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GardenSMART Episode

Show #43/7404. Behind The Scenes At Biltmore

Summary of Show

Christmas Decorations
Eric meets Lizzie, it's great to be back at Biltmore. Thank you so much for joining us. Lizzie thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting. In this episode we're talking about the wonderful CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS at the house. Lizzie has a lot to decorate and a sizable team that does all that work. Correct? Lizzie confirms it definitely takes an army. Her design team though, is just 10 people, but they are full of talent and love getting the opportunity to showcase what they can do. How many rooms are Lizzy and team in charge of decorating every year? It's around 25 or 30.

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Warehouse
Lizzie agrees, come along to our WAREHOUSE and check out what’s going on. It is kind of the center hub. Eric admits that he's designed gardens for many, many years and that makes a lot of sense. But when he sees something done on the scale at Biltmore that seems like a monumental task. To him it's really, really fascinating how the designers can go into a room and just do something at that scale, it's almost symphonic. Everything feels like it belongs and it's just stunningly beautiful.

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The Colors, The Materials, The Textures
But then the design piece comes into it, THE COLORS, THE MATERIALS, THE TEXTURES. All of the designers have a different approach to that. They all have different backgrounds, different strengths. Whether it's art or horticulture or some other type of design background. But design is still design. How might one apply their ideas to the room, what type fresh material might be applied all while remembering this is after all, a Christmas display.

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Camaraderie
Lizzie has, as mentioned earlier, a 10 person team and one thing that's really just delightful for Eric to see is the CAMARADERIE in the way that people are sharing ideas and working together on things. As mentioned, everyone's got their strengths and their weaknesses and having such a competent team with a broad array of talents is one of the things that makes all of these designs so incredible.

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Live Plants
Eric has a question. There are so many LIVE PLANTS involved in the process. He knows that not all the trees are real, but there are so many flowers and so much live plant material. From a maintenance standpoint, how do you manage all that? I'm sure you're in the house every day refreshing things. How does that work? Lizzie concurs, that's definitely important. Once Christmas is up and the season here has officially started, their work is not over. It really does continue on. They strive to make sure every single day, the house looks its best for every single guest that comes through the house.

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Joslyn
Eric feels we’re fortunate today to be able to meet with a few of Lizzie's designers, he's excited to see different perspectives and the way that all of the different energies go into making this one big, beautiful Christmas. Eric meets JOSLYN - one of the many things that he loves about the floral arrangements in the Biltmore House is the fact that much of what is used are items that are foraged from the estate. He thinks it's a wonderful way of integrating the garden into the home. You're bringing in nature that's part of its' surroundings, and that's really, really special. Eric would like for Joslyn to talk about what she's looking for when out foraging and then how she incorporates those materials into her floral design.

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Don Holloway
Eric next meets DON HOLLOWAY. Don, every year, each one of the designers is assigned different rooms inside Biltmore Estate that they really pour so much of their time and attention and creativity into. This year Don had the banquet hall, which is a particularly special space. That's where the giant live 35 foot tall Christmas tree is moved in every year and it's a big space. You've got a lot of considerations and concerns.

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Tracery
When Eric looks at great designs like Don's, he tries to think of certain elements he can take home, and that is one of things Don mentioned. Eric noticed on the table the TRACERY Don designed and it's beautiful, but yet not super complicated. It is something that any one of our viewers could do for a special occasion. Don agrees. It would work for a Christmas dinner decoration for example. The tracery kind of hearkens back to when the house was first built during the Gilded Age, in the Victorian times. This was something that the Victorians believed in, putting greenery on their table, whether it was in a container or even down on the surface.

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Anna Leonard’s Design Book
Eric next meets ANNA LEONARD. It’s been so exciting to get a behind the scenes look into how all the different designers come up with their ideas, and that's something that the visitors to Biltmore probably never get to see. They get to see your work in a finished format, but being able to see the way that you think about the challenge of the space, then translate your creativity into that finished product. That’s special. Eric knows Anna's DESIGN BOOK is a big part of the way that she likes to create and coalesce her ideas. Eric would like for Anna to walk us through her design book this year. Anna shows Eric and the GardenSMART audience her workbook.

