Creating Curb Appeal at Biltmore House

To say that the summertime curb appeal of America’s Largest Home veers toward the dramatic would be accurate! Towering palm trees flank the front door, all of them carefully arranged in terracotta pots sturdy enough to keep the contents secure. For plantings this huge, their containers can measure up to 40 inches tall and 50 inches wide.

Some of the containers are replicas made in Impruneta, Italy, the same town in which the home’s original pots were made in the late 1800s. For the reproductions, the faces and garlands were matched with the ones on the original pots.

This year, Biltmore gardener Todd Roy created the plant design for the containers at the front of the house, the terrace that crosses the facade, as well as the pots at the base of the Rampe Deuce, across from the house.

Guests often ask Todd and his cohorts on the horticulture team questions on how best to get the Biltmore look in their home gardens. Here are some of Todd’s favorite tips for creating dazzling container gardens at home.

“Thriller, Filler and Spiller”
To achieve a balanced container, Todd says to design with these basic components.

• “Thrillers” are the upright, tall component.

• “Fillers” are medium-height, middle-area plants.

• “Spillers” are the plants that hang over and around the edges of the container.

Select plants with similar watering needs
Consult the plant tags for watering requirements so you are choosing plants that share the same maintenance schedule.

Texture
And finally, select plants with differing leaf sizes and colors for a full and lush effect.

More about Biltmore’s historic gardens may be found here.

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