A Virtual Tour of Biltmore Gardens in the Spring

Spring is unfurling with glorious color at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Discover the wonder of the season and learn a few tips and tricks from Biltmore's gardening experts.

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Photo By: The Biltmore Company

Tulips in the Walled Garden

At Biltmore, spring explodes with floral fireworks as over 80,000 blossoms burst into bloom. Nothing shouts spring like tulips, which fill the Walled Garden with a rainbow of hues. The Biltmore gardeners work to create picture-perfect scenes. “Our gardeners get to enjoy spring’s beautiful, long procession of blooms,” says Parker Andes, director of horticulture.

See More Photos: 47 Spectacular Tulips

Daffodils Herald Spring

Biltmore counts on daffodils to deliver classic spring beauty, tucking different varieties into planting beds. “By choosing varieties that flower at different times, you can have daffodils in bloom for two months,” Andes says. “Start with ‘February Gold,’ then ‘Tete-a-Tete,’ and then ones like ‘Ice Follies.’ Daffodils are big and bright. You can cut them, stick them in a vase, and they last a long time.”

Learn More: Daffodil Don't: A Pruning Guide

Hyacinths Bring Fragrance

For perfumed bulb blooms, Biltmore includes hyacinths in spring bulb displays. These pretty flowers appear in early spring, breaking ground while frost is still in the forecast. Sometimes a hard freeze can nip the tips of leaves, turning them brown, but flower buds are typically untouched. Look for hyacinths with blooms in shades including blue, purple, pink, yellow and white. A cluster of hyacinth bulbs can scent a small garden.

Learn More: Hyacinth: Sweet Harbingers of Spring

Biltmore Gardens and Grounds

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Biltmore Gardens and Grounds unfold across 8,000 acres. American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the gardens, which include formal and informal styles. The takeaway from Biltmore’s lavish gardens is simple. “Create the kind of garden that you like,” Andes says. “It’s okay to have a formal entry and an informal garden in the back. The goal is to design a garden that you love.” Like the team at Biltmore, try to craft stunning seasonal snapshots within your garden.

The Conservatory in Spring

The glass Conservatory at Biltmore was built in 1895 and houses the estate’s orchid collection. Most orchid species bloom from February to March and into April. By spring’s arrival, “the orchid room is packed full,” Andes says. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), bromeliads and cyclamen fill this scene with pink and white shades.

Orchids In Bloom

Cattleya orchids open large, fragrant blooms that linger for three to six weeks. These are the orchids commonly used in corsages. In the Biltmore Conservatory, Marc Burchette oversees the orchid collection, which includes many of the same species and hybrids that landscape designer Olmsted encouraged the Vanderbilts to purchase in the 1890s when the Conservatory was completed.

Queen’s Wreath Vine

The Conservatory is also home to lush tropical plants that steal the show in spring, including the stunning purple Queen’s wreath vine (Petrea volubilis). Native to Central America, Queen’s wreath is a woody vine that typically bursts into bloom in late winter or early spring in an indoor environment. The secret to lush flowers is full sun and plenty of side branches on the vine.

Striking Bulb Displays

The secret behind Biltmore’s color-packed bulb display is the planting technique. “A signature for us is planting multiple bulbs in the same hole,” Andes explains. “This transforms a typical 10-day tulip show into 21 full days of blooms. We use augers to dig planting holes, but you could also use a posthole digger to get the same result.” Gardeners drop two to three bulbs of the same variety, as many as six or seven bulbs total, into the planting hole, mixing early, mid- and late-spring bulbs. A typical bulb combination is a hyacinth (early), mid-spring daffodil and late-spring tulip.

Learn More: Combining Tulips with Annuals and Perennials

Tulips and Daffodils

Outside the Conservatory, daffodils and tulips grow in happy harmony. The partnership is about more than beauty, as daffodils help protect tulip bulbs from feasting critters, including deer, voles and moles. Daffodils — both bulbs and plants — are generally ignored by animals. Andes suggests hiding fading bulb leaves by using plants like fall-blooming Japanese anemones. "They jump out of the ground in spring, and their new leaves easily hide the dying bulb foliage.”

Saucer Magnolia

Saucer magnolias are a welcome harbinger of spring everywhere, and Biltmore is no exception. The trick to success with these spring beauties is to tuck them into a sunny spot with slightly acidic soil. The fleshy roots really benefit from a consistent mulch covering to keep soil cool and moist. In northern zones, look for varieties that flower later to avoid late spring frosts turning petals from gorgeous hues to brown mush.

