Holiday tradition blooms at The Gardener’s Cottage

Just beyond the Biltmore gates, The Gardener’s Cottage in Asheville, North Carolina, has hosted its beloved holiday open house for 22 years
Libby Endry, wearing a long casual black dress and gold necklace, with James Farmer, dressed in chinos, a peach sweater over a plaid button, light blue jacket, and brimmed hat, stand in front of the Gardener's Cottage front porch, surrounded by a lush container garden
Libby Endry with James Farmer at The Gardener’s Cottage 2019 holiday open house. Photo via @gardenerscottageasheville

When then-22-year-old Libby Endry bought Bee Sieburg’s flower and gift shop, The Gardener’s Cottage in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2004, she inherited a fledgling tradition—the annual holiday open house that Bee had hosted since opening the business in 1997. Today the open house has not only continued but blossomed with Libby’s creativity.

Nestled in Biltmore Village, a historic area just beyond the gates of Biltmore Estate, the shop draws both locals and out-of-towners to the early November event. You might even bump into best-selling author, designer, and renaissance man James Farmer, who often travels up from Georgia to see what new festive displays Libby has brought to life from her sketchbook.

A holiday display at The Gardener's Cottage in Asheville features an elegantly sparse "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree standing in a rustic pottery jug, various plants and cut flowers in assorted vintage silver-toned containers and glass bottlesA bundle of antique holiday sleigh bells hanging from ropes

On the big day, foraged and locally sourced evergreen branches, lush colorful blooms, and sprouting paperwhites planted in antique containers fill the rooms of the English Tudor-style cottage. More than simply getting people in the door to shop for gifts, Libby hopes to inspire them with easy-to-accomplish holiday decorating ideas that they might not have thought of otherwise.

“I want people to come in and say, ‘I could do that on my mantel.’ Or, ‘I have a similar vintage container that I could put a plant in, or use to grow amaryllis or paperwhite bulbs.’ ” — Libby Endry of The Gardener’s Cottage

A guest at the open house peruses the gift selection at The Gardener's Cottage in Asheville, NC. Among the gifts are ample potted flowering plants and colorful blooms in vases.

A small vase of apricot-colored roses, berries, delicate foliage sits among trays of assorted cookies and cupcakes at the holiday open house

Did we mention the feast?

A bounty of sweet and savory treats awaits open house guests, too. Libby’s mom, Susan (“Susie”) Endry, cooks the whole spread, making and freezing what she can at the family home in Florida. Then she prepares the rest in Asheville in the days leading up to the event.

“My mom has literally been in my kitchen until midnight the night before the open house and up at 6 a.m. on the day finishing everything up,” Libby says. “It’s such a labor of love, and and I can’t imagine what the open house would be without her.”

So many visitors have requested Susie’s recipes that The Gardener’s Cottage now sells “cooklets,” or mini cookbooks. What recipes are requested most? The Almond Bark and Pound Cake for Bee, named after the original owner who remains a close friend and mentor to Libby.

Susan "Susie" Endry, wearing a green and white striped cotton apron, stands next to Joe Endry, wearing a blue V-neck sweater, on the day of The Gardener's Cottage holiday open house on November 4, 2019.
Susie and Joe Endry, Libby’s parents
A variety of cakes and sweets on tiered trays and cake plates
A decadent spread at The Gardener’s Cottage

“I am grateful to all our customers, whether they’re local or come from out of town,” says Libby. “Their enthusiasm for the open house is what motivates me to make each year better than the last.”

Scenes from the Party

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Potted paperwhite bulbs for sale at The Gardener's Cottage in Asheville. "I love this particular one with this vintage wire cloche sitting atop the bulb planter. It will help support the paperwhites as they grow taller," says Libby Endry.

By Terri Robertson | Photography by Sunday Grant

The Gardener’s Cottage Holiday Recipes