You may not have millions to spend on your landscape as did George Vanderbilt, the first owner of Biltmore estate and mansion in Asheville, NC, but you can follow some of the same principles that noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted used in laying out the grounds of this popular tourist destination. I was able to visit Asheville and Biltmore last week and came away with these impressions about the gorgeous grounds:
Provide a grand entry. Olmsted and Vanderbilt wanted to wow guests on arrival with an impressive view of the mansion. Allees of trees line the exanse of lawn in front of the home. In your own landscape, frame your home and provide an open, unobstructed view of the entry to welcome visitors.
Borrow the view. You may not be able to afford an estate with thousands of acres, but you, too, can take advantage of "borrowed" vistas. This view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the back patio at Biltmore is spectactular.
Use masses of color. Whether your gardens are formal, such as these annual flower display beds at Biltmore, or informal, don't skimp on the number of plants. To have a big color impact, plant masses of solid colors.
Use native plants. A major feature of the gardens is the azalea and rhododendron walk. Here native flame azaleas, Cumberland azaleas, and Catawba rhododendrons provide splashes of spring color with few maintenance needs because they are native to the region.
Lead the eye through the landscape. A path past a weeping atlas cedar beckons strollers to see what's beyond the bend. You can do the same in smaller landscapes by creating winding paths that flow around shrub borders.
Frame the view. This glimpse of the south wing of the house from the shrub garden creates a permanent living picture frame to highlight the architecture of the home.