Flowering Quince

This shrub is another early-season bloomer that pushes out flowers before leaves unfurl. The result is spring magic at its best. At Biltmore, gardeners also look to new varieties of old-fashioned favorites like quince. The Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Station, located in Mills River, is part of North Carolina State University and home to the Storm Series of flowering quinces. “These quinces open double flowers, larger flowers that bloom farther out on the stems — they’re really great plants,” Andes says.

Flowering Trees Stage a Show

Cornelian cherries, redbud and flowering dogwood are just a few of the spring flowering trees on the grounds at Biltmore. These trees paint spring skies with living color that can stop traffic. When adding a flowering tree or shrub to your yard, “consider the background,” Andes says. Blossom-bedecked branches really sparkle when placed against a solid, dark background. “Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) is a pretty strong spring harbinger for us, bursting into bloom in late February,” he adds. “Put that plant against a backdrop of dark Nordmann firs, and it’s outstanding, a promise that things will be good.”

Pink Dogwood

Flowering dogwood, unfurling blooms in pink or white, is the ballerina of the spring garden, extending delicate branch-arms cradling upward-facing blooms. When planting flowering dogwoods, choose the site carefully. “Morning sun is really critical to beat anthracnose fungus, which can kill a dogwood,” Andes says. “If you can give them afternoon shade, the trees tend to bloom longer, with flowers lasting a couple more days.”

Learn More: Dogwood Tree Planting, Care, Varieties and Facts

Flowering Crabapple

Nostalgia and romance mingle in the boughs of a flowering crabapple tree. These spring beauties typically open blossoms in shades of pink, rose and white. You can choose crabapple trees in many sizes, from petite standards that look great in pots to full-size trees. Look for varieties that form fruit if you want to feed birds, or skip the apples if you want one less yard clean-up chore. Newer crabapples offer disease resistance that ensures your tree will hang onto leaves for strong fall color.

Wisteria In Bloom

Wisteria has graced the pergola at Biltmore since 1895. This romantic bloomer “takes a good amount of work over the growing season,” Andes says. “Our gardeners are in there a couple of times each year doing selective pruning, cutting stems back to two to four buds to develop the plant.” The pruning pays off with a gorgeous flower show that usually occurs in the third week of April. The benches along the wall beneath the pergola provide a peaceful view of the Shrub Garden, where spring paints a scene in pastel shades.

Learn More: Growing American Wisteria

Scenes of Spring

In the Shrub Garden, spring tiptoes softly across the landscape, revealed in the blushing new leaves of a Japanese maple or the bright blooms of an azalea. Massive curves accentuate Shrub Garden planting beds, creating carefully crafted views. “The basic design features double rows of shrubs fronted with an iris or peony or something that’s going to help hide stems of a large shrub,” Andes explains.

Timeless Favorites

Bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) is a treasured perennial celebrated for its string of heart-shape blooms. A shade garden perennial, bleeding heart forms a shrub size clump to 4 feet tall and wide. By the time the heat of summer arrives, the plant disappears, entering a rest phase until spring rolls around again. Look for varieties with white flowers or gold or variegated leaves. Bleeding heart is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Learn More: How to Grow Bleeding Heart

Annuals for Spring

Violas, dianthus and poppies breathe color into Walled Garden plantings after bulbs fade. Choose cool-season annuals to fill containers and planting beds with petals that shrug off late-spring cold snaps. Other good choices for early season flowers include pansy, forget-me-not, snapdragon, flowering stock and sweet alyssum. In beds, plant bloomers in blocks for a punch of can’t-miss color.

Azaleas In Bloom

When the 15-acre Azalea Garden at Biltmore bursts into bloom, the color shimmers and sizzles. The azaleas usually pop toward late April and fill May with vivid flower hues. When adding azaleas to your garden, try to buy plants with a few open flowers, so you can be sure you’re getting the color you want. Pair azaleas with an evergreen groundcover like vinca vine, which blooms in tandem with azaleas in spring and adds green color to the planting all winter long.

See More: Stunning Biltmore Estate Azaleas

Native Azaleas Shine

A Canadian horticulturist named Chauncey Beadle is responsible for the epic azalea show at Biltmore. Beadle was hired in 1890 by Olmsted and served as estate superintendent from 1909 until his death in 1950. His greatest passion was the native deciduous azaleas, which deliver a second season of color in autumn when leaves of many species provide dependable fall color. Native azaleas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade in a spot with rich, moist woodland soil. To continue your tour of Biltmore Gardens and keep track of what’s blooming, check out the Bloom Report.

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