Woven in Wonder: Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Woven in wonder, Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty is a fascinating outdoor sculpture created exclusively for Biltmore.

Stickwork is a one-of-a-kind installation

“Each of Patrick’s sculptures are one-of-a-kind,” said Travis Tatham, Director of Entertaining and Event Programming, “and that makes his work a perfect fit for Biltmore, which is a one-of-a-kind destination.”

Weaving with willows

Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore

Working with willow branches, Patrick creates large-scale installations that reflect the beauty and character of the site that hosts them.

Patrick and son Sam Dougherty arrived at Biltmore in mid-March to begin work on the installation in Antler Hill Village along with a truckload of willow branches grown in New York.

Patrick Dougherty with his Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Patrick Dougherty weaves willow branches into his Stickwork sculpture

“Given the large crowds that Biltmore draws, we wanted something palatial and roomy, with walking areas to accommodate large numbers of visitors,” said Patrick. “We aimed for a free-wheeling sculpture to occupy the site with flowing energy.”

Free as a Bird

Mockingbird atop Patrick Dougherty's Stickwork creation for Biltmore
A curious mockingbird checks the progress on the Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village

While working at Biltmore, Patrick and Sam noticed a pair of mockingbirds that came from a nearby holly bush every day to serenade the creation.

“They seemed to be staking a claim to the work,” Patrick said, “so we decided to name the sculpture Free as a Bird in their honor.”

In the past three decades, Patrick has built more than 300 of these large-scale environmental works worldwide, from Scotland to Japan to Brussels, and all over the United States.

Sam Dougherty works on Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Sam Dougherty adds his signature woven edges to the Stickwork creation for Biltmore

Sam, Patrick’s full-time construction assistant since June 2016, has developed into an expert stickworker. His signature can be found on every sculpture, especially in the rolled top edges.

Stickwork is fun for all ages!

Stickwork creation for Biltmore
Some Biltmore staff members had an opportunity to assist Patrick and Sam Dougherty in the creation of the Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village

According to one Biltmore team member who had an opportunity to work with Sam and Patrick as they wove the whimsical sculpture, “Adults have asked ‘what is this?’ but kids walk up and know exactly what to do with it. They say ‘it’s a stickhouse and I need to run through it and play!'”

Discover Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty

Child explores Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village
The new Stickwork sculpture in Antler Hill Village is fun for all ages!

Now through September 30, discover Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty, located in Antler Hill Village near the Outdoor Adventure Center.

This delightful sculpture entitled Free as a Bird invites excitement and exploration for all ages, and is included with estate admission.

Free as a Bird is lit at night, further enlivening the space, especially for those who are enjoying a stay at either of our distinctive hotels or our two private historic cottages.

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.

Discover Biltmore’s Distinctive Shrub Garden

Summer at Biltmore is a glorious season–and the perfect time to discover Biltmore’s distinctive Shrub Garden.

Discover Biltmore’s distinctive Shrub Garden

Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed many of the areas closest to Biltmore House as a series of outdoor rooms that beckoned guests to step outside and enjoy their surroundings.

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
A family enjoys an outdoor picnic in the Shrub Garden

Biltmore’s Shrub Garden, located between the Italian Garden and the Walled Garden, invites guests to lose themselves among the winding paths and lush plantings.

Stone steps in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Stone steps beckon you to discover new delights in the Shrub Garden

Caring for this distinctive space

For Brooke Doty, a member of the estate’s landscaping team since 2017, Biltmore’s Shrub Garden offers a subtle beauty in striking contrast with other portions of Olmsted’s design.

“It’s not as obvious as the Walled Garden with all its bright, blooming flowers, but the Shrub Garden is a place of deep shade and clean structure. The shapes of the mature trees and the open, airy feel of the pathways make it the perfect place for wandering,” said Brooke.

Jack-in-the-pulpit plant in Biltmore's Shrub Garden
Uncovering a native jack-in-the-pulpit plant

In caring for Biltmore’s Shrub Garden during the past several years, Brooke has come to appreciate more than just the overall plan of the area.

“I constantly see things I never saw before,” Brooke said. “Things that you don’t notice immediately. There are plantings that are tucked back away from the paths, and specimens that you won’t find in most gardens.”

Notable specimens

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
Brooke examines the decorative fruits of the Japanese Snowbell tree

Styrax japonicus or Japanese Snowbell is one such horticultural gem; the tree is known for producing cascades of flowers in the spring, interesting fruits in summer, modest fall color, and shapely limbs for winter interest.

The Shrub Garden is also the home of two state champion trees. One is the golden rain tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) with clusters of small yellow seed pods that hang from its nearly weeping branches in early summer.

Discover Biltmore's distinctive Shrub Garden
State champion river birch with cables to support its branches

The other is a massive river birch (Betula nigra) with distinctive, cinnamon-colored curling bark. In addition to its champion status, the river birch is one of the original plantings in the garden.

“From champion trees to the ‘bones’ of Olmsted’s design, Biltmore’s Shrub Garden offers something interesting for every season,” said Brooke. “I’m always encouraging guests to spend more time here exploring the paths, enjoying the quiet beauty, and discovering the little surprises that await you around each turn.”

Colorful summer blooms against the brick tunnel bridge in the Shrub Garden
Colorful summer blooms against the brick tunnel bridge in the Shrub Garden

Plan your summer visit today

Kids in Biltmore's Azalea Garden
Guests of all ages love discovering Biltmore’s “outdoor rooms” like the Azalea Garden

In addition to exploring our glorious historic gardens during peak season, enjoy all that Biltmore offers this summer, including Biltmore Gardens Railway, on display in Antler Hill Village July 1–September 7.

Featured blog image: Brooke Doty at work in the Shrub Garden