Downton Abbey: The Exhibition by the Numbers

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition ended September 7, 2020. Please enjoy this archived content.

In honor of Downton Abbey: The Exhibition—on display at Biltmore now through September 7, 2020—let’s take a closer look and add up some of the elements of this immersive estate experience.

Costumes from Downton Abbey
Showcased at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village

58 costumes on display

This tally includes 53 costumes from the television series—plus 5 costumes from the recent feature film. Notable pieces: both of Lady Mary’s wedding gowns and both of Lady Edith’s wedding gowns.

44 ½ minutes of video from 16 segments

Video segments and compilations are played throughout the exhibition itself, including a 5-minute introduction film as well as a 6-minute farewell film.

Guests at exhibition
Take a deeper dive into Downton Abbey

35 display drawers and glass cases

The interactive display drawers and showcases feature a variety of props from the series—from books, letters, and postcards to gloves, necklaces, and tiaras.

The Crawleys' Dining Room
Marvel at the Crawleys’ Dining Room

6 of the series’ most recognizable sets

Get a remarkably up-close look at Mrs. Patmore’s Kitchen, the Crawleys’ Dining Room, Lady Mary’s Bedroom, the Servants’ Stairs & Hallway, the Servant’s Dining Room, and Mr. Carson’s Pantry.

Downton Abbey characters
Rediscover your favorite characters

21 characters highlighted

These profiles are largely featured in the exhibition’s “Great Hall of Character Stories”—an interactive hallway where you can get better acquainted with those associated with Downton Abbey.

22 days of installation

While plans to bring this exhibition to Biltmore began long before, it took the better part of a month to prepare the infrastructure and physically install the exhibition in its entirety.

Exterior of Amherst at Deerpark
Exterior of Amherst at Deerpark

10,860 square feet spanning 2 estate locations

Multimedia presentations in the ballroom of Amherst at Deerpark (8,260 square feet) combined with costume displays at The Biltmore Legacy (2,600 square feet) make for one not-to-be-missed experience.

Plan your visit today and join us for Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.

Top 5 Downton Abbey-Related Activities at Biltmore

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition ended September 7, 2020. Please enjoy this archived content.

From November 8, 2019 through April 7, 2020, Biltmore is hosting Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, an immersive, must-see event that pays homage to the show.

The multimedia display in Amherst at Deerpark includes holograms, video, and life-size imagery—plus some of the series’ most recognizable sets, including Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen and the gossip-fueled servants’ quarters.

The estate has a variety of additional offerings that connect to the exhibition. Here are our top 5 picks:

Costumes from Downton Abbey on display
The limited-time exhibition continues in Antler Hill Village with costumes on display at The Biltmore Legacy.

5. Costumes at The Biltmore Legacy

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition itself extends to The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village where more than 50 official costumes from the series’ six-season run—worn by actors such as Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith—will be on display.

Lush summer blooms in the Walled Garden at Biltmore
Stroll through lush late summer blooms in the Walled Garden

4. Stroll Through Stunning Gardens

In one episode of the series, Lord and Lady Grantham had the delightful task of presiding over the annual village flower show. While visiting Biltmore, be sure to stroll through our four-acre English-style Walled Garden filled with roses and a glorious mix of summer annuals and perennials, exotic grasses, and more–and don’t miss the glass-roofed Conservatory that houses hundreds of tropical specimens.

Tea sets
Our charming estate shops offer a wide range of Downton Abbey-inspired items, including a variety of lovely tea sets.

3. Downton Abbey-Inspired Products

For a limited-time, shops throughout the estate are offering a variety of Downton-inspired items. Browse fashions such as fascinators, jewelry, scarves, hat pins, and more—inspired by the styles worn by characters in the show. Tea sets, books, and additional accessories relating to the era are also available.

Biltmore Sub-Basement
Our newest tour takes you into rarely seen areas of Biltmore House, such as fascinating parts of the Sub-Basement.

2. The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour

Developed exclusively to coincide with Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, The Biltmore House Backstairs Tour is a brand new behind-the-scenes tour. Hear the fascinating stories of those who worked and lived on the estate while visiting rarely seen servants’ areas including the Butler’s Pantry and beyond.

The Inn and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate
With so much to see and do at Biltmore during your getaway, stay overnight at The Inn (above), Village Hotel (below), or one of our private historic cottages to ensure you have time to experience it all.