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Show #43/7404. Behind The Scenes At Biltmore

Transcript Of Show

The holidays are a magical time to bring the beauty of the garden indoors. In this episode GardenSMART visits an estate that has mastered the art of botanical design. And the results are magnificent.

Located in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore Estate is a truly stunning estate and garden. Every season is a treat and the holidays are a particularly special time when the designers get to flex their creative muscles as they transform this amazing house into an absolute wonderland. GardenSMART goes behind the scenes with the designers and gets a rare look into the work that goes into making Christmas at Biltmore an unforgettable experience.

Eric meets Lizzie, it's great to be back at Biltmore. Thank you so much for joining us. Lizzie thanks Eric and GardenSMART for visiting. In this episode we're talking about the wonderful CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS at the house. Lizzie has a lot to decorate and a sizable team that does all that work. Correct? Lizzie confirms it definitely takes an army. Her design team though, is just 10 people, but they are full of talent and love getting the opportunity to showcase what they can do. How many rooms are Lizzy and team in charge of decorating every year? It's around 25 or 30. That includes different areas from small servants' rooms to the bowling alley, rooms all throughout the house. And Christmas is something the team works on all year long? Correct, starting as soon as Christmas ends this year, they will be working on Christmas next year. Lizzie thinks the design process is a beautiful one, she loves the process. The culmination of the process when everything comes in and gets put up is all the more satisfying because they get to see something that they've worked on year round actually come to fruition and look as beautiful as they envisioned it and then see it enjoyed by so many guests. The visitors, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, get to come through the house and see all the amazing work that Lizzie and her team perform. Eric is excited because in this episode we get to see parts that almost no one gets to see. And that is the behind the scenes and all the effort of putting these designs together and then making them come alive in the house for the holidays.

Lizzie agrees, come along to our WAREHOUSE and check out what’s going on. It is kind of the center hub. Eric admits that he's designed gardens for many, many years and that makes a lot of sense. But when he sees something done on the scale at Biltmore that seems like a monumental task. To him it's really, really fascinating how the designers can go into a room and just do something at that scale, it's almost symphonic. Everything feels like it belongs and it's just stunningly beautiful. And, is most interested in the way that Lizzy and team think through the process of making that happen. How do they come up with their ideas, the color schemes, the textures? How does that all come together? Lizzie feels that there is a really good comparison to garden design. They start with the room itself, kind of look at it, almost map it out, figuring out within the room locations they want to highlight. Obviously the trees are the biggest piece and oftentimes it’s obvious where they are going to go, but where do they want there to be a fresh arrangement? Where do they want there to be candles? Where do they want there to be plants? One objective is to create a balanced amount of decor across the room, not concentrate everything in one corner. How are they designing around the tree itself? They have room detail sheets, meaning sheets that have a compilation of important things to know about the rooms in the house - like where are the outlets, what are the dimensions of the mantle, even where is there an existing nail that something might hang from?

But then the design piece comes into it, THE COLORS, THE MATERIALS, THE TEXTURES. All of the designers have a different approach to that. They all have different backgrounds, different strengths. Whether it's art or horticulture or some other type of design background. But design is still design. How might one apply their ideas to the room, what type fresh material might be applied all while remembering this is after all, a Christmas display. So they physically play with materials and ornaments and ribbon determining what looks good together. Different sizes and shapes is important, they don’t want everything to all be one size or one shape. Then of course the storytelling element is huge, really it's overarching over everything. It's a process. But Lizzie does like the comparison to a garden design.

