International Rose Trial Winners Announced

Our first International Rose Trials came to a close on Saturday and our jury selected winning roses in 12 categories.  Since 2011, Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden has been home to the Biltmore International Rose Trials. During this time, more than 75 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s horticulture team. Each trial lasts two years and a permanent jury judges the roses four times per year. During Saturday’s judging, the jury conducted the final round of judging for the first trial group of 25 roses.

This is the first international trials on the East Coast, and only one of two held in the U.S. Rose trials in Europe are a more common occurrence, with trials held in 20 different locations in 15 countries. ”The trials are a valuable way for the home gardener to learn what roses do well and what may be potential candidates for their own gardens,” said Paul Zimmerman, coordinator of the trials. “Trials of this type are usually open to all rose breeders around the world – from professional to beginner.”

Our own rosarian, Lucas Jack, had an integral part on the rose trials.  “Biltmore’s historic Rose Garden is the perfect setting for trials,” said Jack. “We’ve enjoyed introducing these new varieties to our guests as they stroll through the gardens. It has been an educational experience, and it complements the work we do to care for Biltmore’s collection of heirloom roses.”

New rose varieties will be planted for trials each May. They are evaluated for garden performance, fragrance, disease resistance and ability to be used in varying landscape situations. The next awards will be in 2014 for the trials planted in 2012 and will continue annually.  

The First Biltmore International Rose Trials Winners


George & Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose Of The Trials (Best in Show)
‘ATHYfalaa’ bred by Mike Athy of Mike Athy Roses, New Zealand

Award of Excellence For Best Established Rose
‘Belinda’s Dream’ bred by Dr. Robert E. Basye, United States (Wisconsin)

Award of excellence for International Jury Favorite
‘ATHYfalaa’ bred by Mike Athy of Mike Athy Roses, New Zealand

Frederick Law Olmsted Award for Best Groundcover
‘Roxy’ bred by Kordes Rosen, Germany

Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda
‘Milwaukee Calatrava’ bred by William Radler of Conard-Pyle/Star Roses, United States

The Honorable John Cecil Award for Open Group
‘Sunshine Daydream’ Grandiflora rose bred by Michèle Meilland Richardier, France

Gilded Age Award for Best Climber
‘ATHYfalaa’ bred by Mike Athy of Mike Athy Roses, New Zealand

Pauline Merrell Award for Best Hybrid Tea
‘Beverly’ bred by Kordes Rosen, Germany

Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub
‘Darcey Bussell’ bred by David Austin of David Austin Roses, United Kingdom

Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil Award for Most Fragrant Rose
‘Beverly’ bred by Kordes Rosen, Germany

William Cecil Award for Best Growth Habit
‘ATHYfalaa’ bred by Mike Athy of Mike Athy Roses, New Zealand

Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant
‘ATHYfalaa’ bred by Mike Athy of Mike Athy Roses, New Zealand

The Lovely Azaleas

Strolling through our 15-acre Azalea Garden in May is a rite of spring, with thousands of bright blossoms lining the stone stairs and masses of vivid flowers cascading throughout the area. In fact, we expect peak azalea color this week.

We have Chauncey Beadle to thank for all of that gorgeous color. Chauncey, a Canadian horticulturalist hired in 1890 by Frederick Law Olmsted for his encyclopedic knowledge of plants, served as estate superintendent from 1909 until his death in 1950.

“Beadle loved all plants, but he had a special fondness for native deciduous azaleas,” said Bill Alexander, Landscape & Forest Historian. “He and two close friends became known as ‘the azalea hunters’ collecting virtually every form and color variation.”

Beadle and his colleagues kept detailed notes about their forays, writing down when and where they collected plants on travels throughout the Southeast. Native azaleas were Beadle’s passion, and he called them the finest American shrubs.

In 1940, he gave his entire collection of azaleas (which he fondly referred to as “his children”) to Biltmore, planting them in the valley below the Conservatory known as the Glen. Edith Vanderbilt changed the garden’s name to the Azalea Garden to honor Beadle and his lifelong work on his 50th anniversary with Biltmore.

Today, gardeners Bob Smart and Charles Harris, members of the estate’s Historic Gardens landscaping crew, are responsible for maintaining Beadle’s legacy and the never-ending upkeep of the Azalea Garden.

