Finding Summer Beauty in the Italian Garden

Written By Parker Andes

Posted 08/05/13

Updated 02/29/24

In Our Gardens

If you’re visiting Biltmore soon, make a beeline for the Italian Garden. Located adjacent to Biltmore House, this formal garden is in its prime late summer.

View of the Italian Garden and Biltmore House
Filled with numerous varieties of exotic water lilies, tropical bananas, papyrus, and koi fish, the Italian Garden is a sight to behold.

Magical Lilies

Biltmore gardeners Chuck Cissell and Steven Ayers have been hard at work all year ensuring all the elements are in place for spectacular summer blooms. The Italian Garden gets better every year. This year, it is over the top again and this is probably the best year yet for seeing our water lilies.

All three pools feature different water lilies including hardy and tropical varieties. We’re especially fond of our tropical water lilies that open up in the evening and bloom until mid-morning. If you’re an early morning guest or an overnight guest, sneak down to the Italian Garden to enjoy this unique display.

Water lilies in the pools of Biltmore's Italian Garden
Many guests don’t realize that lily blooms only last for three days. Many refer to the bloom process as being “sort of magical.”

The blooms from the tropical lilies sit above the water and feature bright white, pink, red and even blue blossoms. It’s a marvelous sight to see and just another amazing example of nature’s beauty.

If you miss the tropical night blooms, don’t worry. We have planted different varieties, so guests visiting during the day can still enjoy flowers from day blooming tropical and hardy lilies as well. Look for the blooms through the first cold snap, which can be as early as September or as late as October.

Full view of flowers blooming at the Italian Garden Pools at Biltmore
The Italian Garden closely resembles the original blueprint by Olmsted, with the only main difference being the center bed display.

Blooming Blueprint

While the lilies are the one the highlights of the Italian Garden, the pools include an array of other plants. Lotus, Victoria water platters, canna lilies, papyrus, water snowflakes, and purple leaf rice are all in bloom right now.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of visiting the Italian Garden is the fact that the design intent has remained unchanged since Vanderbilt’s time. Two of the pools have been refurbished, and the Hemlock hedges have recently been replaced with American Holly hedges to stay true to Olmsted’s vision for the garden. The plants used pay homage to gardening notes and plant orders found in estate archives. We don’t do anything different in the Italian Garden than what they did back in George Vanderbilt’s day.

Bring Home the Beauty of the Italian Garden

Water Gardening is easier than you think. Below are some quick tips for creating a backyard water garden:

Learn more about our gardens and grounds.

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