1. Stay Overnight to Make the Most of Your Visit

Both The Inn on Biltmore Estate® and Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate® offer an exciting opportunity to stay overnight on the property, ensuring you have time to see and do it all. Take your time while enjoying Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, and take in all the glorious costumes from the series on display at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village.

Decking the Halls, Biltmore Style

Please enjoy this archived content from Christmas 2019.

Each year, our Floral Displays team decks the halls of America’s Largest Home® for Christmas at Biltmore.

For 2019, discover how they draw inspiration from the beautiful details, including the art and furnishings, in Biltmore House.

Winter Garden and Surroundings

Decorating Christmas trees in Biltmore House
Norene Barrett puts finishing touches on a Christmas tree topper

Norene Barrett began working at Biltmore 18 years ago in the mail services department. Though she enjoyed her role, she looked for different ways to express her own creativity.

In 2015, after taking an intensive course in floral design, Norene joined Floral Displays and is now responsible for decorating sections of Biltmore House and the estate.

Decorating Christmas trees in Biltmore House
Floral team members Feny Bryan, Norene Barrett, and Kathy Nameth decorate a trio of trees inspired by the Greek friezes on the wall

“This trio of trees is meant to take guests back in time,” Norene said of her design for the area between the Winter Garden and the Billiard Room. “The trees are cheery and bright, but I used a lot of white elements for continuity with the series of Greek friezes on the walls.”

Norene added snowy branches to her décor along with period ornaments to bring a nostalgic feeling of Christmas past.

Winter Garden in Biltmore House decorated for Christmas at Biltmore
Winter Garden decorated for Christmas at Biltmore

For the Winter Garden, Norene is planning to light the evergreen garlands so that they glow, and instead of traditional kissing balls suspended from the greenery, she has created sparkling swags that catch the light. She’ll also add plenty of poinsettias to emphasize the garden feel of the space.

Breakfast Room

Adding ornaments to a Christmas tree in the Breakfast Room
Joslyn Kelly adds ornaments to the Breakfast Room tree

“This is the room where the family would eat breakfast, so I wanted it to have a warm, homey feeling as if you’re being welcomed to the table,” said Joslyn Kelly, floral designer.

Pink ornaments for the Breakfast Room
A selection of red and pink Christmas ornaments chosen to complement the Breakfast Room decor

Drawing inspiration from the room’s elegant cut velvet draperies and upholstery, Joslyn selected ornaments in a range of pinks and reds to complement the lovely patterns and colors of the fabric.

Floral displays on the Breakfast Room table
Lush floral displays and cranberry topiaries top the Breakfast Room table during Christmas at Biltmore

Look for glorious floral arrangements, towering topiaries of deep burgundy cranberries, and gilded pears among the delicate crystal and china place settings on the table.

Morning Salon

Nativity scene in the Tapestry Gallery
The estate’s Nativity scene, often staged in the Tapestry Gallery in years past

Cristy Leonard has been a member of the floral team for seven years, and the Salon is one of her areas to decorate for our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore celebration.

The estate’s large traditional Nativity will be staged in the Salon this year, and according to Cristy, the set has been a major source of inspiration for her designs.

“I’ve planned special new surroundings that includes twinkling lights to resemble nighttime in Bethlehem,” Cristy said.

Biltmore designer holds ornaments she created
Cristy Leonard displays ornaments she created for the Salon tree

Cristy chose to decorate the Salon’s main tree in brilliant peacock blues and greens with bright touches of gold. She added cherubs, gilded grapes, and grapevines to symbolize the prosperity and blessings of the season.

Christmas tree in Biltmore House Salon
Salon Christmas tree wound with gold fabric

As a finishing touch, Cristy swathed the tree in yards of gauzy golden fabric, echoing the look of the room’s iconic draped and tented ceiling.

Third Floor Living Hall

Staff favorites: Harpist playing in the Third Floor Living Hall
A harpist plays Christmas carols in the Third Floor Living Hall

During the Vanderbilt era, Third Floor Living Hall was a place for guests to relax in the evenings, share the events of the day, and perhaps read or catch up with friends.

Michelle Warren of Biltmore’s floral team created a child’s tree for this room, complete with dolls, toys, and wooden soldiers around the base, ready for the younger set to play with them while their parents indulged in a sing-along or a game of cards.

Humpty Dumpty toy under Christmas tree
A whimsical Humpty Dumpty and other toys under the Third Floor Living Hall Christmas tree

As you enter Third Floor Living Hall, look for a charming scene featuring a table set up with paper, ribbon, and tags, just as if Edith Vanderbilt were wrapping her gifts for the Christmas season!

