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Biltmore estate springs into bloom

staff report • Mar 24, 2013 at 5:25 AM

After a long winter’s slumber, Biltmore is springing into bloom. Visitors to the sprawling Asheville, N.C., estate now through May will be treated to a colorful, ever-changing floral display created by Mother Nature herself — with a little help from Biltmore’s horticulture experts, of course.

Biltmore Blooms celebrates the legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted, the creator of New York’s Central Park and the father of American landscape architecture, and his final project — designing the grounds of George W. Vanderbilt’s 125,000-acre Biltmore estate. He not only developed acres of gardens and parkland, but in his efforts to protect the environment and reclaim over-farmed land, Olmsted established America’s first managed forest.

Biltmore’s annual festival of flowers will begin with the bright golden yellow of daffodils and forsythia in the gardens, coinciding with an opulent display of potted tropical plants and lavish flowers inside Biltmore House.

The season will continue with a massive tulip bloom across the estate, along with multi-colored azaleas, rhododendron and roses in the Historic Rose Garden.

A weekly bloom report on Biltmore’s website lets visitors check out which plants are currently at their peak.

As an added treat, a new guest experience will be introduced inside Biltmore House. Visitors will be able to step into the Winter Garden, normally roped off, to enjoy a display of exotic orchids, just as George and Edith Vanderbilt’s guests might have. Some of the plants will be the same species that were planned for the Biltmore Conservatory in 1894.

The Winter Garden’s existing tropical foliage will be enhanced, creating a lush green background. Unusual and beautiful orchid specimens will be displayed on tiered plant stands, in urns and on pedestals with fine leafed ferns and other foliage.

“Orchids will typically experience their peak bloom during this time frame, so we wanted to give our guests a chance to see these unusual and colorful blooms in the same way the Vanderbilts enjoyed them — in the Winter Garden,” said Cathy Barnhardt, Biltmore’s Floral Displays Manager.

Floral displays throughout the house will repeat the rich jewel tones found in the orchids. Foliage will be showcased in glass-domed cloches and reproduction Wardian cases, which look like miniature greenhouses. The Winter Garden will close to guest traffic on April 7.

Guests can pick up valuable tips, tricks and techniques from Biltmore’s horticulture experts each weekend at the “Ask a Gardener” stations in the Walled Garden. Daily seminars will be held in A Gardener’s Place at the Conservatory on the following topics: “Smell-Good Plants,” 1 p.m.; “Terrariums: Gardening Under Glass,” 2 p.m.; and “Organic Fertilizing,” 3 p.m.

Live music will be offered daily in the Conservatory and Biltmore House. Starting April 1, weekends will feature bands in Antler Hill Village.

The Winery will offer daily tastings of its Biltmore Spring Seasonal Wine and wine seminars. An exhibition, “The Vanderbilts At Home and Abroad,” featuring rarely seen objects in the Vanderbilt collection continues in the Biltmore Legacy Building in Antler Hill Village.

Spring is also the perfect time to take advantage of Biltmore’s mountain surroundings with outdoor activities such as sport clay shooting, Segway tours, horseback riding, carriage rides, fly-fishing, biking, float trips along the French Broad River and the Land Rover Driving Experience.

Through May, youth estate admission is half the price of adult admission. Purchase estate admission tickets seven days in advance of your visit and receive $15 off, or $10 off if tickets are purchased one to six days in advance. In addition to Biltmore House and gardens, estate admission includes entry to the Winery, Antler Hill Village, Antler Hill Farm and Barnyard, specialty gift shops and restaurants.

Biltmore was the vision of George W. Vanderbilt. Designed by Richard Morris Hunt, America’s largest home is a 250-room French Renaissance chateau, exhibiting the Vanderbilt family’s original collection of furnishings, art and antiques. Biltmore estate encompasses more than 8,000 acres and includes Antler Hill Village, which features the award-winning Winery and Antler Hill Farm; the four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate; an equestrian center; numerous restaurants; event and meeting venues; and Biltmore For Your Home, the company’s licensed products division.

For tickets to or more information about Biltmore, visit www.biltmore.com or call 877-BILTMORE.

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