Friday, October 29, 2010

Mystery and Magic

This is a carpet of hardy mums in the area between Biltmore house and the conservatory.  It was impossible to take a complete photo without an ability to stand on something very tall.  One of the things about large well-funded gardens is the money to use perennials as if they were annuals. These mums are pulled and discarded once the Fall display is over.       

Another example of disposable perennials is this courtyard outside the side of the home.  The "tea room" in the background was something Frederick Law Olmsted insisted upon so the family and guests could take their afternoon tea while enjoying the beautiful Smoky Mountain views.  In August, this walled and elevated area has every square inch (now brown/gray gravel) planted to resemble one of the Vanderbilt's oriental rugs.  There are copyrighted photos of this on their web site.  This sight is used for public and private events. 
Upon a hill beyond the front of the home, is a statue of the goddess Diana.  Original to the property, it is now in front of a permanently installed huge tent that may be rented for weddings and other celebrations.  Another example how the Vanderbilt family has marketed the estate. 

This is a picture taken from in front of the statue Diana towards the front of the home.  Landscaping is designed to frame vistas in every direction.  Another example of how the home's architect, Richard Morris Hunt, and the landscape architect, Olmsted, cooperated in every detail. 

This area has been restored to look more like the original design.  Marble statues still grace the area and the entire garden has specific meaning reflecting the historical stories of the figures.  The home may be seen in the upper right corner.  The continuous mountain views may be seen in almost every home and landscaped view.

Originally almost 200,000 acres, all but 8,000 were sold to the government (now a US park) to help fund the estate after George Vanderbilt died.  Every walk and drive has been landscaped to provide "vistas" with each view, shrub, tree, and plant situated for a specific purpose. 

Another view of the mum garden.  This is the right mum garden - another, a mirror image, is beyond the covered walk on the left.

The drives have a frame with plantings that are short in front, medium sized in the middle and tall trees and mountain views in the rear. 
Inside the entry to the estate between the drive and views of private and city buildings is a huge stand of bamboo.  A landscape method to isolate all views from anything that might upset the design.   Bamboo would be terribly invasive in this mild climate but it is restrained by pavement on both sides.  Bamboo is an example of George Vanderbilt's love of Oriental and Asian culture.     

This wall is actually a series of gentle steps that lead from the front of the house to the statue Diana.  Walls are used to divide, to focus, to protect and to decorate.  Most every wall has multiple uses and most display water features.  Most of the landscaped estate is irrigated.  Water pipes and drains are housed in the original designed sub lawn and garden structures.  Even in the forest areas, a network of irrigation showered those plants needing extra moisture. 
This is a naturalized type landscape out the back of the home.  The home is a bit of a split level with many of the basement floors opening onto this vista.  Windows on this level open to allow the breeze to enter kitchens and other quarters for domestic employees and their duties. 

The estate was designed to be self supporting.  This included the farm, animals, laundry, food gardens, indoor plumbing & heating, recreation, hunting, domestic quarters/housing and so much more.  Today, self sustaining includes a motel, a winery, gift and restaurant shops, tours, exhibits, entertainment and farmyard experiences.  Sorry, if I sound as if I'm a paid PR person, I'm not.  I simply found it fun to experience the beauty of such a lavish and perfected landscape.  The creations of one of America's most famous landscape architects can be instructional to the rich and famous or the small backyard gardener. 

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