Other 2019 Christmas at Biltmore highlights:

  • Grand Staircase
    • This elegant Christmas tree is centered under the Grand Staircase Chandelier, making it appear as though the four-story light is the tree topper.
  • Banquet Hall
    • From the 35-foot fresh Fraser fir at one end to the triple fireplaces at the other, the Banquet Hall is a traditional guest favorite and one of the most beloved rooms in Biltmore House.
  • Library
    • Themed around the idea of Christmas Traditions, the Library incorporates traditional colors such as gold, red, green, plaids, and a tartan print.
  • Oak Sitting Room
    • The colorful décor in rich jewel tones of red, cobalt, gold, and green is drawn from the room’s splendid Axminster—the only rug of English origin in Biltmore House.
  • Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
    • The tree ornaments are inspired by the Vanderbilts’ courtship which took place in Paris. The room features a soft mix of lilac, amber, and cream colors drawn from the distinctive oval ceiling.
  • Main Kitchen
    • Look for a whimsical gingerbread replica of Biltmore House.

Christmas at Biltmore

Enjoy the daytime celebration November 1, 2019–January 5, 2020, and experience Candlelight Christmas Evenings through January 4, 2020.

Biltmore Holiday Wine Guide

To share the warmth and cheer of Biltmore wines, we’ve created our Holiday Wine Guide to help you make the most of this special season.

“The Holiday Wine Guide covers all the different celebrations from Thanksgiving to New Year’s,” said Jill Whitfield, senior wine marketing manager. “There are recommendations for each special occasion, including thanking your hosts and having gifts on-hand for surprise guests.”

Holiday Entertaining with Wines

Biltmore wines with cake and holiday lights
Look for all Biltmore wines online

“For general holiday entertaining, Biltmore® Estate Cabernet Sauvignon–awarded 95 points in the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition–and Biltmore Estate® Pinot Grigio, which received 90 points from the Beverage Testing Institute, are a great place to start,” Jill said.

Jill recommends rounding out your selections with our Biltmore® Reserve Rosé North Carolina 2018, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2017, and our bubbly Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine.

Your Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving table with Biltmore wines
Our Thanksgiving Trio brings everyone to the table

Whether you’re adding a leaf to your table to accommodate a crowd or traveling out of town to visit family, Biltmore wines pair perfectly with everything from turkey and dressing to flavorful new “Friendsgiving” favorites.

“Our special Thanksgiving Trio featuring Biltmore® Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2018Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2017, and Biltmore Estate® Brut makes it easy to pair all your holiday favorites with a fine wine,” said Jill. “If you want to add a bit more variety, Biltmore Estate® Dry Rosé and Biltmore Estate® Merlot are great wines for delighting your guests.”

Wrap-up Gift Giving with Biltmore Wines

Biltmore winter wines with bows
Enjoy the process of stocking and storing Biltmore wines

Simplify holiday shopping by sharing the gift of Biltmore wines. They make a thoughtful gift for anyone on your list or a special thank-you to your hosts for including you in their celebration.

Consider options such as The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County 2017, which earned 91 points from Critics Challenge, our charming Mariporta Red Dessert Wine, long-time guest favorite Biltmore Estate® Cardinal’s Crest, our lightly sweet Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Chenin Blanc, or our finest sparkling–Biltmore Estate® Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs North Carolina 2017, handcrafted from outstanding locally-grown grapes.

Savor Christmas with Biltmore Wines

Biltmore wines with Christmas tree and desserts
When planning your virtual wine tasting, choose at least three wines to sample together

Showcase your Christmas Eve gathering, Christmas Day Brunch, and Christmas Day Dinner with our most versatile, food-friendly wines to complement any cuisine. 

“Our Biltmore Estate® Sauvignon Blanc earned 91 points in the San Francisco International Wine Competition,” Jill said, “while Critics Challenge awarded our Antler Hill® Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015 93 points. We think you’ll also enjoy sharing our Biltmore Estate® RieslingBiltmore® Reserve Viognier North Carolina 2018, and our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Malbec with your special guests.”

New Year’s: Ready, Set, Celebrate!

Celebrate with Biltmore sparkling wines
Our handcrafted Biltmore bubbles make any occasion more special

For a more memorable midnight on New Year’s Eve or a brunch featuring traditional favorites the following day, be sure to include our sparkling wine, handcrafted in the time-honored méthode champenoise that creates the finest bubbles.

“Shake things up with our Biltmore Estate® Blanc de Noir,” suggested Jill. “Not only is it delicious, but the soft coral color makes it a feast for the eyes, too!”

