Roses and Biltmore share a 120-year history that began when Fredrick Olmsted first started planning the grounds.
After the Rose Garden was established under Olmsted’s plan, the garden was cared for by head gardener Robert Bottomley (1893-1903) who was directed by Chauncey Beadle, head of the Landscaping Department. Both George and Edith Vanderbilt took an interest in the Rose Garden and Beadle worked with them to make changes and improvements. The rose garden was expanded over time and more than doubled in size from its original layout.
Historical records from Biltmore contain correspondence from a century ago with many rose nurseries, including Jackson & Perkins. The earliest roses were purchased from Ellwanger & Barry, Mount Hope Nurseries of Rochester, N.Y.; John N. May, Rose Grower of Summit, N.J. (Beadle’s former employer); Penrose Nurseries (Robert Scott & Son) of Philadelphia; Howard Rose Company in California, and numerous other suppliers.
The Biltmore Nursery
The estate’s commercial nursery business also grew and sold many varieties of roses as shown in the Biltmore Rose Catalog. Variety selection, wish lists, and a host of rose-related issues went back and forth between Biltmore and the horticultural companies with which they worked. The Biltmore Nursery was one of the largest plant nurseries in the United States until a 1916 flood destroyed the operation.
After the flood, the idea of a Biltmore nursery remained dormant for some time. During the 1960s, however, the estate developed and operated a nursery for wholesale and retail sales of ornamental nursery stock and to supply a landscape contracting business, as well as a commercial greenhouse operation for the production of hanging baskets and potted flowers. In the 1990s, another estate nursery venture was developed with plants primarily sold to regional nurseries and garden centers until late 2007.
Biltmore For Your Home
Today, under the Biltmore For Your Home Collection, Biltmore is again seeking new and unusual plants—including roses–for American gardeners. These are finding their way into garden centers and mail order catalogues.
The Biltmore® Garden Rose collection is comprised of roses collected from around the world, including roses from up and coming rose breeders in Europe and beyond. Disease resistance and fragrance are a must – as is beauty of the bloom. Currently the collection has five roses; three from Canadian rose breeder Brad Jalbert and two from UK breeder nursery, Peter Beales Roses. Roses are being tested from New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, and France with more roses coming from Holland and Belgium. Two new roses are scheduled for release in 2014 and every year we’ll see additional new introductions.
International Rose Trials
A new part of roses at Biltmore are the . Patterned after similar trials all over Europe and under the umbrella of the World Federation of Rose Societies, the trials give breeders from all over the world a place to trial and display their roses. The first awards will be announced in May 2013.
Drawing from the inspiration started by Mr. Olmsted and brought fully into bloom by Mrs. Vanderbilt, Biltmore is again emerging as an innovator and leader in the world of roses. In upcoming columns, we will further introduce you to the roses, the trials, the gardens, offer care tips, and even teach you a few things. Welcome to Biltmore and Roses!
Note: The Rose Garden continues to flourish today under the guiding hand of Lucas Jack, Biltmore’s Rosarian. The garden is being extensively replanted with new and old roses so be sure to stop by and see the progress in years to come.
Thanks to Paul Zimmerman, exclusive Biltmore Rose Consultant, for his contribution to this piece. He has specialized in roses for nearly 20 years and is the owner of Paul Zimmerman Roses.