Lizzie has, as mentioned earlier, a 10 person team and one thing that's really just delightful for Eric to see is the CAMARADERIE in the way that people are sharing ideas and working together on things. As mentioned, everyone's got their strengths and their weaknesses and having such a competent team with a broad array of talents is one of the things that makes all of these designs so incredible. That is so important to Lizzie. She likes to stress that they don't win if one person has one really great room. They win when the whole house is done beautifully and that takes the entire team, no one can do it on their own. It takes everybody. It takes that army.

Eric has a question. There are so many LIVE PLANTS involved in the process. He knows that not all the trees are real, but there are so many flowers and so much live plant material. From a maintenance standpoint, how do you manage all that? I'm sure you're in the house every day refreshing things. How does that work? Lizzie concurs, that's definitely important. Once Christmas is up and the season here has officially started, their work is not over. It really does continue on. They strive to make sure every single day, the house looks its best for every single guest that comes through the house. All of the poinsettias will be switched out mid-season, plants get switched out mid-season, every single day they're putting eyes on them. If there's one bad petal that needs to be pulled out, they're doing that - straightening ornaments, making sure lights are all on as they should be, and making sure everything looks great. There are lots of little details that they don't necessarily have to look at the rest of the year that they are looking at during this season.

Eric feels we’re fortunate today to be able to meet with a few of Lizzie's designers, he's excited to see different perspectives and the way that all of the different energies go into making this one big, beautiful Christmas. Eric meets JOSLYN - one of the many things that he loves about the floral arrangements in the Biltmore House is the fact that much of what is used are items that are foraged from the estate. He thinks it's a wonderful way of integrating the garden into the home. You're bringing in nature that's part of its' surroundings, and that's really, really special. Eric would like for Joslyn to talk about what she's looking for when out foraging and then how she incorporates those materials into her floral design. Joslyn says they like to use a mixture of textures for their arrangements. They want to have a kind of smaller leaf with maybe a variety of different colors. Sometimes they like to have a large or medium-sized piece to kind of be the filler. Then like to have an extra piece, she oftentimes likes to use pine, because it's a wonderful extra kind of sassy moment that you can add to really make viewers go, wow, that's a really unique piece. Rather than being all kind of compact, you kind of let it go free and airy, that's something they like to do in the house to make it look as natural as possible. And Eric feels this is something that homeowners could easily implement on their own. He points out what he assumes is white pine in the middle? Then he notices American Holly and Abelia Grandiflora. These are not rare and uncommon plants, and so it really is something that someone could find in their own landscape or in their neighborhood. Let's talk about some of the items that Joslyn likes to work with, things she thinks are particularly well suited for that kind of foraging and then bring them into an arrangement. Joslyn likes to add a little bit of magnolia to her arrangements. That's something she likes to put kind of front and center. It's a big massive piece that says, "Hello, welcome." Then she likes to add a little bit of either pine or usually Abelia because she likes the little flowers on Abelia, especially in winter time, when they turn that kind of tan color. There are a lot of options of different pieces that are close by, either in your garden at home or in the woods nearby where one can easily take a stroll, take your clippers, cut some, and then add them to an arrangement on your table.

Eric wonders if there are any special preparations with the different twigs or branches or whatever that she harvests? What do you do in getting them ready to be arranged? Joslyn likes to usually keep the stems longer. That way they have more options if they would like to play around with making a nice tall piece or a shorter piece. That allows more options for the arrangement. So cut them nice and long. Take off any lower down pieces, you can easily just snap them off or use your cutters to cut them off. That way you're not letting any of the greenery on the stems go into the water. That keeps your arrangement fresher longer and keeps it from having that kind of smell from musty leaves. It's a nice way to prep, keep things easy, and it's not hard to do, it makes your arrangement last a little bit longer and look beautiful.

