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Friday, October 30, 2015

NC Arboretum

Our time in Asheville is coming to a close, but the rains have stopped and we have the afternoon to explore the Arboretum.

Although I have never attempted to cultivate a bonsai, they have always intrigued me.    I'm not sure I have the patience to bring one to the point of calling it a bonsai, but I can certainly admire the work of others.        These are almost all small enough to sit on a coffee table yet it is obvious most have been around for many years.

This tree has two full size quince.    Unbelievable.

This one was a little larger - you would want a table for it.

The Arboretum also has a permanent outdoor art collection.

These gates represent the Bent Creek that meanders throughout their acreages.

"Hedge Against Extinction" represents stylized human hands forming a hedge.    It honors those who stand together to nurture and share the treasurers of this planet's plant life.

This screen shows a farmer plowing a field.

This is a living quilt garden to honor all the quilters, past and present.    Unfortunately, they had already been cleared for the season.

I know there are gardeners back in the Midwest who have grown Rush, but I have never seen them bloom.     They are gorgeous.

After walking the 65 acres of cultivated gardens, we decided to take a hike.     They have 10 miles of hiking trails and I assigned RJ the task of picking one while I did a little more exploring.      To make a long hike story short, I finally stopped and asked him how long was this trail.    His answer (with an odd smile) was that it was several segments put together and he'd never added up the total.      Where is my FitBit when I need it?  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Asheville - Our Neighborhood

Our month in Asheville has been spent living on an alley.      That doesn't sound to great, but we are in the heart of the Montford Historical District.  

Montford retains more than 600 buildings, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920, and includes a variety of architectural influences reflecting the cosmopolitan character of Asheville during the turn of the 20th century.

Montford was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and in 1981 the Asheville City Council designated Montford as a local historic district. Montford's success has been fostered by its proximity to Asheville's city center.   The district is located an easy walk or bike ride from downtown, which RJ will confirm as he has walked it more than once.

Many of the homes have cottages and/or carriage houses on the alley behind their home.     Our Host has both.     Our 2-bedroom cottage is one of the nicest we have stayed at during our journeys.    We have three skylights to make it bright and cheery, stainless steel appliances, leather furniture and many antiques throughout.     The floors are original narrow plank wood with a trap door to the basement.   We are really enjoying our stay here.

RJ and I like to walk around the neighborhood and admire the homes.     These are some of the homes within a two (very long) block radius of our cottage.

This one is a B&B

The people of Asheville are friendly, a bit eclectic, very artsy and they all seem to have dogs that are walked frequently.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Biltmore Estate - Odds and Ends

The South Terrace was a convenient place for guests to relax under this huge vine covered pergola.     There is a large area just beyond it that was originally a bowling green and could be used for tennis and croquet matches.       The vines are wisteria and trumpet creeper vines.

The gentleman with the handbag (again) was taking a break while I shot pictures.

This simple photo shows you the kind of detailed work on the outside of the house.     This is an obscure window on the side of the house, but it still received these detailed carvings.

I loved this stone fountain.  

The Italian Garden features classical statuary and three formal water gardens.    This area was designed for quiet moments of reflection by their guests.   I particularly loved the unique shape of this pond.

On our tour of the grounds we were taken to the spot where they found part of the railroad that brought supplies when they were building the house.     Vanderbilt had it destroyed when the house was completed.     Although the family got a large share of their fortune from the railroads, he blamed them for his mother's lung conditions and wanted nothing to do with them.     He had reluctantly agreed to put in this short line during construction because the materials were too heavy for the horses to pull.

I, however, got sidetracked and became fascinated by this fungi.  

Bass Pond was created to provide a water feature for guests.     There were rowboats for fishing or exploring.     It also attracted birds.

Whenever there was a heavy rain, the stream going in to Bass Pond would become full of mud and silt, making the pond unattractive.     This was unacceptable to Vanderbilt, so he had a self-taught engineer build a one-of-a-kind system to divert the water during those periods.     It worked amazingly well and was all automatic.       It is now designated a Historical Site.  

Unfortunately, it stopped working a few years ago.     They have been unable to find any drawings of the original design.    Because of its designation as Historical, they cannot make any repairs without the original drawings.    The system still works, but it must now be manually operated during rain storms.

The area over this system was covered in bricks made for the construction of the house.     They are labeled Biltmore.      Our guide told us that any home in Asheville that used a certain number of these bricks is worth at least 5% more than a similar home without these historic bricks.

Our visit to Biltmore Estate is complete.     It was fascinating.      It also included dinner one evening and a visit to the winery which is housed in the original milk barn.      It's all interesting..............

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Biltmore Conservatory and the Forests

Looking out over the beautiful gardens and the vast hills of forest, it is hard to imagine what this looked like when Vanderbilt purchased these 125,000 acres.      The land had been farmed without replenishing the nutrients.     Loggers had come in and totally cut everything down without replanting.    

Planning his Biltmore Estate in the late 1800s, George W. Vanderbilt hired Frederick Law Olmstead to create several acres of magnificent gardens and to design the terraces and grounds adjacent to the main house. Olmstead is also well known as the person who designed New York’s Central Park and the landscape around the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

At Olmstead’s recommendation, Vanderbilt next hired Gifford Pinchot to manage the estate’s additional acreage – approximately 125,000 acres of rugged Appalachian forestland. At the time there were fewer than ten individuals in the nation with any formal forest-management training – and they had all received that training in Europe. Pinchot’s arrival marked the beginning of “scientific forestry” in the United States. Soon after beginning his employment at Biltmore, Pinchot was selected to become the director of the newly formed USDA Forest Service.

