Springtime Project: Tussie Mussie

Learn how to create your own tussie mussie, inspired by fashions and the language of flowers during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901). During this era, flowers were considered a more modest adornment than jewelry for a young woman. A tussie mussie was sometimes tied with a ribbon, but could also be carried in a cone-shaped, decorative silver holder. They're still used today for some bridesmaid bouquets.

Creating a Tussie Mussie

1. Start with the bushiest flowers first and add in additional flowers in a crisscross pattern. Rotate arrangement with each new flower added. 

2. Vary the height of each flower and remove excess greenery along the stems. Cut long stems for a petite and feminine look. 

3. Measure ribbon at 18-24 inches, cut and wrap around base. Tie a traditional bow and cut tails by folding the ends of each ribbon in half.

4. Find the perfect spot to display your arrangement! Whether used at a placesetting, or as an accessory, these simple arrangements are a beautiful way to incorporate fresh spring flowers into your decor.

Springtime Project: Olmsted Basket

Biltmore's gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as his last great commission. Gentleness, charm, and naturalness are keynotes of Olmsted's style. The picturesque and pastoral elements of Olmsted’s gardens can be recalled in our miniature landscapes, which our Floral Team uses throughout Biltmore House and other areas of the estate as a way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside.

Creating an Olmsted Basket

 

1. Choose your container. This can be a basket, ceramic bowl, brass dish, or wooden box; anything deep enough to hide the pots and give you room to create. Line the container with polyfoil or a garbage bag to protect from leaks.

2. Choose your plants. The size of the pots are determined by the size of your container, but 4″ pots are most commonly used. It's best to use plants with similar requirements such as light, water, humidity, and temperature. Use some tall and low plants, some upright and some spreading to add depth. Ensure the pots should have drainage holes to protect from soggy roots.

3. Be creative! Use natural materials such as moss, rocks, twigs, gourds, and berries to create interest with different textures. 

4. Choose the perfect spot in your home to display your creation. From room accents to tabletop centerpieces, these long-lasting designs are a perfect way to brighten up your space. 

A Vigilant Garden Rescue

Early spring often brings unpredictable weather patterns, and 2016 is no exception. On the evening of April 9, forecasted temperatures in the mid-20's generated concern among Biltmore's garden crew. Fragrant, colorful wisteria draped across Biltmore's Pergola is an iconic view that our guests have come to love each year and with the early buds just beginning to form and bloom, Garden Crew Leader, Clare Whittington, knew they had to act quickly.

Borrowing patio heaters from Biltmore's Engineering Services department, Clare and crew-member Steven Ayers moved the heaters into place around 12:30 a.m. With only 6 hours of gas, they worked with forecasters from Rays Weather Service to ensure they turned on the heat in the most critical hours. Steven stayed throughout the night to monitor the heaters and keep watch — demonstrating the amazing commitment our employees have to their work.

“We were not only worried about losing this year’s bloom, but we were also afraid of the wisteria reacting with a burst of vegetative growth. This happened after the freeze of ’07, and it took many years to get the display back to where it is now. Vegetative growth is the long whips that don’t bloom, and create a bad tangle every year,” said Clare.

Clare expects this year's wisteria to be in full bloom the week of April 18. Many of our guests enjoying Biltmore Blooms and the Pergola wisteria will be unaware of these above-and-beyond efforts of our garden crew, but for those who are, we hope it makes you appreciate its beauty even more!

Biltmore wines capture the essence of spring

Each year, inspired by Biltmore's gardens bursting with dazzling tulips and other spectacular blooms, our winemakers carefully handcraft a special release to celebrate the season. For 2016, this special seasonal release is a semi-sweet white with a touch of fruitiness—ideal for outdoor picnics and sipping while soaking up the sunshine. 

“This wine is aromatic, with hints of peach and honesuckle,” said Jill Whitfield, Biltmore Wine Marketing Manager. “It tastes as if we'd bottled the essence of spring, and we're excited that our guests can find it in their own neighborhood grocery stores and wine shops.

