The Biltmore House was built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a self-made man who one might say achieved the American Dream by becoming the wealthiest industrialist of mid-19th century America. The house was completed in 1895 after six years' of construction, which I find amazing considering the amount of elaborate detail throughout the house. Massive fireplaces--no two alike, it seemed; ornately carved woodwork; antique tapestries and priceless artwork on the walls . . . the whole effect left me awe-struck, walking around each room slowly so as not to miss a single detail. I found myself asking many questions of the docents available in each area and found the history of the estate and the Vanderbilt family fascinating.
|View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the balcony of the house|
Over a million visitors tour the estate each year, including the silly tourist waving to the camera above. The income brought in by these visitors, along with some entrepreneurship, have enabled the Vanderbilt family to retain ownership of this beautiful landmark. They have worked hard to preserve the house's original splendor, restoring the interior with authentic furnishings and wallcoverings of the period. (Photographs were prohibited inside.) The grounds, too, are being restored as much as possible with the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's vision in mind.
I could go on and on about all the interesting details about this house, but if you would like to know more, you can check out the official website here.
The Saturday of the Fling found us back at the Biltmore, this time with the whole group touring the gardens, which, as one might expect, are as expansive as the house. Near the house the gardens are formal in design, including a walkway lined with Grecian-looking busts.
A pergola at one end was covered with what must be very, very old wisteria.
The walled garden provides plenty of walkways to stroll leisurely and view plantings close-up.
Friends Beckie and Lisa took a moment to pose under a rose arbor. Lisa's hat was made specially by a friend for this trip to the Biltmore--I think she might have been the most photographed Blogger on this day!
At the far end of the walled garden, steps led down to a conservatory filled with all kinds of lush plants.
My favorite spot to rest for a bit were the two flanking butterfly gardens in front of the conservatory. Filled with salvias, nigella, coneflowers, and other natives--and, butterflies, of course--this is more my style of garden.
As you travel further from the house, the landscape becomes much more informal. A fellow blogger checks out this striking conifer, a Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar. I wish I had explored a little further, because seeing photos on other blogs I realize I missed some beautiful sights. But there was so much to see and do, it was hard to take it all in in a few hours.
Besides, we didn't want to miss the garden party! Here Skeeter (center), her husband The Saint, and Laura enjoy the champagne provided by the Biltmore. The Biltmore was one of the Fling's sponsors and not only provided free access to the gardens for us, but also some other goodies.
Seeing the whole Biltmore Estate requires a full day--at least. Tickets may seem a bit pricey, but they give you access to not only the house and gardens, but also the winery and most other parts of the estate. If you have only a few hours, though, I would recommend touring the house first. The gardens are lovely, but the house is so magnificent, it's worth every penny of the admission price. Seeing this home made an impression on me that I won't soon forget. Enjoying the Fling at Asheville with other garden bloggers and crossing off one of the top ten on my bucket list made this a very special trip indeed!