Sparkling wines may be traditional for New Year’s, but Jill recommends considering a range of other options  including our Biltmore Estate® Limited Release Gewürztraminer, Biltmore Estate® Limited Release TempranilloBiltmore Estate® Pinot Noir, and Biltmore Estate® Chardonnay.

Enjoying Our Wines at Home for the Holidays

Biltmore wines with chocolate desserts
For the holidays, we’ve bundled the best of our award-winning wines to help you simplify your celebrations (and save)!

“If you’re ready to re-stock your wine reserves, you can find Biltmore wines close to home with our Retail Locator,” said Jill.

Join the Vanderbilt Wine Club®

Vanderbilt Wine Club Christmas party
Enjoy members-only events like our annual Christmas party

Give a year of wine to someone special with a gift membership in our Vanderbilt Wine Club. Members receive three hand-selected Biltmore wines each season, shipped direct to your door, and the first club shipment ships free.

In addition, members save up to 25% on all wine purchases online or at the estate, plus complimentary premium wine tastings, access to first release wines, members-only events, and much more. 

Crowdsourcing Biltmore’s 2019 Christmas Wine Labels

Thank you for enjoying this archived information about our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore wine labels!

Ready to pour on the cheer this holiday season? We’re excited to share the process of crowdsourcing our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore® Wine labels!

“In previous years, we held a competition for artists to share their interpretation of what Christmas at Biltmore means to them,” said Jill Whitfield, senior wine marketing manager. “We chose several finalists, then asked our online audience to vote for their favorite design.”

Crowdsourcing for creativity

In 2018, Biltmore Wines decided to shake things up a bit. Instead of asking artists to submit their work, they asked our Facebook followers to help them develop that year’s Christmas label, one step at a time.

It worked so well that we decided to repeat the process of crowdsourcing our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Wine labels.

Creating mood boards

Mood boards with frosty and cozy themes

Mood boards featuring #Frosty and #Cozy elements

“First, we worked with Biltmore’s art team to create a pair of mood boards,” Jill explained. “One featured #Frosty elements including a palette of cool, wintry colors and silvery metallics. The other was #Cozy, with warmer tones and sparkling gold ornaments. We then posted them on Facebook and asked our fans and followers to vote for their favorite mood.” 

Setting the tone

For the second phase of voting, Lisa Vogel, Art Director, pulled together two “tone” boards so voters could choose between themes representing a #Vintage look represented by an old-fashioned Christmas card and a #Modern look with a clean graphic feel.

Facebook fans liked both of the themes, but their final preference was for #Vintage.

Theme boards with #Modern and #Vintage elements

Boards with #Contemporary and #Vintage themes

Crowd favorite

With the mood and theme decided, it was time to get Asheville artist Jeff Pittman involved in the project. He drew inspiration from the boards to create two representations of Biltmore on which Facebook followers would have the final vote.

Both #Vista and #Reflections were popular, but #Reflections—featuring the west façade of Biltmore House on the hill above the Lagoon—was the winner.

Jeff refined the initial #Reflections painting he created with more detail and a few more festive touches. “Everyone loved both of Jeff Pittman’s offerings” said Lisa, “but I think it may have been the peaceful pair of Canadian geese crossing the Lagoon that made #Reflections such a crowd favorite!”

Paintings showing different views of Biltmore House

Jeff Pittman’s two representations of a Biltmore Christmas scene

Creating original artwork

What happened next?

“Jeff went to work in his studio,” Lisa said, “and created the final artwork that would become the labels for our 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine.”

Asheville artist Jeff Pitman painting the 2019 Biltmore Christmas Wine label

Jeff Pittman at work on the 2019 Christmas at Biltmore Wine label

The finished label celebrates the natural splendor of this special season at Biltmore

“The voters made it clear what they wanted,” said Jill, “and that’s why crowdsourcing is such a great way to engage your audience—it gives your most loyal followers a voice in what you’re creating for them.”

Finished painting for the 2019 Biltmore Christmas wine label

Finished artwork in Jeff’s studio

Join us at the Winery on the following dates in November and December to meet artist Jeff Pittman and have your bottles of Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine signed by him.

Meet the artist

  • November 8, 4 p.m.–6 p.m.
  • December 13, 4 p.m.–6 p.m.