In addition to handcrafting this delicious wine, we also create a beautiful new label for the bottle. “We want the label to convey the expectation and sense of celebration inspired by our gardens and the return of warmer weather,” Jill said.

Sketchbook with ideasTo illustrate the idea of sun-kissed gardens and rebirth, Jill works closely with Biltmore's Assistant Art Director Lisa Vogel. The two collaborate on what the label might portray, and Lisa creates a series of sketches that will evolve into the final concept. 

“For the past few years, I've created variations on a theme based on the soft blooms and buds that herald the return of spring in Biltmore's gardens,” said Lisa. “I add layers of botanical texture and color for a sense of richness, and then I add a slightly whimsical note like a bee or a bird that makes the design more distinctive and light-hearted.”

Sketches of roses for spring labelThis year's seasonal release label features a charming butterfly amidst a bouquet of glorious old-fashioned roses. “Jill wanted to draw the attention of our customers and reinforce the connection between Biltmore Wines, spring blossoms, and the welcome return of warmer weather,” Lisa said of her initial drawings. “So I drew roses, buds, and greenery as a backdrop, and focused on bringing out the playful little character of the butterfly once we knew where the text would be positioned on the label.”

Seasonal Release wine labelAfter Jill approved the label design, Lisa worked with specialty printers to ensure that the colors and detail of the artwork would be preserved in the printing process.

“There are so many options to make the design pop out on the shelf,” said Lisa, “from papers and varnishes to metallic inks and embossed patternstoday's wine label printers can really help bring the finished product to lifeand we certainly want everyone to see the bottle and think 'spring!'”

Featured images: pages from Lisa's sketchbook paired with finished wine labels; Lisa displaying a bottle of our 2016 Seasonal Release White Wine for which she designed the label

 

Explore Our Favorite Outdoor Rooms

Every season offers a wonderful reason to explore our favorite outdoor rooms at Biltmore, but summer is an especially perfect time to do so.

Frederick Law Olmsted

Known as the “father of American landscape architecture,” Frederick Law Olmsted had definitive ideas about landscape design.

You can see many of his innovative ideas in New York City’s Central Park and here at Biltmore, which was his last professional project before his death in 1903.

Enjoying the outdoors, by design

View of the Approach Road in spring
Today’s guests enjoy the beauty of the Approach Road that Olmsted designed

For the magnificent estates he landscaped, Olmsted preferred longer-than-usual approach drives and separate garden spaces or “outdoor rooms” that were distinct from one another with no blending of styles.

The methods Olmsted used for creating special spaces are very noticeable in spring and when the gardens and grounds begin to bloom with color.

Explore our favorite outdoor rooms

When Biltmore employees were asked to share their favorite outdoor rooms around the estate, their answers were a tribute to all that Olmsted envisioned to enchant the Vanderbilts and their guests more than a century ago.

Italian Garden

Italian Garden at Biltmore
The Italian Garden is spectacular in summer

Parker Andes, Director of Horticulture, has a favorite spot tucked away in the Italian Garden.

“There’s a terra cotta cherub fountain in the last little turf area near the end of the garden,” said Parker. “Most people miss this treasure because they don’t walk all the way down there.”

Spring Garden

The Spring Garden at Biltmore
Some of the earliest blooms at Biltmore appear in the sheltered Spring Garden

Cathy Barnhardt, former Floral Displays Manager for Biltmore, is now retired and enjoying the estate as an Annual Passholder.

“The Spring Garden is like a little valley that opens up off the beaten path. The grass gets green there first and flowers bloom early,” said Cathy. “It’s a great place to spend time with your family.”

Azalea Garden

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

Another special location mentioned by several staff members is a bench at the top of the Spring Garden. From this vantage point, you can look down into the Azalea Garden and also have a view of the distant mountains.

Another not-to-be-missed favorite outdoor room is the Azalea Garden with all its varieties, colors, and sweet fragrances of azalea to enjoy.