“Chauncey Beadle planted several thousand azaleas originally,” said Bob. “We try to keep as many old plants as possible, replacing them when needed with old types and species, but we also bring in new ones to keep the garden thriving.”

Last year, they replanted several hundred azaleas—mostly evergreens—lining the stone stairs at the Azalea Garden’s entrance and added nearly 400 more in the rest of the garden. Charles explains that the eye-catching evergreen varieties have heavier, more prolific blooms and some even re-bloom. They also planted many native deciduous azaleas that display delicate orange, yellow and pink flowers in late spring.

Not all their time is spent planting; they devote hours researching and collecting additional azaleas to keep the garden beautiful. They find plants at trade shows, through the North Carolina Nursery Notes bi-monthly magazine, nurseries, and growers who visit here.

“Sometimes growers we know will visit the garden and suggest a particular addition,” said Charles. “They recognize that it’s an honor to have plants here.”


Learn more about our gardens and grounds.

A Unique Pair of Hounds

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” and with good reason. Dogs are always happy to see you, glad to spend time with you, and eager to be by your side.

Our partner Unique Stone has captured the faithful spirit of the dog with a lifelike interpretation of canine devotion in their Biltmore Stoneybrook Hounds Collection. Each realistic hound statue features the soulful expressions and stance of man’s best friend at his finest. 

  • Stoneybrook Hound with Bird waits attentively for the praise that accompanies his fine birding and retrieval skills (above, left) 
  • Stoneybrook Hound with Collar is relaxed, caught in a playful moment with his collar between his front paws (above, right)

Each Stoneybrook Hound statue is approximately 35 inches in height and weighs around 300 pounds. Place this sturdy pair of sentinels at the entrance to your home or property, or use them to highlight your lawn, patio, or garden. (Each hound sold separately.) Unique Stone creates all their statuary with a subtle finish that gives an aged and weathered appearance.

Find the Stoneybrook Hounds here.

Biltmore’s Canine History

The Vanderbilts had many pets including a Borzoi and Cedric, a smooth-coated Saint Bernard whose likeness graces Cedric’s Tavern today. George Vanderbilt also maintained a kennel of Collies before his death in 1914, and Cornelia Vanderbilt developed a kennel of Llewellin Setters in 1921.

After Cornelia married the Honorable John Amherst Francis Cecil in 1925, the Biltmore Kennels invested in the Saluki Gazelle Hound—a sight hound known for its beauty, speed, and endurance. After the Biltmore Kennels closed, John and Cornelia kept one Saluki named Haffief as a pet.

The Stoneybrook Hounds resemble the grace and style of this handsome hound who made America’s largest home his home, as well.

A Perfect Arrangement

For Your Home, From Our Gardens

The Biltmore Floral Team created a pair of stunning floral arrangements to brighten up our For Your Home  booth at a recent wedding show. The talented team members crafted the arrangements to feature greenery from Biltmore’s historic gardens as well as gorgeous flowers.

The results were so beautiful that we asked Biltmore Floral Design Manager Cathy Barnhardt to share her expert “how-to” tips and suggestions for bringing the outdoors indoors with a similar arrangement for your own home.

Bring the outdoors in

“First of all,” Cathy said, “these arrangements showcase a great mix of ‘florist flowers’ as well as greens cut straight from our gardens.”

To highlight the feeling and the fragrance of spring, Cathy and her team chose blue delphinium, deliciously-scented white stock, some lovely cream ‘Virginia’ roses, and a handful of tulips. The greenery was all gathered from the gardens at Biltmore.

“If you have access to a garden or wooded area, this is a great way to bring the outdoors into your arrangements and your home, and it makes it even more personal that you provided the greenery yourself rather than choosing it from a flower shop.”

“To really highlight the outdoor feeling,” said Cathy, “we used long tendrils of ivy, snips of rosemary from the herb garden, a few fern fronds, and even some pieces of red twig dogwood. This mix of textures helps us create an arrangement that is both elegant and richly textured, much like the feel of a cottage garden.”

Ready to try it at home?

“The most helpful trick in this kind of arrangement is to remember how things grow naturally in the garden,” Cathy explained. “Place your flowers in groups or clusters rather than scattering them throughout the arrangement. That will give it style, but it will still feel organic and natural.”

