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What’s Blooming

by Jim Salyards, Head of Horticulture & Internship Program Coordinator.

Flowers are one of the most pronounced markers of the progression of time in a garden. Each week Jim scouts the Garden for amazing blooms and features our favorites here. Check back often to see what we have in store for your next visit to Filoli.

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

Week of August 21 – August 27, 2017

Centennial Celebration of the Garden

We have celebrated the land and we have celebrated the house. Now, it is time to celebrate the GARDEN! This final centennial year will, hopefully, be the best our guests have ever experienced. Many exciting opportunities and experiences are planned for this year and we plan to have the garden looking smarter and more colorful than ever before.

Be sure to bookmark Filoli’s Centennial webpage and check back for ticket sales and updates in the coming months.

Centennial Gala
Thank you to all who attended the gala.  It was a beautiful night of friendship, food and fun!

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 Stephan 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.

Summer Garden Display

All of the summer beds have been planted and most are looking absolutely spectacular.  The Sunken Garden is rich in its mix of oranges, rust, blue and purple.  Much of the central corridor through the Walled Garden is looking beautiful.  Many of the begonia beds are filling in nicely and looking beautiful as well.

Plant Highlights

The second bloom of the season is under way in the Rose Garden, with many shrubs in full bloom again.  Be sure to wander all the beds and find your favorite colored and/or scented rose.

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

Some of the mid summer fruits have begun to ripen.  Most of the stone fruits have come and gone.  Some of these will be making their way to Napa to be made into our new crop of Filoli apple and pear butters.

On schedule, the naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) are flowering all around the garden.  One of the easiest summer bulbs, they are pest and disease resistant and, like ours, come up year after year for decades, if not centuries.

This is turning out to be an epic hydrangea year.  One can tell they especially appreciated our wet winter.  The bed in the southeast corner of the Sunken Garden area has flowers well over eight 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.

Last year we planted Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa) on the south side of the Garden House.  These young vines have already grown above the tall doors, and along with the vines on the northwest corner of the Garden House, are loaded with pure white flowers.

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.


Fruit picking
Summer bed maintenance
Lawn renovation


The Lower Balustrade bed is filling nicely with the tall white spider flower (Cleome ‘Queen White’), mealy sages (Salvia farinacea ‘Evolution Violet’ and ‘Evolution White’) and yellow zinnia (Zinnia ‘Profusion Double Yellow’).
Another of our summer sculpture artists is Xuan My Ho, whose mosaic fountain is inspired by the putti fountains in the Sunken Garden pond, and the putti on the Rognier containers on the Northwest Terrace.
Filoli has a very nice collection of pineapple lilies, including these four foot flowering Eucomis pole-evansii.
Summer is the time for big garden spiders, like this giant near the Walled Garden shop. Each night, the garden spider removes the sticky center to its web, and then reweaves it in the morning in time to catch its breakfast.

Notes and Common Questions

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

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.


19 responses to “What’s Blooming

  1. I like the new format for What’s Blooming. It is easier to read and looks more professional.

  2. Great post!!
    Thank you for the information!
    I have been looking for the grass trial information on Filoli trials. The tags on the lawn are often not there. Could you share the order of those grass (in relative to the gate)? (I know which patch i like, but couldn’t tell which one it is).

    Thank you!!!

  3. I miss the easy to read short page of “what’s blooming”- I used to check it every week and it quickly told me what flowers were blooming.

  4. Hello
    I’m planning a bus trip for seniors for next spring, 2018. Please, which month would be best and day of the week?

  5. Hi Donna,
    Mid-March to mid-April is typically the peak for our spring display. That said, the garden is always spectacular from late February to early May.

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  8. Wonderful information; I am especially thrilled to hear that long-tailed weasels and gray foxes are present!

    Please consider including some information on other seasonal pest/disease challenges and how you deal with them, such as codling moth in the apple orchard. Are there any bio-control programs? Organic herbicides/insecticides that are used? Does anyone catalog native bees in the gardens?

    Thank you!!

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  12. Wow! These are quite bold colors for the Sunken. Looks like you guys are having fun with it:)

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