My family and I went to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina this month while it was still decorated for Christmas. We have been several times but have never seen it at Christmastime. The most stunning decorations to me were in the grand dining room. There was a 25 foot tree on one end of the room that was simply amazing. Getting the tree inside alone was an awe-inspiring thought. The tree was heavily adorned with exquisite Victorian decorations. Beautifully wrapped packages encircled the tree. In a corner near the tree, elegantly dressed porcelain dolls were having a tea party to delight the young and old alike. I enjoyed seeing the house but the garden was just as wonderful.
We went for a walk on the grounds to visit the conservatory. The gardener in me was fully delighted. It was an unseasonably warm day here for January. Some of the plants were budding as if it was early March. I saw blooms on the forsythia and daffodil bulbs emerging from the ground. This never happens here in the south until at least February. The trail wound around for about half of a mile. We walked through the rose and bulb garden. In the winter you can more easily see the formal, symmetrical rose garden design and envision the rose bushes trailing and growing on trellises and wire supports. There were trees along brick walls that had been pruned back to grow into espalier forms. There was an arbor that we walked under that we imagined must be covered in blooms during the spring. The smell of all those roses and bulbs in full bloom must be breath-taking.
The glass conservatory is a wonderful structure to behold from the outside but once you step inside, your senses are overwhelmed. There is a high level of humidity and oxygen from all the plants.We quickly shed our outer garments as there is a marked increase in temperature inside. We followed a path to discover beautiful plants in every shape and size. There were Poinsettias in different shades including red, pink, white and even salmon or variations of all four. There were ferns, orchids and a variety of bromeliads that were suspended from the ceiling in oversized planters. There was a room of cacti that left me amazed. There were Philodendrons, bottle brush trees and tropical plants that I had never seen before.
We were tired from all the walking at the estate, to the shuttle stop and then to find our car. On the drive out, we saw a gardener’s shop. I regret now that we didn’t stop because I am told now by my gardening friends that it alone is worth the visit. It is a long but beautiful drive to exit the estate. We stopped briefly to see the winery and new hotel. The Biltmore is a place that one should not visit only once.