Explore our favorite outdoor rooms
Stone steps in the Azalea Garden invite further exploration

“Although the Azalea Garden wasn’t part of Olmsted’s original plan, it makes perfect use of a wooded space,” noted Parker. “The blooms are spectacular in late spring, so be sure to take time to walk down the stone steps—another technique Olmsted used to divide outdoor rooms—and stroll down the path there, noticing the stream lined with wild flowers and unusual conifers.”

Bass Pond Boat House

Boat House at the Bass Pond
The view of the Bass Pond from the Boat House is worth the walk!

Below the Azalea Garden, Hope Wright of A Gardener’s Place–one of the charming shops on the estate–loves walking down the path to the Bass Pond.

“I stop on the bridge going toward the Boat House and sit on the bench,” Hope said. “This is a favorite spot of mine in the spring and summer as I look back upon the stunning beauty I have just witnessed.”

Plan your getaway today!

Top 5 Biltmore family activities for Summer
Plan a Biltmore visit today to explore our gardens and grounds

Ready to explore our favorite outdoor rooms and discover which ones you like best?

Plan your summer Biltmore visit now to enjoy our upcoming Biltmore Gardens Railway botanical model train display from July 1 to September 7, or consider becoming an Annual Passholder so you can return and discover something new in every season.

An outdoor statue comes clean

From the iconic marble lions in front of Biltmore House to terra cotta figures, bronzes, and more, the estate features 37 pieces of outdoor sculpture and historic plaques. Each piece is carefully examined and photographed every six months to determine its “health” and what type of cleaning, stabilization, or repairs might be needed. The following photos illustrate how important this process is and what a difference cleaning and preservation make:

Sphinx statue in need of cleaning

The sphinx statues guarding the entrance gates at Biltmore House were in need of a thorough cleansing to rid them of biological growth. Scaffolding was built around them so Museum Services could clean the statuary in place.

Sphinx statue is half clean, half dirty to show the difference

Our preservation experts worked on half of this sculpture at a time to illustrate how it appears at different stages of the cleaning process. Note how much detail is revealed when the dark biological growth was removed from the hindquarters of the sphinx.

Now beautifully clean once again, this classic sphinx sculpture has been returned to the regal appearance she enjoyed during the Vanderbilt era. 

Learn more about our extensive process to document, clean, and preserve our outdoor statuary collection.

The Art of Biltmore’s Open-Air Museum

Frederick Law Olmsted selected the major plantings at Biltmore with the utmost attention. Each had a specific purpose: to provide a certain color, texture or function, such as shade or height. But the manmade features of the gardens−statuary and planters−are more like the icing on the cake, hitting graceful notes throughout the landscape. So, what do we know about the artwork in Biltmore’s open air museum?

“To our knowledge, Olmsted did not specify any statuary at Biltmore,” says Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian. Research shows most of the statues were purchased in the late 1800s in France and Italy by George Vanderbilt and Richard Morris Hunt, Biltmore’s architect. It’s likely that Olmsted did play a role in the placement of the statues because the three men worked so closely on every aspect of the design of Biltmore House and Gardens.

Classic Influences

Walking through the gardens, you’ll notice a number of statues featuring characters from Greek myth. The four terra cotta figures on the South Terrace—Faun, Adonis, Venus, and Hamadryad—are modeled after originals created by Antoine Coysevox, a prolific sculptor from the 17th century. If you look closely at the figure at the far right end of the Terrace, you’ll see Coysevox’s maker’s mark.

In the Italian Garden, you’ll find several variations of late-19th-century putti—winged figures that were popular in both statuary and painting during the Italian Renaissance. The small terra cotta angel located at the end of the Italian Garden is based on a work of art that’s housed in the Louvre. Although there’s a fountain bowl in front of this putto, Kara Warren, Preventive Conservation Specialist, says there is no record that water was ever used in the fountain.

Aging Naturally

Whether made from bronze, marble, limestone, granite, or terra cotta, each outdoor statue has to weather the elements. Storms and environmental pollutants have taken their toll of them over the last century. According to Kara, some repairs and restorations date back to 1934.

