Finding Summer Beauty in the Italian Garden
Written By Parker Andes
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.
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 at Biltmore House for our concert series, sneak down to the Italian Garden to enjoy this unique display.
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.
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 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:
- Select a sturdy, large ceramic container that can hold water.
- Find a location that receives at least eight hours of sunlight, and use pavers or bricks to form a level base for the container.
- Start with a fool-proof water plant such as tropical water lilies.
- Plant the water lily in a small plastic container filled with topsoil and plunge the pot into the larger container filled with water. Cover the soil with pebbles or sand to prevent muddy water.
- The top of the lily’s pot should be eight inches below the surface of the water. If necessary, add bricks or blocks to form a base within the water container.Finish off the water garden by adding water lettuce or other floating plants.
- Maintain your water garden by cutting spent blooms on the lily and pushing a fertilizer tablet into the lily’s soil every few weeks.