Packages of Pressed Flowers
Estate History 07/24/16
Written By Amy Dangelico
Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, George and Edith Vanderbilt’s only child, was born in August 1900. And with her arrival, Biltmore Superintendent Chauncey Beadle soon found himself nurturing the young girl with the same tenderness and care with which he nurtured the flora of the estate.
A Little Girl's Garden
Before Cornelia was born, Beadle and Edith shared a mutual love of flowers. While travelling, Edith often wrote Beadle about the plants she had seen and admired, asking if they could be planted at Biltmore. Beadle would write Edith, asking her to name new varieties of flowers that he had developed.
After Cornelia was born, Beadle helped the young girl to cultivate that love as well. The pair spent much time together, exploring the outdoors and enjoying nature’s beauty. A trained botanist and horticulturalist, Beadle personally assisted Cornelia in planting and caring for her own flower garden.
While the exact location of Cornelia’s garden is unknown, it was most likely near one of the borders of the Walled Garden, if not closer to the house, according to Bill Alexander, Biltmore’s Landscape and Forest Historian.
When Cornelia was travelling with her parents, Beadle wrote letters detailing her garden’s growth. He would also often include pressed flowers so that she could enjoy the colorful blooms. Here are excerpts from the charming letters Beadle wrote to Cornelia just before her sixth and seventh birthdays:
August 17, 1906 – To Cornelia in Paris, France: “I promised you just as you were leaving Biltmore to send you some pressed flowers from your garden, that you may see some of the results of the seeds we planted last spring. Almost all of the seeds grew and thrived and, in particular, I wish you could have seen some large double sunflowers as large as breakfast plates … They were so large that I could not press them and I fear that before your return they will have faded and gone. The little package which I am sending you, however, contains some of the smaller flowers that were easily pressed and, perhaps, before your home-coming, I can send you another lot so that you may be able to enjoy the garden even though you were in Europe…”
August 14, 1907 – To Cornelia at Point D' Acadie, the Vanderbilt’s home in Bar Harbor, Maine: “I have sent you by mail a package containing a number of pressed flowers from your garden which you painstakingly planted and watered. Very many of the plants have made a splendid showing… In the package you will find handsome Larkspurs of various shades and mottled colors… and several other flowers that were in blossom…. You will find the names of the flowers written on the inside of the sheets of paper which contain them, and I am very sure that you will soon know them all by name and will be able to recognize them wherever you may see them growing…”
A Continued Correspondence
George Vanderbilt passed away unexpectedly in 1914 and Edith began spending more time in Washington, DC, where Cornelia attended The Madeira School. Beadle continued corresponding with the pair through the years, bringing Edith up-to-date on estate business and describing the gardens in great detail so both ladies could enjoy them even when they were far from home.
Thanks to their mutual fondness of flowers, Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt remained connected with Beadle through the superintendent’s retirement and beyond. Experience the beautiful blooms that were the basis for this bond, flowers lovely enough to be pressed, packaged, and shared. Visit Biltmore House & Gardens and see what’s blooming now.
Featured: Portrait of Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906
Right: Chauncey Beadle, 1906
Left: Cornelia Vanderbilt, 1906