“Reading the descriptions of repair work from our archival records is like having a mini history lesson. Each repair documents the care the statue received over the year. Today, we occasionally need to repair the repairs, replacing corroded iron elements with stainless steel or replacing mortar that has crumbled over time,” she continues.

Near the stairway leading from the house to the Italian Garden, you’ll notice the Italian white marble statue that’s known as “The Dancing Lesson.” The original, made of terra cotta, was replaced by this copy in the 1970s after it was damaged in a storm.

Perhaps Biltmore’s most famous statue, Diana, goddess of the hunt, located on the hill overlooking the house, met a similar fate. The original terra cotta work, based on a marble housed in the Louvre, was replaced with today’s marble version carved by H. Whinery Oppice in the 1970s.

In Harmony with Nature

As you walk through the gardens, statuary sometimes plays a supporting role to the ever-changing natural beauty that takes center stage. But each garden element is an important part of this living landscape that has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

Meet Our Farmers

From the beginning, George Vanderbilt envisioned Biltmore as a working estate and farm. He set aside the acres of rich, rolling land along the French Broad River for raising healthy livestock and growing food for Biltmore House, with surplus produce to be sold in the community. We continue to honor that legacy today through the efforts of a highly-specialized team of “farmers” who oversee our field-to-table program and other agricultural initiatives. Let us introduce you to our farming experts:

 

Dr. Ted Katsigianis
Vice President of Agriculture and Environmental Science

Before joining Biltmore, Dr. Ted Katsigianis earned Masters and Ph.D. degrees in animal science at Penn State and worked as a livestock extension specialist at the Universities of Kentucky and Maryland. In the past three decades, he has overseen the vineyards, the estate’s production gardens, and much more. Today, “Dr. Ted,” as he's affectionately known, serves as Vice President of Agriculture and Environmental Science and is in charge of raising antibiotic and hormone-free beef and lamb served in estate restaurants.

 

Eli Herman
Production Garden Manager

Eli Herman serves as Biltmore's Production Garden Manager, overseeing all aspects of the estate's field to table gardens, including frequent meetings with Biltmore chefs to discuss their menus and ongoing needs for the freshest seasonal vegetables. In his more than three decades with Biltmore, Eli has filled a variety of roles including Vineyard Supervisor and Kitchen Garden Manager, and has served as a Master Gardener Volunteer at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

 

 

Philip Oglesby
Vineyard Supervisor

Philip Oglesby began picking grapes in Biltmore’s vineyard in 1997. Eighteen years later, Philip serves as Vineyard Supervisor and is responsible for managing the acres of grapes on the estate’s west side, the vineyard staff that care for the vines year-round, and the seasonal crews that harvest the fruit.

Unusual Biltmore Jobs: Rosarian

You could say that Emily Wilson’s interest in plants runs in her family: the Georgia native attended Auburn University, graduating from the College of Agriculture with a horticulture degree in Landscape Design, following in the footsteps of her mother who also graduated from Auburn with the same degree.

Whether gardening or rock climbing, Emily enjoys a wide range of outdoor adventures. Before moving to Asheville, she worked as a climbing and backpacking guide in Laramie, Wyoming.

“You can imagine how much fun that was,” Emily said, “but I missed my family and working with plants, so I came back home to the South.”

Biltmore's Rose Garden and ConservatoryEmily joined Biltmore’s horticulture team in 2012 and rose to the role of Lead Gardener at the Inn on Biltmore Estate. “It’s a wonderful place to work because of the wonderful people who work there,” she said, “so when the opportunity arose to become the estate’s rosarian, it was really difficult for me to leave those folks at the inn.”

According to Emily, taking care of Biltmore’s Historic Rose Garden is a dynamic job. “As highly scrutinized, ornamental plants that have a lot of pest and disease pressure, it takes a considerable amount of care to keep roses looking their best,” Emily explained. “Plus, there are over 2,000 roses in the garden…that’s a lot of roses!”

Some of Emily’s basic rosarian responsibilities include managing insect and disease problems, managing soil quality and the plants’ nutrition and irrigation needs, assessing rose quality, ordering new roses, rose installation, pruning, deadheading, mulching, weeding (yes, even Biltmore gets the occasional weed!), and so much more.

