Scavenger Hunt

In the Garden

In the Garden

The front courtyard of the Filoli House is framed by magnolia trees. They are known for their large, sweet-smelling flowers that can grow up to 10 inches wide.

 Look for Filoli’s collection of bonsai, which means “tree in tray” in Japanese. It is an art to create and care for these miniature replicas of full-grown trees in nature.

The impressive wicker “peacock” chairs that Mr. Bourn and his grandson Billy are enjoying in this photo were original furnishings in this garden retreat, where they still live today.

 Filoli’s second owner Lurline Roth loved camellias, which have glossy green leaves and bright flowers that bloom through the winter months. The garden features nearly 300 shrubs and 125 different varieties -- see how many you can spot!

 You’ll have to look up as you walk through the garden to find this Filoli crest! The design separates each syllable, hinting at Mr. Bourn’s motto that inspired the estate’s name: “FIght for a just cause, LOve your fellow man, LIve a good life.”

The Bourns made this sundial the centerpiece of one of the garden rooms. It’s no longer perfectly accurate, but you can still try using the shadow to tell time! 

Each year, thousands of daffodils emerge in the Family Orchard. Some of them come from 100-year-old bulbs planted by the Bourns, the original owners of Filoli. If they aren’t blooming yet, can you spot the telltale shoots of green coming up through the soil?

Don’t miss the High Place, a green theater at the southernmost point in the Garden. When Filoli was first built, you could see the reservoir from this spot, but in the 100 years since, trees have grown to block the view.

In the Woodland Garden, search for this statue of a mischievous satyr (a half-man, half-goat from Roman mythology).

In summer, these rare Camperdown elms provide a leafy canopy of shade, but winter exposes the trees’ sculptural limbs. Original to the garden, they escaped the Dutch elm disease that wiped out much of the population in the mid-20th century.

The Bourns loved the carved wooden door from their San Francisco home so much that they brought it with them to Filoli! As you leave the garden, notice how the view back into Sunken Garden looks a little different today than it did in this historic photo.

Overview

Located 30 miles south of San Francisco, Filoli is nestled on a slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains and surrounded by more than 23,000 acres of the protected Peninsula watershed. To the two families who lived here, Filoli represented a desire to create a magnificent and enduring country estate. Today, Filoli’s mission is to connect our rich history with a vibrant future through beauty, nature, and shared stories.

An early view of the newly completed Filoli from Cañada Road in 1918. The first owner William Bourn dubbed the estate Filoli, a made-up word drawn from the first letters of his personal motto: “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.” 

The Filoli estate is located on the traditional territory of the Indigenous Ohlone people. When Spanish explorers arrived in 1769, the Bay Area was home to more than 50 distinct groups of Ohlone people, who lived by hunting, fishing, and harvesting plants -- including acorns from these valley oak trees. 

By 1850, the Spanish occupation and mission system had decimated the vast majority of the Indigenous population. This area was parceled out as a 12,545-acre Mexican land grant and officially mapped in 1856 after the United States annexed California. The rancho was later broken up into smaller pieces -- one eventually became the Filoli estate.

After the 1906 earthquake and fire, wealthy San Franciscans migrated south along the Peninsula to escape the city. Grand estates popped up in Hillsborough and Woodside. Though the Peninsula seemed more insulated from earthquakes, the Bourns went on to build their new house 200 yards away from the San Andreas fault.

Timeline