You think you’re quite a gardener because you bought some mulch and seedlings last week.
Consider what Parker Andes is looking forward to in Asheville this spring: He’s the horticulture director at Biltmore Estate, and Andes and his staff of 60 or so are looking at more than 74,000 tulips blooming in a three- to four-week period, in addition to the more than 15,000 daffodils and a host of other flowers, from lenten roses to lilacs.
What’s up right now? Tulips, azaleas, rhodos and roses – with a succession of other flowers blooming into fall.
It’s all a draw for visitors and butterflies. It’s also a tradition: When tycoon George Washington Vanderbilt created his Asheville estate in the 1890s, he wanted a parklike setting wrapped around his chateau. A gardening fan in his own right, he hired famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted – the designer of Manhattan’s Central Park – to design the property.
The 4-acre Walled Gardens, done in late-1800s style and holding themed areas, is lush with thousands of tulips, followed in summer by annuals. The largest plot at Biltmore is the 15-acre Azalea Garden, one of the top collections in America of native species.
The Italian Garden holds classical statuary and three water gardens with water lilies, lotus and papyrus. The Spring Garden, wrapped in a grove of white pine and hemlock, holds spring-blooming shrubs such as forsythia, spirea and mock orange. The Rose garden features heirloom roses and trial varieties. The Shrub Garden, off on its own, includes Japanese cutleaf maples and purple-leaf European beech.
Also in the mix: Biltmore’s glass-roofed Conservatory, which holds exotic orchids, palms and ferns.
The “Biltmore Blooms” promotion, which begins Friday and continues through May 25, sports extra touches – all covered by regular admission.
Inside Biltmore House, you can step into the glass-domed Winter Garden to view hundreds of fragrant, exotic orchids on display. This room is typically roped off to guests but will be open for a limited time. Biltmore House admission includes the viewing of “Dressing Downton,” where rooms open to the public hold mannequins wearing costumes from the hit British series “Downton Abbey.” For “Biltmore Blooms,” seasonal floral arrangements are designed to echo the early 1900s, when “Downton Abbey” is set.
Demos and talks are scheduled, too. “Orchid Talks” are given at 11 a.m. weekdays in the Conservatory, where gardening and floral demonstrations are offered at 1 p.m. daily; “Ask a Garden” stations in the Walled Garden are an opportunity to talk with Biltmore’s experts.
And at the Biltmore Winery, there are daily tastings of its limited-release Spring Seasonal Wine in addition to complimentary tastings and a production tour. (Specialty wine-related tours available at an additional cost.)
Bordsen is the Observer’s travel editor.
Want to go?
Through May 25, daytime admission to Biltmore is $59 ($47 when purchased online seven days in advance, $52 online one to six days in advance); $29.50 for ages 10-16. Admission includes Biltmore House and Gardens, Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Winery. Mother’s Day (May 10), moms receive free admission with purchase of an adult or youth ticket. Details: www.biltmore.com.