Red roses in Biltmore's garden“We also host International Rose Trials,” said Emily. “Rose breeders from all over the world send their roses to us to be trialed. We plant these ‘newfangled’ roses and grow them for a few years. During this time judges come to assess their quality, and at the end of three years the best roses are given awards for excellence. The purpose of these trials is to find the most beautiful, disease resistant, quality roses that just about anyone can grow, and we hope it will allow rose gardening to seem accessible to everyone.”

Surprisingly, Emily used to think she didn’t much care for roses. “I don’t know—maybe it was the thorns or the notoriety,” she said, “but look at me now—I’m starry-eyed and rose-obsessed!”

International Rose Trials: 2015 Winners Announced

Biltmore International Rose Trials judges make their way through the varieties on trial that were first planted in the Walled Garden in 2013.

On Saturday morning, ladies and gents arrived at the historic Rose Garden in fashionable hats, some adorned with likenesses of the flower they were there to honor: roses. The sun hadn’t completely risen when the parade of rose devotees began, and its filtered light created the perfect atmospheric condition for the reviewing and photographing of the morning’s main attraction.

Cameras and clipboards in hand, members of an international jury started the morning by judging the annual Biltmore International Rose Trials. Growers, distributors and all-around rose appreciators joined them for the event, the culmination of two years’ growth of roses submitted by breeders in 2013 to be cared for and tested by Biltmore’s expert gardening team. Rose breeds from the U.S. and several other countries made it through preliminary judging rounds for Saturday’s final contest.

A dusky pink rose named “Savannah” emerged as the morning’s star. “Savannah” took the George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the Trials, in other words Best in Show. “Savannah” is bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany, and also captured the categories for Best Hybrid Tea and Most Fragrant. Interestingly enough, two roses bred by Bill Radler took three categories. Radler is creator of the family of roses known as Knock Out, familiar in both home gardening and professional landscaping circles.

Pat Shanley, international jury member and president-elect of the American Rose Society, spoke later at the awards luncheon. These trials, she said, provide an opportunity to not only admire the beauty of roses, but to eradicate the long-thought notion that roses are difficult to grow and need to be treated with pesticides. The roses trialed at Biltmore’s contest are bred especially for the casual gardener to grow and nurture. 

The trial roses are on display amid rose specimens that have been growing in Biltmore’s Rose Garden for more than 100 years. Guests at Biltmore are welcome to stroll through and judge for themselves.  
Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2015 Biltmore International Rose Trials!  Here is the complete winners’ list:

“Savannah,” bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany, winner of the George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the Trials (Best in Show); the Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea; and the Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil Award for Most Fragrant Rose.

“Savannah,” bred by Kordes Rosen in Germany, winner of the George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the Trials (Best in Show); the Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea; and the Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil Award for Most Fragrant Rose.

“Peachy Keen,” bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc., winner of the Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub Rose; and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant.

“Peachy Keen,” bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc., winner of the Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub Rose; and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant.

The Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose: “Queen Elizabeth,” a Grandiflora rose

The Award of Excellence for Best Established Rose: “Queen Elizabeth,” a Grandiflora rose.

The Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda: “Tequila Gold,” bred by Meilland in France

The Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda: “Tequila Gold,” bred by Meilland in France.

The Honorable John Cecil for Open Group: “Popcorn Drift,” bred by Nova Flora, a breeder in West Grove, Pa.

The Honorable John Cecil for Open Group: “Popcorn Drift,” bred by Nova Flora, a breeder in West Grove, Pa.

The Gilded Age Award for Best Climber: “FlyingKiss” bred by Ping Lim, based in Portland, Oregon

The Gilded Age Award for Best Climber: “FlyingKiss” bred by Ping Lim, based in Portland, Oregon

The William Cecil Award for Best Growth Habit: “Phloxy Baby,” bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc.

The William Cecil Award for Best Growth Habit: “Phloxy Baby,” bred by Bill Radler, of Milwaukee, Wisc.