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What’s Blooming

Categories: Blog, Garden

Garden Happenings

February 11–25, 2019

PDF RESOURCES:      Blooming Calendar Year – PDF   |    Spring Display List – PDF   |    Visitor Map – PDF


Winter at Filoli

Welcome to Winter at Filoli! What an incredible time to see the garden in its winter splendor: the structure of woody plants and how they’ve been meticulously pruned for decades and decades; trees and shrubs in the midst of being pruned and witnessing the process happening; newly planted annual beds filling in and beginning to bloom; our earliest blooming shrubs in perfect bloom. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to see the garden before the sheer magnificence of spring!

Filoli Orchid Show

Welcome to a season of orchids and Filoli’s first Orchid Show! We are thrilled to be celebrating one of Filoli’s important plant collections, and probably more attractive to all our guests, the queen of the tropics and conservatories over the world. When the garden is just beginning to awaken from its winter slumber, we could not think of a better way to celebrate flowers than to offer a feast of orchids throughout the House.

We have a beautiful array of plants and flower arrangements that will be rotating in and out of the House from early January to mid February. Greeting you as you enter the House, in the Foyer, you will encounter our large, historic plant urns filled with a number of orchids. As you tour through the House, the different rooms will contain our traditional flower arrangements with stunning orchid flowers, as well as blooming orchid plants from Filoli’s historic greenhouse collection. Toward the end of your tour, the Kitchen will have a lush display of orchids on the center-island.

A most exciting feature of the Orchid Show are the orchid displays in the Foyer and Kitchen. Filoli is indebted to several Northern California orchid societies, who will be featured in a rotation of displays in these rooms. We offer great thanks to the following orchid societies: San Francisco, Peninsula, Santa Clara Valley, and Gold Coast Cymbidium Growers. And we are hoping to grow this list, including adding one or more commercial orchid growers, to the participants in our show.

We are also thrilled by a sponsorship that will result in a trio of beautiful orchid arrangements and landscapes in the Visitor Center, House Foyer and Kitchen from January 21 – 28. Many thanks go to our media partner and sponsor Sound of Hope Radio, along with the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, China Airlines, and McLellan Botanicals/Taiwan Sugar Corp. America .

Spring Preview

The spring beds and display pots have been planted and now we await the beauty. Our spring display is entitled “An Homage to Keukenhof,” as components of the display are inspired by bulb varieties and combination seen on Filoli’s Tulip Tour last April. Some of the highlights include the Sunken with over 5000 yellow tulips as a mix of ‘Strong Gold’ and ‘West Point’, the Bell Beds planted with 5000 grape hyacinth, and the Dutch Garden a mix of tall tulips and daffodils. Some of the other highlights are the popular tulip from last spring, ‘Blushing Lady’, in the Dining Room Terrace beds, ‘Mystic Van Eijk’ in the West Reception, and a new planting of daffodils around the Visitor Center assembly area. And don’t miss the all-orange mix of tulips in the Perennial Border… our “River of Tulips.”

Beginning on February 14, Filoli will be offering a new Specialty Tour focused on our Spring Bulb Display. This will be a rare opportunity to tour the garden and learn about how Filoli’s bulb program works from display planning; all the planting of beds, grounds and containers that ensue once the bulbs arrive at Filoli; to the stories about the different varieties of bulbs and spring annuals that make up the renown Spring Display at Filoli. Tours end April 7, or when the bulb season is over.

Plant Highlights

Late winter is definitely the time to enjoy the structure of the formal garden. Hedges are tightly clipped, fruit trees are expertly pruned, and the intricate layout of the walled garden is on full display. If you enjoy getting a feel for the “bones” of the garden’s design and an appreciation for what Bruce Porter, Arthur Brown, Jr., Bella Worn, the Bourns and the Roths have created, the winter is the time to take in their collective vision and creativity.

Camellias-Camellias-Camellias! For the most part, the camellias throughout the garden are absolutely stunning for opening week. Some of the Sasanquas still have some blooms, and a number of the Japonicas are loaded with flowers.

Daffodils. The naturalized daffs around the garden are blooming well, including the Daffodil Meadow in the Panel Garden.  The early container are finishing up, including the paperwhites, but the second round pots are arriving in the garden.  Generally, the daffodils should be at their best the end of February/beginning of March.

Some of the early blooming perennials and shrubs have begun blooming around the garden. Filoli has a large collection of hellebores, including Lenten roses (H. orientalis), that grow in extensive stands in the Woodland Garden, the Main Courtyard, and many other locations.

The exotically fragrant yellow-edged winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’), Mrs. Bourn’s favorite plant, blooms in dozens of locations around the garden.

Some of the early flowering woody plants are beginning to bloom including the double red flowering apricot (Prunus mume ‘Matsubara Red’), Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), and flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa).

Early spring (well, technically mid-winter) is magnolia time. A few trees are beginning to bloom, including the extremely early Magnolia campbellii ‘Strybing White.’ We also have a straight M. campbellii, with pink flowers, in the western Panel Garden that has begun to bloom. Many of the other white magnolias along the Front Drive are blooming or nearly there.

The Camperdown Elm with its gnarled branches, bare to the world, is a spectacular sight to behold.

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.

Some of the mid-season daffodils are beginning to bloom, like ‘Cairngorm’ on the back steps of the house.


These pots happened to be watched over by Percy when I was shooting garden photos. The railing up to the back of the house is where he goes in the morning, after a wet night, to dry his feathers.

Another epicenter of daffodils is the Visitor Center Gallery, where containers of mini daffodils, like ‘Tete-a-Tete’ bloom on the wall, and ‘Queen’s Day’, a new (to us), double flowering daffodil blooms along the walk.

The past few years, we have used ‘Barrett Browning’ in the Lane Courtyard, and these flowers have been so clean and robust, they have become a new favorite.

In other garden news, there are five species of magnolia along the Front Drive: M. kobus, M. denudata, M. heptapeta, M. cylindrica, and Magnolia (formerly Michelia) doltsopa. These are either flowering, or about to flower in the coming weeks.

One of the best, early spring shrubs is Viburnum X burkwoodii (Burkwood viburnum), which we have several examples of in the garden.

Although citrus thrive in much of the Bay Area, Filoli is a little colder than most locations, so it is really special to see the mandarin Citrus reticulata ‘Owari’ in the garden, particularly since these have been growing 100 years in the Walled Garden.


  • Winter pruning including fruit trees and wisteria
  • Display pots into garden
  • Annual bed maintenance

Garden Irrigation Information

I recently received a question from a docent asking why some irrigation programs run during our hours of operation. In general, we try and run all programs during the early morning. This is often what is most healthy for the plants. However, for some blooms, waiting until the plants have had a chance to dry from the morning dew, before running the irrigation, keeps the flowers from fading or prevents them being subject to some diseases. Some annuals, like petunias, and the bearded iris, do best when irrigated during the warmth of the late morning.

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 U.S. 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 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.