The Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home, is one of my favorite places in the country. Because George Vanderbilt’s massive chateau is only a 2-hour drive from my home in North Carolina, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the awe-inspiring property many times. For my birthday this year, my wonderful husband gave me a weekend trip to Biltmore. Although there’s always something new to see, (currently costumes from the movie Titanic are displayed throughout the house), we chose not to tour the mansion this time around. Instead, we spent our time enjoying the beautiful weather and taking in the thousands of Spring blooms that grace the 50 acres of the estate’s sprawling formal and natural gardens, designed by famed landscape architect, Fredrick Law Olmsted.
As a special birthday treat, we reserved a lovely room with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the luxurious Inn On Biltmore Estate.
Because we were staying on property, we had access to everything the estate has to offer, except for the house, without having to purchase a ticket. We also were able to utilize the free shuttles that run continuously from the two on-site hotels to the house, gardens, stables, winery, and the Antler Hill Village which is a dining, shopping and exhibition area.
We arrived around noon and after a delicious alfresco lunch served on the Inn’s veranda overlooking the Estate’s vineyards, we took the shuttle to the front of the mansion to begin our day in the gardens. There are 2.5 miles of paths through Biltmore’s manicured garden spaces.
There was not much to see on the terraces or the Italian Garden in early Spring. The Italian Garden features classical statues and three water gardens. Koi fish were swimming in the pools, but otherwise, the garden was barren of the water lilies, lotus, and papyrus that will emerge from the watery beds in summer.
After exiting the Italian Garden, we followed the path through the Shrub Garden which is planted with over 500 varieties of shrubs, trees, and plants.
After the Shrub Garden, we strolled along the trail into the Spring garden. The Spring Garden sits in a little valley. It has a pathway that circles around a central grassy area surrounded by Spring blooming shrubs such as flowering quince, spirea, redbuds, dogwood, fothergilla, and evergreens.
When we made our way out of the Spring garden, we entered the Azalea Garden which contains one of the largest collections of native azaleas in the country. Unfortunately, we were a couple of weeks too early for most of the azaleas.
Another garden that was not quite ready for prime time was the Rose Garden. We have visited the formal Rose Garden in the summer when the 200 varieties of hybrid and heirloom roses are in their full glory, and I can tell you that it is definitely worth another visit just to experience their beauty and fragrance.
From the rose garden, we entered the Conservatory and were utterly dazzled by the colorful array of orchids and tropical plants that are cultivated inside this impressive brick greenhouse.
I was curious about the large pendulous pink blooms on the impressive plant that topped the dramatic display of orchids, bromeliads, begonias, and hydrangeas at the entrance to the Conservatory. I looked it up, and it is a Medinilla Magnifica and it is truly magnificent.
As gorgeous as the tropical plants were, the real showstopper of Spring “Biltmore Blooms,” as they call it, is the spectacular display of tulips in the Walled Garden. The color combinations of the different varieties of tulips were gorgeous and gave me some great ideas and inspiration for my own garden.
Full to the brim with the beauty of the Biltmore’s Estate gardens, we headed back to clean up for a special fireside dinner in the Inn’s elegant dining room.
Because I can never get enough of flowers and plants, the following day, before heading home, we spent a few hours wandering through some of the 65-acres of cultivated gardens in the North Carolina Arboretum. A few of the stunning garden exhibits we viewed included the Quilt Garden, the Heritage Garden, and the Plants Of Promise Garden. In addition to all the natural beauty, the Arboretum offers visitors the opportunity to connect with nature through their fascinating collection of art and sculpture on exhibit throughout the gardens and the education center.
This was my second visit to the NC Arboretum and my fifth visit to the Biltmore Estate Gardens. Needless to say, this will not be my last visit to either place. In fact, I may be heading back to Biltmore sooner rather than later, as an exhibit of renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly’s work will be installed and displayed throughout Biltmore’s gardens from May 17th – October 7th. I am particularly interested in the “Chihuly Nights At Biltmore,” where guests will be able to view the large-scale glass sculpture lit up in the midst of the estate’s majestic landscape.
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