Pinchot suggested Vanderbilt hire as his successor Dr. Carl A. Schenck, of Germany’s University of Darmstadt. Schenck’s arrival in 1895 began a tradition of regional scholarship, preservation, and conservation that eventually evolved into the Pisgah National Forest’s Cradle of Forestry.   With Vanderbilt’s support, Dr. Schenck founded the Biltmore Forestry School in 1898.

Back to the estate.............

On the grounds, this beautiful Conservatory now houses tropical plants, but during the time the Vanderbilts lived on the estate, it provided plants and flowers for the house.

I liked the whimsy of this orchid.

Passion flowers are, well, a passion of mine.      I had a large one on my deck every summer.

Another favorite, Bird of Paradise.

A poor picture, but I love the modern simplicity of this orchid.

Tomorrow, some "didn't fit here" commentary about the estate..................

Monday, October 19, 2015

Biltmore Estate Gardens

October may not be the optimal time to visit these gardens, but they were impressive anyway.     I never planted mums at home  (by autumn we were usually traveling so why add to the clean up later). They do them in mass plantings here, and they are lovely.

These plantings continue over a large area and are also on the other side of this huge pergola.

At the edge of the rose gardens is this Conservatory.    I will share tropical pictures from inside on tomorrow's post.

It is not prime season for the roses, but there were enough still blooming to get a feel for the beauty of the rose gardens.     I particularly liked this simple rose.    It reminds me of one of the Dr Buck roses I grew in my gardens.     For those of you in colder climates, Dr Buck was with Iowa State University and developed an incredible array of easy to care for roses.     Let me know if you want more information or just google him.  

This partciular rose was my favorite in the garden.   I photographed it on both days we walked here.  It's labeled    Stokes     Hybrid Tea     A. Perry    1982

A little fall color

I loved the back lighting on this tree.    It seems to glow.

There is a large Azalea garden - fortunately a few of them do a repeat bloom in the fall.

Tomorrow, the tropicals in the Conservatory and some history about the vast acreage and forests.............

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Biltmore Estate #1

The Biltmore Estate is an incredible place to visit.    Thanks to the advice of a lady at the Asheville Tourism office, we were able to buy a 1-day ticket plus one tour ticket and spread our visit over three days.      Not a bad deal.

Today I am going to talk about the "house".     Okay, the largest private home in the United States.    We are talking 250 rooms,  including 33 bedrooms for their guests.     There are also 43 bathrooms, this was at a time when many homes didn't have any indoor bathrooms.   The finished home contains over four acres of floor space.      The six year construction project culminated with a grand opening party on Christmas Eve, 1895.  

At this time, George was still single.    He had collected the majority of the furnishings and art work on this travels.   I believe he was in his late 20's when the house was finished.     He obviously did a lot of travel (and shopping) in a few years!     He married Edith three years after completing the house and they had one child, Cornelia.  

In 1914 George died from complications of appendicitis and Edith took over running the estate.     To help defray costs, she sold approximately 87,000 acres to the US Government with stipulations that it be preserved as a forest.     It became the Pisgah National Forest.

Cornelia married John Cecil and in 1930,  to defray the cost of maiintaining the estate,  they opened Biltmore House to the public.      It is still owned and operated by the family.

To give you some insight into the size of this estate, it is a three mile gently winding road from the entrance to the house.     This was done in a manner so that guests would have a very relaxing ride in nature after their long train ride to Asheville.      There would be one or two areas set up with tables of food and beverage along the way.

It was fun photographing the exterior, but hard to limit it to three pictures for this blog!

While driving around the grounds, we found this pond with a beautiful view of the estate.

A picture from the back

The following pictures of the interior were borrowed from their website as you are not allowed to take any pictures while touring the house.

The banquet hall was probably the most impressive  room we saw.   It has 7 story high ceilings and an organ loft which houses a 1916 Skinner pipe organ.   The table seats 38.     Formal dinner settings would include as many as five crystal wine glasses per person.    The tapestries on the left side can be pulled back to open onto the indoor winter garden.

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This indoor winter garden is centrally located on the main floor so that winter guests can experience the lush greenery usually seen outdoors.

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This 2-story library shows George's love of books.     It houses half of his 23,000 volume collection.

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 George Vanderbilt's bedroom

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Edith Vanderbilt's bedroom.     Women had a change of clothing up to seven times a day.    The elaborate clothing required a maid to assist.    As a result, separate bedrooms were common.    The maid had an adjoining small bedroom.

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This private "family room" was located between George and Edith's bedrooms.

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This Louis 15th room was used following the birth of their daughter.

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This was a true indulgence - an indoor swimming pool.      Since they did not use chemicals in the pool, it could be used for a maximum of three days before it was drained and cleaned.     You can see the diving board in the middle.     The ropes on the side were for guests to hang on to when they became tired.    The lights at the bottom were part of the original design.

The unique tiles used in the ceiling and walls were by the same designer who did Grand Central Station in NYC.

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The home also had a complete gym including showers.

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The interior of the home definitely impressed me.    To fully see the artwork and tapestries would take another full day  (and an art degree)

Tomorrow, the gardens..............