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What’s Blooming

by Jim Salyards

Head of Horticulture & Internship Program Coordinator

PDF VERSIONS: Plant Highlights PDF |  Turf And Turf Trials PDF |  Garden Happenings PDF

Week of October 16 – October 22, 2017

And the stunning red color of the variegated Virginia creeper (Parthenocisus henryana).

Holidays at Filoli

We are in the final month of preparations for the first Holidays at Filoli, a five-week house and garden showcase of decorations, displays, lights and shopping!  All the details are laid out in the Filoli Magazine, but in the Horticulture Department, we’re looking forward to having guests experience the fall and winter garden.  Containers of pansies and chrysanthemums will be placed throughout the gardens, fall color has begun, but will continue into December, and spring beds will be planted during the coming weeks.  Exciting this year will be the lights throughout much of the garden, which will be best viewed on Friday and Saturday nights.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Garden Sculpture Exhibit

Our fourth annual summer sculpture exhibit is up around the garden.  Entitled Filoli Inspirations: Sculpture Exhibit in the Garden, this year’s exhibit is an homage to the different pieces of art throughout the garden.  Look for bronze and metalwork pieces by Stefan Savides, Marilyn Kuksht, Paul Cheney, Mary Bayer and Anna Martin; concrete and ceramic pieces by David Putnam, Peggy Snider, Deborah Bridges, and Xuan My Ho; mixed media pieces by Payson McNett; and carved marble pieces by Matt Auvinen.  Also, as part of this year’s exhibit, we will be have informational signs beside many of the pieces of Filoli garden art explaining their origins and mediums.  The exhibit runs May 16 – November 5.

Sculpture maps and further information are available in the Visitor’s Center.

Fall at Filoli

As part of the fall season, we have erected eleven scarecrows all over the garden and grounds, built a straw wattle labyrinth, will have pumpkins available for purchase for a nominal fee, and have opened our new Estate Trail.

Fall is becoming more evident in the garden with the beautiful foliage of the herbaceous peonies.


An excellent groundcover for summer and fall color is the dwarf plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), which works great with spring bulbs, and then gives true blue flowers late into the season.

The ornamental kale (‘Nagoya’) bed is beginning to show some color.

Summer into Fall Garden Display:

Many of the summer display beds are looking beautiful, particularly the begonia and SunPatiens beds around the garden.  The Sunken Garden is still vibrant with zinnias and dahlias in full bloom.  Our Victory Garden bed cabbages are full of giant heads.

To enhance the fall garden, we have planted the first and last (Beds #1 and #7) of the Numbered Beds on the southern edge of the Walled Garden.  Bed #1 will soon be filled with an ornamental kale (‘Nagoya’) and Bed #7 an ornamental cabbage (‘Osaka).  Sakata Ornamental Seeds donated both of these seed varieties.

Our big bulb order arrived last week and we will begin sorting the bulbs in preparation for planting. Planting should begin in the next couple weeks.  Another stunning spring display is in the works for 2018.

This experimental tuberous begonia ‘Nonstop Joy Mocca’ from Benary Seed Co, was grown from seed and performed extremely well for us. Expect to see more of these containers next summer.



The dwarf pomegranate shrubs have again set loads of beautiful red fruit.

Plant Highlights:

The arrival of autumn means the arrival of some of the special fall-bloomers.  The ivy-leaf cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) is blooming all around the garden.  We are fortunate to live in a climate where this groundcover thrives and incrementally naturalizes around the garden.  Also, the first of our camellias (C. sasanqua) have begun to bloom throughout the garden.

The Rose Garden just continues to bloom and bloom this year.  In the past it has seemed there were lulls between peaks in bloom, but the past two years, they haven’t seemed to stop blooming.  Be sure to wander all the beds and find your favorite colored and/or scented rose.

Many of the beds in the Cutting Garden are still looking nice, including zinnias, Mexican sunflower, perennial sunflower, sedum, and cockscomb.  Also, the exotic love vine (Ipomoea lobata)- a new favorite- is in full flower and is teaming with humming birds.

The Cutting Garden dahlia bed is lovely right now and full of many different flower colors and forms.

This has been an epic hydrangea year.  The bed in the southeast corner of the Sunken Garden area has flowers well over nine feet tall.  In the northwest Panel Garden bed, they are blooming in hues of blue, purple, pink and red.  And everyone loves the rich blues and purples in the Walled Garden shop beds.  And as we head into fall, there are still new blooms coming, but most of the flowers are fading, or becoming rich blends of pinks and purples and blues and greens.

Lots of summer annual pots have been placed around the garden.  Sunny areas will include petunias and petunia hybrids, along with zinnias and geraniums (Pelargonium varieties).  Our shady pots are SunPatiens and various begonias.

We have harvested most of the fruit from the orchards for our needs and Village Harvest came through two weeks ago and picked 1.5 tons of fruit.  We will, however, keep fruit in some trees for our orchard tours during the remainder of the year.

Scarecrows and pumpkins greet our guests as they approach the house and garden.

Lawn renovation has been completed with the final being the lawn to the south of the Garden House and a little patchwork on the Sunken Garden lawns.  This work is loud and messy, but is the reason we have lush, green lawns in the fall, winter and spring.


