Visit to Biltmore House: Shrub Garden & Frederick Law Olmsted’s trees

My favorite part of the extensive Biltmore House gardens, which I visited during a recent vacation in Asheville, North Carolina, was the Shrub Garden—a bit of a misnomer since it also contains a lot of spectacular specimen trees, like this weeping blue atlas cedar. Look at its monster arms undulating across the path to grab the man on the bench. Watch out!

Frederick Law Olmsted designed the grounds of the estate, and he conceived the 4-acre Shrub Garden, according to Biltmore’s website, as a “secluded and genial” strolling garden. It is sublime.

The trees are achingly beautiful and gracefully pruned.

What I wouldn’t give to have just one of these in my garden. Time and pruning skill. And more time. That’s all it takes.

My kids enjoyed helping me frame some shots of Biltmore House over the garden wall.

River birches, I believe.

I could have spent hours here, strolling, sitting under the trees, and gazing up at the leafy ceiling.

A golden rain tree was in full bloom, its buttery blossoms giving it the appearance of autumn in summer.

Japanese maple

Tune in Tuesday for pics of a lovely Biltmore garden border in my Garden Designers Roundtable post on Shade. After that I’ll have a final post about Biltmore’s conservatory garden. For yesterday’s post about Biltmore’s Esplanade and Italian Garden click here.

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

13 Responses

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

  2. Cool, how the “other half lives”! I’m looking at this as the warmth burns outside, and seeing the River Birch and Japanese Maple, as well as companion lawns and leafy plants…and that humid-looking sky…I have even more ammo when people in the desert try those, and in gravel beds!

    Yes, indeed, David—the Blue Ridge is a very different climate for those trees than your desert region. Do people really try to grow Japanese maples and river birches in Albuquerque? —Pam

  3. Bernieh says:

    Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful! I could see myself spending many days coming back to wander through these grounds. Adored that weeping blue Cedar! Thanks for sharing your photos. I’ve been scrolling up and down just taking it all in.

    Thanks, Bernieh. I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual visit. —Pam

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Aren’t these trees magnificent. I have never seen such a large Weeping Cedar. WOW I will look forward to all you have to show about this place.

    I’d never seen such a large blue atlas cedar either, Lisa. Dew was sparkling in the needles, and up close it was jewel-like. —Pam

  5. Lola says:

    Gorgeous. What can I say. I saw it several yrs ago & could have spent the whole day there.

    So could I, Lola. As it was, I had about 3 hours there and only got to see the gardens closest to the house. —Pam

  6. It always leaves me speechless…and I can’t imagine being able to LIVE there. I would never stay indoors.

    The cedars are breathtaking.

    I also loved the long pergola they had with oval windows cut out of the lattice so you could view the iris etc. as though you were looking at a Monet.

    Thanks for this!

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

    Hi, Sharon. I took SO many pictures through those oval windows in the pergola! I edited them down to one or two of my favorites and will include them in my final post on Wednesday. —Pam

  7. hb says:

    The Cedar looks like Voldemort would look if Voldemort could photosynthesize. Very enjoyable post. Thank you!

    What an amusing thought! That tree does look as if it could speak Parseltongue. :-) —Pam

  8. Cyndy says:

    Pam, I love how you’ve got the young ones framing shots already! Gorgeous photos of a place I need to visit for sure.

    The framing was their idea, Cyndy, although my youngest often has her own camera in hand. She’s going to be a photographer, I think. —Pam

  9. I had to smile at your kiddos framing your shots. One of my children when with me into that garden not because she likes to stroll the paths, but to keep me from staying there all day. When we went, the seven year or nine year cicadas (I never can remember their name) were in full force and driving local residents nuts. :))

    My weather feels like Texas, southern Texas, this summer. I long for September’s cooling and so does the garden.~~Dee

    I remember reading your Biltmore post, Dee. You should have included the link to share your perspective with other readers here. My dad, who lives in N.C., was telling me about those noisy cicadas. He wandered all over the neighborhood one day trying to pinpoint the source of the sound (thinking it was construction work that wouldn’t stop) before realizing it was cicadas. Must have been something! —Pam

  10. I’ve heard this estate had beautiful gardens but had not really seen any pictures. Yours prove it certainly is gorgeous. We can’t grow that Blue Atlas Cedar and I’ve only seen one other great one at Wave Hill. They are unforgettable once you’ve seen one.!

    Yes indeed. I’d love to see Wave Hill one day and will look for the cedar. —Pam

  11. Phillip says:

    One of my favorite places but I’ve never been this time of year. That is the largest Golden Rain tree I’ve ever seen.

    Me too, Phillip. It was huge. —Pam

  12. Yael says:

    This is a wonderful garden. I loved the photos, especially the weeping blue atlas cedar – such a graceful form. I love weeping conifers and have taken to fondly calling them slumpies.

    The garden reminds me in some ways of VanDusen Garden in Vancouver, BC, which I was recently privileged to visit. I am hoping to visit Asheville, NC in the near future as family moved there. This garden will definitely be on one of my stops.


    I hope you have a chance to visit Biltmore House in the near future, Yael. It’s easy to spend a day enjoying the house and the grounds. —Pam

  13. Kathy Thomas says:

    I love it that you are a “young” mother. Who would guess. Your gardening insight is way beyond your years. My kids are grown and this year my daughter said – “Mom, the garden is magic.” I have a vision and appreciation of gardening that developed for 6 decades – you already have it and it is “magic”!

    What a delightfully kind comment, Kathy! I’m perhaps not as young as you think (43), and my oldest is in high school, but your comment makes me feel young. :-) So does a beautiful garden, which is indeed, as you say, magic. —Pam