By Jane Izard

Biltmore Estate is beautiful anytime of the year — every season brings its special touches. The spring is one season not to miss; the estate’s flowers are in full bloom. Welcome spring 2016 during the annual festival of flowers, Biltmore Blooms, as Biltmore Estate’s gardens come to life with thousands of bright and beautiful blooming orchids, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, azaleas, roses and much more — a rainbow of entrancing pinks and purples, oranges, reds, blues, yellows and whites in a rich sea of green.

 

Biltmore Blooms is the commemoration of spring and Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous American landscape architect who oversaw the development of the Biltmore gardens for the Vanderbilts. The Biltmore gardens were Olmsted’s final professional project. The estate’s celebration of Olmsted’s vision and the beauty of springtime, Biltmore Blooms, kicks-off March 19 and runs through this May 26. The two-month event celebrates the natural progression of blooms dictated by Mother Nature; every visit will showcase a different flower.

The early days of spring begin with more than 1,000 orchids in peak bloom. These exotic beauties are on display throughout the house, conservatory and winter garden. “They're rocking through the end of March,” said Parker Andes, director of horticulture at Biltmore. For a limited time in March and early April, guests will be given the rare opportunity to step into the winter garden in Biltmore House (typically roped off to guests) to admire the sights and fragrances of a special orchid collection. This bright, glass-domed garden room was once used by the Vanderbilts to relax and entertain in their home while surrounded by lush exotic plants.

In the outdoor gardens, crocus, forsythia and daffodils are among the first blooms. Over 15,000 daffodils make their presence known! In April, the tulips arrive giving way, to thousands of blooms with a concentrated tulip bloom occurring in Biltmore’s walled garden pattern beds. “They are the stars,” Andes said. “Our guests like those big beautiful tulips.” The tulips are a variety of colors (orange, purple, pink and white) and last three to four weeks before making way for later season blooms of irises, azaleas and roses with mountain laurels and rhododendrons close behind.

Biltmore Blooms brings something different each year as the estate gardening staff digs out old bulbs and plants new ones. “It’s a balancing act,” said Andes, who has worked at the estate since 2000. “We have a certain number of areas that we can play with. This is a historic estate and we really focus on the intent that (Biltmore founder) George Vanderbilt had in the 1890s. We wouldn’t put daffodils in front of the house because that’s not what he wanted his guests to see there.”

For those who are looking to extend their visit beyond the beauty of the flowers, this spring at Biltmore brings a new major costume exhibition, the opportunity to be among the first to stay at the estate’s new hotel, wine tastings, new educational seminars and more.

Highlights of Biltmore’s seasonal events and activities include a range of activities. Two gardening and floral demonstrations are offered daily this spring at “A Gardener’s Place” in the conservatory. The sessions are “Enchanted Fairy Gardens” at 1 p.m. and “Say ‘I Do’ to Orchids” at 2 p.m. Demonstrations are included with estate admission. 

The annual Easter egg hunt will be held Sunday, March 27. One of the largest in the Southeast, Biltmore’s annual Easter egg hunt takes place on Easter Sunday on the front lawn of Biltmore House. Entertainment is for children aged two through seven and includes sweet treats, magic shows, music and stories and photos with the Easter Rabbit. Hunts begin at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Registration begins two hours before each hunt. Parents should bring their own baskets for children to collect eggs. The Easter egg hunt is included in regular estate admission. There’s also a special exhibition, “Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film,” which features wedding dresses and attire from major motion pictures on display inside the house (with special floral displays). Also see mementos from Vanderbilt and Cecil family weddings and special occasions in a new exhibit at The Biltmore Legacy in Antler Hill Village.      Other things to look forward to include live music in the bandstand on weekends, grape stomps at the Winery entrance for children Saturdays and Sundays, visits with the friendly resident animals at the farm and their spring newborns such as baby goats, lambs, chicks and bunnies and taking a photo tour of the new Village Hotel on Biltmore.

For vacation planning to visit during Biltmore Blooms, stay up to date about what’s currently flowering with weekly bloom reports from Parker Andes, the estate’s director of horticulture, at Biltmore.com/bloomreport. Pro tip: Save up to $10 on admission price by buying tickets 7 days in advance.

Jane Izard is a freelance graphic designer, writer and photographer living in Flat Rock, NC; she grew up in Charleston and may be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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