Behind the scenes

“One of the most fun ‘perks’ my team enjoys,” Cathy told us, “is having cutting privileges in the historic gardens and natural areas around Biltmore. Any time of year, we can find something interesting to include in our arrangements that comes directly from the estate and reflects both the current season and elements of the original landscape design.”

Nurturing Biltmore’s Orchid Collection

On a spring afternoon in Biltmore’s greenhouses, you may come across Jim Rogers tending to our thriving collection of orchids.  Jim’s forthright manner tells you everything that you need to know in a matter of minutes. A retired artist, he created beautiful sculptures and did commissions for the Dalai Lama and a bronze portrait of Senator Sam Nunn. But according to him, orchids have always been his passion.

“When I was in graduate school in Johnson City, TN, I was in the woods and saw a plant that I didn’t recognize,” Jim said. “I brought it home and tried to grow it.”  After some research, he realized that it was a terrestrial orchid. From that moment, he fell in love with orchids and began amassing a personal collection that at one point grew to 200 plants!

After retiring from sculpting in 2006, Jim felt it was time to cultivate another orchid collection. A Biltmore fan since his initial visit in 1970, he called our horticultural department and asked to volunteer. The phone call transformed into a part-time job caring for the orchids.  “I believe that if you follow your bliss, it will lead to bliss,” says Jim. “That’s what I’ve done. I have a wonderful orchid collection—it just belongs to Biltmore!”

Jim cares for 300 orchids in the production house and 100 orchids in the Conservatory. He also rotates the Conservatory’s plants so that guests always see a stunning collection of orchid blooms during their visit.  A typical day includes repotting plants that have outgrown their home. “I spend time with each plant, tending to its needs,” says Jim.

Weekly chores include fertilizing and watering. “The rule of thumb among orchid enthusiasts is to fertilize weekly—weakly. The philosophy is that when orchids are in the wild, they only get a smattering of nutrients from their surroundings,” says Jim. “Then I water once every week until they’re soaked.”

Jim’s main objective is to grow and care for the collection, but he also has future dreams of cultivating a Biltmore orchid fine enough to win an American Orchid Society Award.  “I would love to see a Biltmore orchid win an award,” says Jim. “When an orchid receives an American Orchid Society Award, it retains its genus and species name, but the society adds a clonal name to the plant. The clonal name is given by the grower, so my hope is that one day we have an orchid named by Biltmore.”

Ready For Roses

Ready to welcome spring and summer with a garden full of glorious roses? Let’s start by preparing a new bed for your beautiful blooms, with great tips and helpful insight from Paul Zimmerman, exclusive Biltmore Rose Consultant:

Preparing a new rose bed

Raising great roses starts with great soil. The better the soil is, the healthier the plants will be. February and March (and even April, depending on your location) are good months to get new garden beds ready.

According to Zimmerman, the “life” of a soil is found in its microorganisms. Some microorganisms break up fallen debris like trees and leaves, others break it down even further, and some then help the plants take up the nutrients from the broken down material. Nutrients like fertilizer that you add to the soil get taken up, as well.

When preparing a new garden bed, Zimmerman follows these steps: compost.

  • First, till or break up the existing soil of the bed until it’s loosened.
  • Spread about 3–5 inches of compost across the bed and work it into the soil. (Many types of compost are suitable, such as compost you make yourself, last year’s leaf pile, horse manure, or mushroom compost.)
  • Add compost a few months before you plant roses so it can “stew” for a while. You won’t need to keep turning it—just let nature do its job.

Woman tilling a rose garden

TIP: If the area you are preparing has been part of a lawn or has never been worked at all, consider introducing some of those microorganisms in the form of a drench.

Preparing a site for the new rose

“Do I need to dig a 2 x 2 foot hole when planting roses?”

That’s one of the questions that Paul Zimmerman hears all the time.

“If you prepare the entire bed, you only need dig a hole big enough to fit the rose into. In the beginning, I followed the ‘2 x 2 foot hole’ rule, but after nearly 20 years of planting roses, I’ve stopped worrying about it because I can’t see any difference. By taking the time to prepare the entire bed and then following a regular regime of mulching and amending the soil, you will never have to dig a 2 x 2-foot hole to plant a rose again. Your back will thank you!

The most reliable indicator to know when to prune roses

For gardeners who live in an area with a true winter, pruning roses can be tricky due to the freeze/thaw cycles experienced during the coldest season. Prune too early, and a sudden warm spell may stimulate new growth that could be harmed in the next freeze. Prune too late and you run the risk of cutting off the spring flowering.