Pour on the cheer with Biltmore wines

Christmas tree with Biltmore wines and desserts

Choose any of our fine wines for holiday celebrations

Purchase any of our fine wines—including Christmas at Biltmore Red Wine (soft and fruit-forward with flavors of berry and spice to complement holiday dishes including ham, turkey, and blackberry pie à la mode) and Christmas at Biltmore White Wine (fragrant and semi-sweet with flavors of apricot, spice, and citrus to pair with holiday dishes like sweet potato casserole, apple pie, and pumpkin pie)—at estate shops or online

…And the winner is…

The Coral Knock Out Rose has captured the top prize at the recent finals of the 2019 Biltmore International Rose Trials.  Bred by William Radler and distributed by Star Roses & Plants, Coral Knock Out Rose (RADral) took home the George and Edith Vanderbilt Award for Most Outstanding Rose of the trials.

Coral Knock Out Rose by Star Roses & Plants

The winning rose was among a collection of roses planted for trials in 2017 in Biltmore’s award-winning and historic Rose Garden. Since 2011, Biltmore’s Rose Garden has been home to the trials in which more than 200 varieties from growers and breeders worldwide have been planted and cared for by Biltmore’s expert horticulturalists. A permanent jury of rose experts judged the plantings four times a year during the trial’s two years.

In addition to winning the Best in Show Award, Coral Knock Out won the Chauncey Beadle Award for Most Outstanding Shrub Rose. Additional winners this year were:

Sweet Hips (KAPswehp) – Winner of the William Cecil Award for Best General Impression, and the Lord Burleigh Award for Most Disease Resistant Rose, Sweet Hips is available from Weeks Roses.

Sweet Hips, available from Weeks Roses

Cupid’s Kisses (WEKtriscala) – Winner of the Gilded Age Award for Best Climbing Rose. Bred by Christian Bedard, it is available from Weeks Roses.

Cupid’s Kisses

Bliss Parfuma (KORmarzau) – Bred by Kordes Roses in Germany, Bliss Parfuma won the Edith Wharton Award for Best Floribunda. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Bliss Parfuma

Moonlight Romantica (MEILkaquinz) – Winner of the Pauline Merrill Award for best Hybrid Tea went to Moonlight Romantica, bred by Meilland in France. It is available from Star Roses & Plants.

Moonlight Romantica

Trials of this type are open to rose breeders around the world – from professional to beginner. Competing roses are evaluated for overall health and rigor; fragrance; disease resistance; and ability to repeat bloom.

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Biltmore: The Birthplace of American Forestry

When George Vanderbilt began planning his grand estate in Asheville, North Carolina, more than a century ago, he envisioned a self-sustaining home and stewardship of the land and its resources for years to come. Though it is hard to imagine now, portions of the lush forest surrounding Biltmore House was once overworked farmland and overcut woodland.

Over forested Asheville
Poor Woodland, c. 1892; © The Biltmore Company

The Birthplace of Modern Forestry Management

Following the recommendation of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Vanderbilt hired trained forester Gifford Pinchot—who later served as first chief of the United States Forest Service and founder of the Society of American Foresters—to develop a forest management plan for his land holdings, which eventually totaled approximately 125,000 acres.

Pinchot’s scientific forestry plan (the management and conservation of forest lands) was the first of its kind in the United States and served as a national model. In turn, George Vanderbilt was the first American landowner to implement scientific forestry on a large scale.

In 1895, the same year as the opening of Biltmore House, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck succeeded Pinchot and expanded the forest management plan over the next 14 years, including the development of a comprehensive management plan for Vanderbilt’s vast Pisgah Forest holdings. During his tenure at Biltmore, Dr. Schenck also founded the Biltmore Forest School—the first school of forestry in the United States—graduating more than 300 of the nation’s first professionally-trained foresters.

White Pine Planting Asheville, North Carolina
White Pine Plantings, c. 1929; © The Biltmore Company

America’s First Managed Forest

The contributions of Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot and Dr. Carl Schenck transformed what was once a landscape of overused terrain into America’s first managed forest on such a large scale, improving the health of the land while producing sustainable wood and other resources, establishing the birthplace of American Forestry.

Edith Vanderbilt American Forestry
Edith Vanderbilt (far left) and Cornelia Vanderbilt (second from right) attending Pisgah National Forest dedication to the memory of George Vanderbilt, c. 1920; © The Biltmore Company

In May 1914, Edith Vanderbilt, completed her late husband’s wishes of selling an 86,000-acre tract of Biltmore to be managed by the U.S. government as public lands, creating one of the first national forest east of the Mississippi River: Pisgah National Forest. In an excerpt from a letter declaring her family’s interest in preserving the property, Edith stated:

“Mr. Vanderbilt was the first of the large forest owners in America to adopt the practice of forestry. He has conserved Pisgah Forest from the time he bought it up to his death, a period of nearly twenty five years, under the firm conviction that every forest owner owes it to those who follow him, to hand down his forest property to them unimpaired by wasteful use.”

