Preservation Takes Root in Biltmore’s Italian Garden
Written By Jean Sexton
In Our Gardens
At Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, historic preservation projects come in many forms, encompassing far more than just the exterior of Biltmore House and the priceless collections of art and furnishings that fill America’s Largest Home®.
The grand gardens and grounds, designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, are preserved as carefully as any other aspect of George Vanderbilt’s 8,000-acre estate.
A new preservation project takes root
“In November 2023, we began removing the Hemlock hedge that bordered the Italian Garden for more than 50 years, replacing it with an American Holly hedge that is true to Olmsted’s vision for the area,” said Bill Quade, Director of Horticulture.
This preservation project started in 2018 ago with cuttings taken from an original American Holly hedge located between the Historic Rose Garden and Butterfly Garden in front of the Conservatory. The cuttings—a mix of 350 male and female plants—were grown in containers at a regional nursery until they reached an appropriate age and size for transplanting.
Taking preservation to new heights
“The hedge has dropped from a height of approximately 10 feet down to about 4.5 feet that we’ll maintain as the holly continues to mature,” Bill said. “That creates quite a drastic visual change for the area, allowing a much more open view down into Shrub Garden toward the Conservatory.”
In addition, replicas of the 16 large urns that are visible in early photos of the Italian Garden have been reproduced by the same company that re-created the urns in front of Biltmore House. Filled with leafy evergreen plantings, the urns have been added at intervals throughout the hedge.
Installation and completion
“We don’t know why the American Holly hedge surrounding the Italian Garden was removed in the 1960s,” said Bill, “but with this preservation project, we’ll be using modern knowledge and techniques to adapt the original plan slightly to help the new hedge thrive and give the evergreen plantings in the urns the ability to survive year-round.”
“I believe this might be the most dramatic landscape preservation project since the replacement of the tulip poplars in front of Biltmore House in 2005,” Bill added.
A first-look for Biltmore Annual Passholders
This information was originally shared with Biltmore’s Annual Passholders in the Fall/Holiday 2023 issue of Ambassador, our exclusive Passholder magazine. If you’re interested in getting insider access and exclusive benefits—like unlimited daytime visits for a full year!—check out our Passholder page.