To prune roses at the right time for your region, books and articles often advise you to find out when your area receives its last frost of winter, count back a certain number of days, and prune then.

Woman pruning a rose bush

“There’s nothing wrong with this method except that lately it seems there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to weather,” said Lucas Jack, Biltmore’s rosarian. Last year, our roses reached peak spring flowering at least three weeks early.”

The most reliable indicator? Forsythia

No scientific instruments, no estimated frost date, and there isn’t even an app for it– just nature sensing the elements and doing what it does best, with perfect timing.

The forsythia knows when winter is coming to a close and spring is just around the corner. If it’s a long winter, forsythia blooms later. During a short winter, it blooms sooner. Keep an eye on the forsythia and when its cheerful yellow blooms begin to appear, get ready to prune your roses.

Garden and Patio Inspirations

Silver Tiffany teapot with pineapple decoration on lid

Inspired by Biltmore

Pineapples have been used as a symbol of hospitality since the 18th century. In colonial America, ship captains returning from tropical trade routes brought the exotic fruit (virtually unknown in North America) back with them to share with family and guests. The iconic pineapple shape began to show up in architectural trim and on signs denoting welcome.



Cast stone pineapple statue in Azalea Garden

A Meaningful Gift

A beautiful Tiffany silver coffee pot with an exquisitely detailed pineapple adorning the lid (above, right) was given to George and Edith Vanderbilt as a wedding present in 1898 by Mrs. Anna Roosevelt Cowles, Theodore Roosevelt’s  sister and trusted advisor, who was a frequent visitor to Biltmore.

“This was not only a very personal gift,” said Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s Curator of Interpretation, “but also a symbolic one considering the Vanderbilts were legendary hosts who treasured their guests.”

Unique Stone has captured all the grandeur of the symbol with their Hospitality Pineapple. This beautiful accent is perfect for your garden and lends a warm note of welcome to your visitors.

Cast stone birdbath

For The Birds

Birds flock to Biltmore for a sip or a dip in an elegant birdbath like this one in our Walled Garden, which inspired Unique Stone to create a Gilded Age Birdbath like the ones the Vanderbilts installed for their feathered friends.

garden turtle

Unique Stone

Our partner Unique Stone creates beautiful cast stone garden planters, statues, benches, and decorative elements by taking inspiration from the magnificent décor found throughout Biltmore. Each piece is hand-finished for an aged patina as timeless as the estate itself.

The staff at Unique Stone is continually inspired by the work of those early craftsmen that shaped Biltmore House into the National Historic Landmark it is today. By creating such beautiful and detailed outdoor elements, Unique Stone honors the vision of legendary architects Richard Morris Hunt, Frederick Law Olmsted, and many others.

The Biltmore Garden Collection by Unique Stone allows you to bring the old-world charm of Biltmore to life in your own yard, garden, and patio.

To view other products, visit the Biltmore Garden Collection from Unique Stone.

A Valentine Blend of Bulbs

A sweet ‘Valentine’ mix

Want to surprise your favorite gardener with a sweet spring gift? Consider easy-to-grow dahlias in a gorgeous array of colors like the new Biltmore ‘Valentine’ mix from Netherland Bulb Company. Dahlias offer glorious blooms sure to delight the novice gardener as well as the seasoned professional.

This dahlia mixture contains several different varieties and is called ‘Valentine’ in honor of the red and white colors you can expect from the mature flowers. The mix is perfect for the adventurous gardener—just plant in the spring and be surprised all over again in summer when the colorful blooms began to open up in your garden.

As one expert said, “Never have so many gardeners received so much for so little work, as when they grow dahlias.’‘

Ask your local garden center for Biltmore ‘Valentine’ dahlia mix and other Netherland Bulb Company products.


Hooked on dahlias

Dahlias come in a wide array of sizes, colors, and textures and are one of the most rewarding summer flowers of all. They’re really easy to grow and generally provide spectacular results whether you leave them in the garden or use them as cut flowers in arrangements.

If you’re already a dahlia fan, you know just how wonderful they are. If you’re not as familiar with these summery showstoppers, here is the information you need to get started (and prepare to be ‘hooked!’).