“I make this contribution towards the public ownership of Pisgah Forest with the earnest hope that in this way I may help to perpetuate my husband’s pioneer work in forest conservation, and to ensure the protection and use and enjoyment of Pisgah Forest as a National Forest, by the American people for all time….”

Biltmore Estate American Forestry Today
Views from Biltmore today.

Biltmore’s Forestry Legacy Continues

Today, Biltmore Estate and its resources continue to be managed by those original guiding principles to ensure future vitality, honoring George Vanderbilt’s legacy of conservation and environmental stewardship.

Nearby, the Cradle of Forestry is a 6,500-acre Historic Site within Pisgah National Forest, set aside to commemorate the beginning of forest conservation in America and the lasting contributions of George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Dr. Carl Schenck.

Preparing Biltmore’s Historic Gardens for Fall

The task list is long in Stacey Weir’s weekly planner this time of year as she and her crew begin preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall.

As Historic Gardens Manager, Stacey and her team must focus on putting the gardens to bed after the long, lush days of summer are done.

Preparing our historic gardens for fall
Preparations for fall begin during late summer in Biltmore’s historic gardens

“The landscape has delighted our guests all season with a showy tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original landscape scheme,” said Stacey, “but now it’s time to be preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall.”

The ever-changing gardens require meticulous note-taking and calendar-minding to stay on track for the next season… and the next and the next.

It’s challenging for Stacey to summarize what her team does to get the gardens ready for fall and winter, but she shares some of the main tasks below–and notes that you can follow the Biltmore team’s lead in your own garden at home.

Fall tasks at hand

“One of our first tasks for preparing Biltmore’s historic gardens for fall begins just after Labor Day,” Stacey said. “Our crews will be busy pulling all of the tropical plants that have been on display during warmer weather.”

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
After Labor Day, tropical plants will be returned to the Conservatory

That means the massive terra cotta planters filled with elephant ears that line the front of Biltmore House and other areas are being emptied and stored for next summer.

“Some crew members will suit up in waders to work in the Italian Garden pools where tropical lilies and enormous Victorian lily pads are just finishing their blooming season,” said Stacey. “The crew will weed out the remains and clean the ponds.”

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
A gardener dons waders to work in the Italian Garden pools

In addition, Stacey notes that height pruning in the floral pattern beds and borders of the Walled Garden is a priority in order to keep leaf drop manageable as the winds pick up with seasonal change. Perennials are cut back to ensure good growth for spring.

“We’ll lift the dahlia bulbs out of the ground in the Walled Garden’s Victorian border to allow the soil to dry naturally,” Stacey said. “The bulbs will be placed in a cool dry place to store over winter to be replanted in the spring.”

Mum’s the word in the Walled Garden

Fall mums in the Walled Garden at Biltmore
Vibrant mums are a sure sign of fall in the Walled Garden.

Biltmore’s signature fall color flower display of mums will also be planted in the Walled Garden pattern beds.

The mums will begin showing glorious color in late September and early October, with peak bloom around the second or third week of October. 

“We usually plan a warm-toned color scheme for fall, with shades of orange, golden yellow, and deep reds and purples,” noted Stacey.

Fall leaves become a part of Biltmore soil

Preparing Biltmore's historic gardens for fall
In addition to beautiful colors to the Azalea Garden, fall brings lots of dropping eaves that will eventually become mulch and soil amendments

As temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change color, just like at your house, there’s leaf management to consider. The horticulture crew embarks on several leaf clean-ups throughout the season to minimize final clean-up at the end of the season.

Crews collect the leaves and use them for compost, or they put the leaves in to a tub grinder with woody debris and grind everything to use for soil.

Any leftovers are used in a compost that made with herbaceous debris, which is broadcast in the field crops and food plots throughout estate property.

Christmas and winter work

Poinsettias growing at Biltmore
Poinsettias being grown in the production house at the Conservatory

A portion of the poinsettias used during our annual Christmas at Biltmore displays are grown in the production house near the Conservatory.

Planted in July, the poinsettias begin to pop up in early fall. A selection of the full-grown plants will be placed in Biltmore House, while the others will decorate the Conservatory.