Eric is a novice when it comes to floral arrangements. What tips and advice could Joslyn give Eric, from a standpoint of composing all of this? He's done his foraging, it's now all out on the table, it's prepped. How should he think about putting it into a beautiful arrangement? Joslyn likes to place the different pieces in piles. She will put pine in one pile, put holly in another so she can kind of get the lay of the land, see all that she has to work with. She'll prep it and then start with her base. She likes to create a nice strong base, so that once she puts in the taller pieces, it has something to hold them together. She also likes to put a little bit of chicken wire down in the base, that kind of keeps it secure, and you can even cut a grid of tape across. Those are options that can keep it nice and secure. Then she moves her way out, adding in some longer pieces that drape down in the front to provide a little bit of a spiller moment, as they call it. Then this is your thriller, where you start to add that larger piece once you have your base, to really go above and beyond making it a truly unique piece for your table.

Eric wonders - How long do these type of arrangements typically last? Joslyn says they will last about a week to two weeks, which is a decent amount of time in your home. It's a great thing to be able to welcome people for the holidays, have a week or two of guests visiting and you'll have an arrangement that'll last the whole time. Eric thanks Joslyn this has been a unique way of viewing design. And, it really, really shows a lot to the aesthetic of Biltmore Estate.

Eric next meets DON HOLLOWAY. Don, every year, each one of the designers is assigned different rooms inside Biltmore Estate that they really pour so much of their time and attention and creativity into. This year Don had the banquet hall, which is a particularly special space. That's where the giant live 35 foot tall Christmas tree is moved in every year and it's a big space. You've got a lot of considerations and concerns. Talk us through the way you thought about that space and how you designed it. Don agrees, it is a huge space. From the floor to the ceiling is 70 feet. You've got seven stories in there. They've always had a large Frasier fir in there. The Frasier firs they typically bring in are 35 to maybe 40 feet. And it is a huge undertaking. They start the year out when they start designing, look at each room and see how the designs were done that year, based on that theme. This year, he wanted to go completely different from what he had done the previous year. Last year was very frosty and wintery and snowy and crystal-y. This year he went with more traditional colors, the traditional greens and reds and antique golds. And they really show up in the house in that particular room. For example, the antique gold really shines throughout the day. It's a gorgeous color. Eric has noticed that when walking into that room, there's a lightness and a cheerfulness. He can imagine coming down the stairs Christmas morning and walking into a room like that, that just has this childlike wow about it. It's so incredible. Don has watched adults come in to the room and they become overwhelmed. That little inner child that's still inside them comes out, because that room does bring out the inner child in all of us. It's just a magical room.

Don talks about how he approaches the banquet room, coming up with the designs and the decor and figuring out where he's going to go with everything. He always keeps in mind the guests, when they're coming into the house, how they're going to see it, how they're going to feel. He wants them to feel excited and motivated and inspired by what they see. And by inspiration he thinks, take it home with you. And there are a number of things in the banquet hall that are possible to do at home. For example, things on the table, even the Christmas tree itself. The Christmas tree this year is 35 feet tall, and it weighs anywhere between 2 and 3000 pounds. It comes in pretty green, so it'll have enough moisture in it to carry it three or four weeks and then they change it out in the middle of the night. They do a second switch, to keep it fresh. Biltmore guests deserve that. They want everything to look just like it did the day this opened for candlelight.

When Eric looks at great designs like Don's, he tries to think of certain elements he can take home, and that is one of things Don mentioned. Eric noticed on the table the TRACERY Don designed and it's beautiful, but yet not super complicated. It is something that any one of our viewers could do for a special occasion. Don agrees. It would work for a Christmas dinner decoration for example. The tracery kind of hearkens back to when the house was first built during the Gilded Age, in the Victorian times. This was something that the Victorians believed in, putting greenery on their table, whether it was in a container or even down on the surface. Tracery is one of the things that they used quite a bit. And anyone can do it at home. Eric would like for Don to talk us through the way that we would compose it. Don explains, let's say you're doing cuttings from a Christmas tree. Just cut them in smaller pieces, overlap them, overlap them, keep overlapping. If you've got a center point, you can even do a center point. You can start going in one direction overlapping that way and then turn and go to the opposite direction overlapping. That way you have most of your end points covered. That's really important, to keep the ends covered so it's all overlapping and it looks continuous and it makes a beautiful statement when it's completed. Eric agrees and the way Don has explained a tracery it seems rather simple, yet it's super elegant. Eric tells Don he sees a tracery in his future this Christmas.