Many guests are noticing the golden black locust (Robinia pseudacacia ‘Frisia) to the west of the Swimming Pool.  The tree was planted four years ago as a replacement for the declining golden honeylocust, and thus far, is a great replacement for the tree that Mrs. Roth planted to help draw the eye across the Sunken Garden and toward the beautiful western hills.

Filoli has one of the largest collections of ivy in the world.  In the tradition of many historic English gardens, ivy was a component chosen for the walls in many places, particularly along the Bowling Green.  In the late 90s, Filoli received an enormous collection from Dr. Cliff Coon, an avid ivy collector and breeder.  Many of the varieties are represented on the fence line that wraps around the south and west side of the garden.  In addition, a collection of adult ivies, which are more shrub like in form, grows to the west of the High Place.  This peaceful corner of the garden is a lovely spot to sit and read a book.


Preparing for fall planting
Holiday lights, phase 2
Bulb sorting

The fall containers are being potted and will be out in the garden in the coming weeks.

Garden Notes:

Declining Plane Trees

Two of the London plane trees (Platanus x hispanica) flanking the Service Drive seem to be in decline.  Most telling are the fungal growths each tree has, one being Ganoderma, a wood-decay fungus, and another yet-to-be identified species.  The trees on the south side of the drive, particularly those adjacent to the big southern magnolia, have suffered from lack of light and root competition.  We do have an active propagation program for these trees and have available replacements for the time when they completely fail or are beyond being ornamental any longer.

Animal Visitors

This year we have had an explosion of voles throughout the garden.  Also known as meadow mice, these mouse-like, short-tailed rodents are particularly destructive when creating their above ground runs and when collecting their nesting materials.  Every decade or so, or possibly because of some weather or temperature pattern, their numbers make sudden and big jump.  Probably as a result of this, for the first time in decades, we have a, or a family of, California long tailed weasels running around the garden.  They are quite precocious, so you might catch a glimpse of one on the hunt for food.  Also, we are seeing California grey foxes in and around the garden.  Again, they have probably arrived to take advantage of the abundant food available.

New Visitor’s Center Entrance

There is a new lath screen near the VEC Room D parking lot.  As part of the new visitor flow from the Visitor’s Center to the House and Garden, we had to clear the bank of native shrubs blocking this view.  We have planted the area with new native shrubs, but until they fill in the area, the lath screen will help block this parking area from view.

Turf and Turf Trials

We have concluded the turf trial and have embarked on renovating this lawn terrace to return it to a tall fescue turf mix.  In the coming weeks we will release the results of the trial and which of the varieties were best suited for our microclimate.

After recent years of below-average rainfall, we have decided we need to educate ourselves on some turf varieties that might grow well for us with less water.  In the North Lawn Terrace area, we have sown or planted 10’ x 12’ blocks for a formal turf trial. The twelve species and blends that we are testing are:

  1.  June grass (Koeleria macrantha)
  2.  Seashore bentgrass (Agrostis pallens)
  3.  U.C. Verde buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides)
  4.  Hachita blue gramma grass (Bouteloua gracilis ‘Hachita’)
  5.  Purple needlegrass (Stipa pulchra)
  6.  Pacific hair grass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
  7.  Molate red fescue (Festuca rubra ‘Molate’)
  8.  Pacific Coast Seed- Native Ornamental Fine Fescue Blend
  9.  High Country Gardens- Low Work & Water Fescue Mix
  10.  Prairie Nursery- No Mow Fescue Mix
  11.  Barenburg- Water Saver Rhizomatous Tall Fescue Mix
  12.  California meadow sedge (Carex pansa)

Each block and variety has a corresponding sign telling more about the variety.  We will also have similar information about the trial and varieties on the Filoli website.

The intent for the trial is to find one or more that might work for some of our turf areas.  In particular, we are looking at areas that are less formal or receive regular foot traffic.

In the fall of 2016, we embarked on a beta testing of the “No Mow Fescue Mix” on the Yew Allée.  This variety, which has performed best thus far, will hopefully be a low-water and lower-upkeep turf for this important view corridor.

Ultimately, we will continue the trial through fall of this year.  We plan to irrigate 30-40% less compared to what our historic turf blends receive, and, therefore, determine which are the best for the High Place and some of the other higher-traffic and less high-profile lawns.

Bloomin’ Bucks Program

Whenever visitors, volunteers or anyone else asks about where Filoli purchases our bulbs, after telling them that the bulk of our bulbs are purchased wholesale from the Netherlands, I tell them the best retail vendor in the US that I know is Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

As part of the company’s commitment to public gardens, schools and other non-profits, Brent and Becky established the Bloomin’ Bucks program.  With each purchase from Brent and Becky’s through the program, the designated non-profit receives 25% of the funds.  Filoli is a participant in this program.  So, if you’re planning to order bulbs this year, and like Brent and Becky’s products, please go to the Bloomin’ Bucks page (www.bloominbucks.com) to start your purchase by choosing Filoli as your non-profit of choice.  From there, you will be sent to the regular Brent and Becky’s Bulbs website to start your shopping.