In early October, the Conservatory team will also plant tulip bulbs in pots in order to have tulip bloom and color “under glass” by Valentine’s Day in mid-February.

Looking ahead to Biltmore Blooms

Spring tulips at Biltmore
Tulips are a sure sign of spring at Biltmore

And then, there are the tulips which herald the start of our springtime Biltmore Blooms celebration.

To enjoy vivid blooms in April, the bulbs must be planted in November just before Thanksgiving. Actual planting days are based on temperatures to avoid planting when the ground is frozen.

“Each fall, our crews plant thousands upon thousands of bulbs including tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths in the Walled Garden and across the estate. When spring arrives, the total number of blooms is breathtaking!” said Stacey.

The matrix

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn sketch shows details of a planting in the Conservatory

To keep track of every plant–from seed to taking them out of the production house to putting them in the ground–all of these timetables and tasks are organized on paper.

The plans include a “priority matrix” that the gardeners have developed through the years to determine which tasks to focus on first depending on factors such as guest-facing locations and type of plant.

Otherwise, “It’s all a jumbled mess in your head,” Stacey said, She’s quick to add that when you’re working in the gardens season after season, the memory naturally retains the details.

Gardeners are constantly thinking several steps ahead of the task at hand. “In horticulture, everything effects the next thing,” said Stacey. “Perennial-wise you have to make allowances now to have success in the spring. Everything has the continual life span of birth and rebirth almost.”

Plan your fall getaway today

Couple enjoying fall at Antler Hill Village
Plan your spectacular fall getaway to Biltmore today!

From colorful leaves to crisp days and cool nights, there’s no better time to enjoy a visit to Biltmore than during the fall season. Plan your getaway today.

Discover Biltmore Wines From Grape to Glass

How do we select the finest fruit for Biltmore wines? Here’s an overview of the process, from grape to glass!

Sourcing fine North Carolina vintages

In his book Lady On The Hill, George Vanderbilt‘s grandson William A.V. Cecil noted that “Asheville was about the same latitude as Gibraltar in the Mediterranean, and with an altitude between 2,100 and 2,500 feet, the fields of the estate would enjoy warm days and cool nights in the summer.”

While the climate of Western North Carolina is not nearly as predictable as that of the Mediterranean or other major grape-growing regions, when conditions are right, the fruit produced in our estate vineyards is exceptional and earns the Biltmore Reserve label for our finest North Carolina vintages.

To ensure we can meet the growing demand for Biltmore wines, however, we also look to our local vineyard partners in Polk County—a lower-elevation region just south of Asheville that experiences slightly warmer temperatures with less danger of late season frost damage.

Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore's vineyards on the west side of the estate
Guests enjoying a visit to Biltmore’s vineyards on the west side of the estate

Beyond Biltmore

We also look to our west coast partners for the quality and consistency of grapes needed to handcraft our award-winning wines. Several times each year, Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak schedules extended visits to California to meet with our growing partners and select outstanding vintages for Biltmore wines. 

“Some of the finest American wine grapes come from the vineyards of coastal California,” Sharon said. “The terroir—the different combinations of weather and soil in each hill and valley—translate into the distinctive flavors and qualities that characterize the wines of that region.”

View of one of our partner vineyards in California
View of one of our partner vineyards in California

California’s Northern Coast

This large wine grape-growing region is located north of San Francisco, with a maritime climate that is affected by cool fogs and breezes from the Pacific Ocean. Some of California’s best-known American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Lake County, Napa, and Russian River Valley, are located here. 

“This AVA is an important one for our Vanderbilt Reserve series,” said Sharon. “We select grapes from outstanding partner vineyards for some of our most distinctive wines, including our Vanderbilt Reserve Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, Vanderbilt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley 2016, and The Hunt Red Blend Sonoma County.” 

The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore's original collection
The Hunt label features the finely wrought engraving on an August Francotte shotgun in Biltmore’s original collection

California’s Central Coast

Stretching from San Francisco Bay south to Santa Barbara County, this region offers a warmer climate that still benefits from the cooling influences of the Pacific Ocean. We partner with vineyards from such prestigious AVAs as Arroyo Seco, Cienega Valley, Monterey, and Paso Robles.

“Some of the more unusual varietals we choose from partner vineyards here include Barbera, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Rousanne, and Tempranillo,” Sharon noted.

