Visit to Biltmore House: Esplanade, Terrace & Italian Garden

Built by George W. Vanderbilt, youthful inheritor of his family’s shipping fortune, Biltmore House is a 250-room, French-style chateau nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. The home is still owned by the Vanderbilt family but was opened to the public during the Depression in order to bring in money to preserve the estate. I first visited on a school field trip about 30 years ago and have seen it several times since. This time my children came along with me while we were vacationing in Asheville earlier this month.

The Temple of Diana occupies the top of a grassy slope overlooking the house

My first visit, like this one, was on a misty morning, and I can still remember my feeling of awe at the beauty of the approach, before you even see the house. Frederick Law Olmsted, who created New York City’s Central Park, designed the grounds of the 125,000-acre estate. According to Biltmore’s website, Olmsted “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.”

Temple of Diana

The house is open to visitors, but photographs are not allowed indoors. I did snap a few photos of exterior details, like these gargoyles…

…and this one.

But mostly I took photos of the grounds and the gardens. We’d missed spring’s crowd-attracting displays of tulips and azaleas, but there was still plenty to see.

Lotus were in full bloom in the formal Italian garden, and very beautiful as the sun rose and began to burn away the mist.

The leaves and flowers stood as tall as ourselves in a series of raised pools.

Very European

The water lilies were just opening as the sun rose higher.

Intriguing water features abound, including this fish fountain along the esplanade…

…and this lifelike tortoise, one of three at the base of the esplanade.

Formal but playful sculpture dots the grounds around the great house, like this charming terracotta cherub.

Here’s another little fellow, with the house visible behind him.

From the terrace alongside the house, this magnificent view opens up. A cool highland breeze fanned our faces as we stood here.

A wisteria-draped arbor leads to another overlook.

But I’ll save additional views for my next post about Biltmore’s Shrub Garden.

All material © 2006-2011 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

14 Responses

  1. Darla says:

    Charming to say the least…looking forward to more.

  2. Carol says:

    I have been once, probably 26 years ago? I found it to be enchanting. I look forward to one day returning. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and reminders of it.

  3. kim shields says:

    In your last photo, I love the combination of plants in the container. Could you identify them for me? I live in the hill country, do you think they would grow in our area?

    The tall plant is purple fountain grass, which is a great annual for our area. The yellow-flowering plant looks like some sort of daisy or zinnia, and many varieties will do well for us. Try narrowleaf zinnia for a tough, summer annual, or Mexican shrub daisy for a taller plant.—Pam

  4. Greggo says:

    the father…..of american landscape architecture!

    Yes! —Pam

  5. I’ve never been, but I’ve always wanted to go. I have family in the area. A great-uncle of my father’s was the estate vet, so we feel very connected to the property. But it’s been strangely far from any of the trips I’ve made to the Carolinas.

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a magnificent place. I have been there one time. Not an optimal time for the garden unfortunately. I wouldlove to go back. That lotus is HUGE. Love those pink flowers.

  7. I would want to go back in time and see how they lived at this house and garden. I’ve been lucky to see it at all seasons. It is a treasure. Like your images. Hope you were cool.

  8. David says:

    Hi Pam,
    Beautiful angles and shots! I visited back in 1980 when I spent a summer in Asheville. My mom and dad met me there and we had the standard tour. If not for one last look at the map, I would have completely missed the GREENHOUSES! Oh my! I don’t know if they have been kept up since 1980, but at the time I marveled at the collection. Heck, I would have gladly just spent the entire day touring the grounds and studying the plants and never even going into the house!
    Great post.
    David/ Tropical Texana/ Houston :-)

    The conservatory (greenhouses) is still in operation, David. I’ll have pictures of it up by the middle of next week. —Pam

  9. Les says:

    This is a special place to me as we visited while on our honeymoon. We toured in the off season of late fall, just past peak leaf color, but it was still beautiful. I have a great shot of my please-don’t-take-my-picture wife by that fish fountain with the Boston Ivy in full fall color.

  10. Swimray says:

    I will be visiting Biltmore in September of next year, and your post has made me look forward to it more. I especially like your photos of the details since we usually don’t see these kinds of photos. Can’t wait for the next batch.

  11. […] have a final post about Biltmore’s conservatory garden. For yesterday’s post about Biltmore’s Esplanade and Italian Garden click […]

  12. Lola says:

    Thanks Pam. Your blog of N.C. has enlivened my heart.

  13. […] else did we do? Aside from hiking, sliding, and visiting Biltmore House, which I blogged about earlier this week, we poked around and rock hopped in the Rocky Broad River, […]

  14. […] Carolina, earlier this month. The grounds slope steeply down from the grand house, through the Italian Garden and Shrub Garden, leading you to a stair descending into the broad, open Walled Garden, a […]