Dahlia details

Dahlias are native to Mexico, but there’s about as much resemblance between the original native varieties and the modern Dutch hybrids as there is between a toy car and a brand new model in the showroom.

When planting dahlia ‘bulbs,’ be aware that the bulbs are actually tubers. They look a lot like peony roots—or sort of like a bunch of carrots. The plants grow quickly and always produce lush, green foliage. Some dahlias grow quite tall, as well, and may need to be staked for support—especially those varieties that produce large, heavy flower heads.

Thanks to our licensee Netherland Bulb Company for providing interesting information on dahlias—plus a wonderful mix of cheerful colors sure to make everyone smile!

Winter Warmer-Upper

In the winter months, The Conservatory offers a welcome and toasty respite for folks roaming theInside the Conservatory grounds around Biltmore House and the Walled Garden. Maybe it’s going out on a limb to say it’s one of the warmest spots in all of western North Carolina, but certainly it comes pretty close.

 The Conservatory’s soaring greenhouse design by Biltmore House architect Richard Morris Hunt, has a way of sneaking up on guests despite its 40-foot height and 7,500 square feet. That’s because it’s located down a steep hill from Biltmore House.

 Its position on the lower part of the property protects the building from the harsh winds that roll across the south lawn (terrace) of Biltmore House. Plus, as per the architect’s plans, it doesn’t distract from the view of the front of Biltmore House.  Our visitors today often don’t realize the building’s majestic beauty until they’re practically right up on top of it!

In the winter months, its internal temperatures mimic those of a jungle, with thousands of tropical plants experiencing their peak blooming time. Towering palms and colorful Begonia, Bird of Paradise, Lollipop Plant and Anthurium dazzle on a dreary cold day.

And between now and the end of March, The Orchid Room, located in the southern wing of the building, turns into an absolute showplace with a huge variety of stunning orchids, nurtured and maintained by the Conservatory’s crew members.

Stop in for a warm-up!

About the photos

During the winter months, Biltmore’s Conservatory provides a warm respite for Walled Garden visitors (top). Anthurium  thrives in the building’s tropical temperatures.

Biltmore and Roses: a 120-year love affair

Roses and Biltmore share a 120-year history that began when Fredrick Olmsted first started planning the grounds. When guests visit the Rose Garden, they are walking into a very special part of the estate’s history. Both George and Edith Vanderbilt took an interest in the garden, and they worked closely with Chauncey Beadle, then head of estate landscaping, to make changes to it, and double it in size from its original layout, drafted by Olmsted.  

Historical records contain correspondence from a century ago with many rose nurseries, including Jackson & Perkins. The earliest roses were purchased from Ellwanger & Barry, Mount Hope Nurseries of Rochester, N.Y.; John N. May, Rose Grower of Summit, N.J. (Beadle’s former employer); Penrose Nurseries (Robert Scott & Son) of Philadelphia; Howard Rose Company in California, and numerous other suppliers.

The Biltmore Nursery

The estate’s commercial nursery business also grew and sold many varieties of roses as shown in the Biltmore Rose Catalog. Variety selection, wish lists, and a host of rose-related issues went back and forth between Biltmore and the horticultural companies with which they worked. The Biltmore Nursery was one of the largest plant nurseries in the United States until a 1916 flood destroyed the operation.

After the flood, the idea of a Biltmore nursery remained dormant for some time.  During the 1960s, however, the estate developed and operated a nursery for wholesale and retail sales of ornamental nursery stock and to supply a landscape contracting business, as well as a commercial greenhouse operation for the production of hanging baskets and potted flowers. In the 1990s, another estate nursery venture was developed with plants primarily sold to regional nurseries and garden centers until late 2007.

Biltmore International Rose Trials

A new part of roses at Biltmore are the Biltmore International Rose Trials. Patterned after similar trials all over Europe and under the umbrella of the World Federation of Rose Societies, the trials give breeders from all over the world a place to trial and display their roses. Awards are announced each spring with the judging and a festive awards luncheon. Learn more about this year’s event here.
Drawing from the inspiration started by Mr. Olmsted and brought fully into bloom by Mrs. Vanderbilt, Biltmore is again emerging as an innovator and leader in the world of roses.

Thanks to Paul Zimmerman, exclusive Biltmore Rose Consultant, for his contribution to this piece. He has specialized in roses for nearly 20 years and is the owner of Paul Zimmerman Roses.