Washington

A wide range of grapes are now being grown in the fertile valleys of Washington, making the state an important producer of outstanding wine varietals. Vineyards are found primarily in the eastern half of the state that benefits from a dryer shrub-steppe ecosystem and the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. The state experiences long hours of daylight—approximately two more hours per day during the growing season than California—and milder, more consistent temperatures. 

“We are excited to be working with some great partner vineyards in Washington,” said Sharon. “We’re selecting a lot of excellent grapes for our American Series and Limited Release Series wines.”

Handcrafting our award-winning wines

While Sharon and her team handcraft the majority of our wines from start to finish at Biltmore’s Winery in Asheville, North Carolina, our Vanderbilt Reserve wines and Antler Hill wines are created in the particular region where they were grown. This painstaking process is overseen—from selecting the vintage and expressing the varietal character to aging the wine—by Sharon during her visits to California. 

“All our wines represent the Vanderbilt family’s legacy of gracious hospitality on which Biltmore was founded,” Sharon said, “and as Biltmore’s winemaker, I am committed to handcrafting our wines with the philosophy of keeping each one true to varietal character and consistent from vintage to vintage. Whether I’m at work in North Carolina or California or Washington, I’m focused on creating wines that reflect the quality of this family-owned estate and Winery.”

Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online
Just a few of the more than 50 Biltmore wine selections available at the estate or online

Discover our exceptional wines for yourself

Visit Biltmore’s Winery, purchase online, or find them close to home with our Retailer Locator.

Featured image: Ripe grapes being harvested in Biltmore’s vineyard

Painting with Plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory

From brilliant bromeliads to elegant orchids, painting with plants in Biltmore’s Conservatory is how Todd Roy, Conservatory Horticulturist, describes his work.

Painting with plants such as bromeliads and orchids in Biltmore's Conservatory
A breathtaking display of bromeliads and orchids in the Conservatory

Caring for Biltmore’s Plants

Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory
Todd Roy checks plantings behind the Conservatory

Caring for this glorious garden under glass—filled with tropical treasures from around the world—is no easy task, but Todd enjoys his work in such exotic surroundings.

“It takes a lot of effort to keep the Conservatory looking so lush and beautiful,” said Todd. “All these plant species have different moisture needs, so we spend the first several hours of each day watering everything by hand—it helps us keep a close eye on the thousands of plants in our care.” 

Tropical Plant Treasures

Pink anthurium in Biltmore's Conservatory
Pink anthurium thrive in the Conservatory

Todd has been part of Biltmore’s Conservatory staff for the more than four years. Prior to joining the estate, he worked as a horticulturalist for a historic estate in southwest Florida, which gave him an appreciation for tropical plantings.

“I focus on adding to the diversity of what we offer in the Conservatory,” Todd said. “We have some palms that are very old, and some Cycads that date back to the time of the Vanderbilts, but we’re always adding new things for guests to discover and enjoy.”

Painting with Plants

Painting with plants and colorful foliage in the Conservatory
Todd incorporates colorful foliage into his designs

Along with his horticultural skills, Todd has a background in fine art, including painting and photography. His work in the Conservatory gives him a living canvas for expressing his creativity.

Detailed drawing of Conservatory plantings
A hand-drawn sketch shows details of a planting in the Conservatory

“From flowers to foliage, there are so many colors and textures to work with that it really is like ‘painting with plants’. My designs often begin with the color and pattern of foliage and how I can best create multi-level displays that intrigue our guests and engage their imagination,” said Todd.

A special project in 2019

Biltmore Gardens Railway includes this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory
In 2019, Biltmore Gardens Railway included this replica of the Bass Pond spillway in the Conservatory

In addition to his regular responsibilities, Todd was instrumental in preparing the Conservatory to host Biltmore Gardens Railway in 2019.

The charming botanical model train display featured replicas of estate landmarks, handcrafted in meticulous detail from such all-natural elements as leaves, bark, and twigs.

“Once the structures and the trains were installed, we had to create displays around them that both complemented the exhibition and showcased the Conservatory itself as one of Biltmore’s historic gardens,” Todd said. “It was an enormous project, but our guests really enjoyed it!”

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns in 2020

Biltlmore Gardens Railway display
Biltmore Gardens Railway in Antler Hill Village

Biltmore Gardens Railway returns to Biltmore this summer; you can enjoy it in Antler Hill Village from July 7 through September 7, 2020.

This year, the botanical model train display will showcase iconic American railway stations, some of which have ties to the Vanderbilt family.

Featured blog image: Todd Roy displays a brilliantly-colored bromeliad in Biltmore’s Conservatory