Eric next meets ANNA LEONARD. It’s been so exciting to get a behind the scenes look into how all the different designers come up with their ideas, and that's something that the visitors to Biltmore probably never get to see. They get to see your work in a finished format, but being able to see the way that you think about the challenge of the space, then translate your creativity into that finished product. That’s special. Eric knows Anna's DESIGN BOOK is a big part of the way that she likes to create and coalesce her ideas. Eric would like for Anna to walk us through her design book this year. Anna shows Eric and the GardenSMART audience her workbook. It is a year of worth of work. For each room, she has a section. Anna always starts with a ribbon. The ribbon is her inspiration for the direction she's going to take the room. She explores the colors, explores the artwork, the pottery. Something in there will inspire her and then she goes from there. This one is for the grand staircase tree. Her theme for this is called travel in time. The holly garland, the jewel garland, the drop ornaments, these are the ribbons that are on the tree. Then they go to market. These are working time pieces, and on the tree, there are father time ornaments, all different clock ornaments, like a cuckoo clock ornament. Anna wanted the entry hall to just sparkle and shimmer. So this is her drawing of the entry hall table, where she had a collection of candles and then the jeweled ornaments that are suspended from the ceiling, from a chandelier that she decorated. Normally a chandelier is not in that room, so she added a chandelier this year. The next room Anna decorated is the breakfast room. She loves the Victorian era. And a very traditional Victorian look is fruit garlands, Della Robia. That's her inspiration for the breakfast room. These are the color pallets used in there. She calls this room Sweet Bounty. Her planning book shows how she will use the fruit garlands, the product she will use for the fruit garlands, and then the placement in the room. One of her favorite rooms was the Louie Hallway. She points out a picture of Louie the 15th, and a picture of Louie the 15th's actual coronation garment. So she selected a tapestry that is draped in the tree and that she made to go with the crowns. His coronation crown was her inspiration. She has five jeweled crowns that are placed throughout the tree and then the banister is draped with some inspirational pictures. It's the detail of a lot of components in every room. That's the thing about this team. They collaborate and talk to work out the ideas of those details. Louie the 16th's room is a beautiful red and white room. Eric finds it regal. Anna wanted to just embellish the magnificent mirror. It's a floor-to-ceiling mirror above the fireplace, so that room is draped with garlands and hanging ornaments and jeweled ribbon.

Then upstairs, the fourth floor is the fourth-floor sitting room for the ladies' maids, it's a room for them to just go and relax at the end of the day. Anna wanted it to be a homespun-looking tree where they make the popcorn balls and the cranberry garlands. She has taken homespun-looking stockings, a series of about six or eight stockings up there. One of the designers did research and found the actual names of the ladies' maids that were here during the turn of the century from the 1904 to 1906. Anna made name tags and then little gifts, handkerchiefs and gloves that would've been given to the ladies at that time. Eric finds that moving, it's that personal touch that is so wonderful.

He really hopes that people that come and visit Biltmore, get a sense that there is all of that thoughtfulness. It goes into every detail. One thing that's been almost overwhelming in just taking it all in is just seeing how much thought and how much passion goes into every little thing. There's not a single element to any of those designs that was an afterthought. It is so detail-oriented and so thoughtful. It's a beautiful job. Anna thanks Eric for recognizing because they put their heart and soul into this home, because it is like their home.

Eric is impressed, there is so much thought and care that goes into every room at Biltmore. What an amazing and talented team. If you ever get the chance, be sure to visit Biltmore Estate at Christmas.

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