier blooms because they’ve experimented with growing and hybridizing water lilies to improve the shape, colors, and hardiness,” said Chuck.

“We always order new tropical water lilies and Victoria water platters with their huge lily pads. In one pool we have about 50 different lilies, including night-blooming varieties.”

Biltmore House reflected in the Italian Garden poolsSummer beauty in the Italian Garden

Glorious blooms

In June, you’ll see 130 hardy and tropical water lilies begin blooming. The lotus bed display starts in early July, and the gigantic platter-shaped Victoria lilies are largest in late August.  For the center pool display, Chuck used plants including ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’ sweet potato vine, ‘Mahogany Splendor’ Hibiscus, sun-tolerant Bromeliads, and dwarf Cannas. He picked muted colors like purple, silver, and bronze to highlight and compliment Chihuly's Palazzo Ducale Tower glass sculpture in that location.

“I feed and fertilize the water lilies once a week; they are heavy feeders. And we groom three times a week from June to October. Grooming—that means removing the pollinated blooms—helps increase the number of blooms a lily produces,” said Chuck.

Colorful koi in the Italian Garden pools at BiltmoreColorful koi in the pools

Keeping the koi content

The filtration system in the pools is original 1895 technology, using constant water flowing into and out of the pools. The gravity-fed reservoir, which also used to provide water to Biltmore House, provides water for the pools.

Natural filtration is beneficial to the colorful koi that populate the Italian Garden pools. We know from archival records that Olmsted wanted to have fish in the pools, and while we don’t know exactly when the koi were introduced, at least one is about 50 years old.

Statuary around the pools of the Italian Garden at BiltmoreStatuary around the Italian Garden pools

Preserving Olmsted's designs

Because of the sheer volume of receipts, plans, and letters in Biltmore’s garden archives, Biltmore’s gardeners have only gone through a fraction of all the information available.

For Chuck, that’s one of the most important elements of his job. “I really like the historic aspect of gardening here,” he said. “I have the joy of knowing I’m recreating the same thing that the Vanderbilts saw in 1895, and continuing that tradition.”

Visit now

Plan your summer visit to Biltmore today. It's a great time to introduce your children to America’s Largest Home® as ages 16 and under are admitted free from Memorial Day to Labor Day when accompanied by a ticketed adult. 

Featured blog image: A reflection of Biltmore House in the Italian Garden pools
 

Controlled Approach: Preserving the Road to Biltmore

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