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What’s Blooming

More Information
Blooming Calendar
Blooming Calendar

Find out what’s blooming at Filoli from January to December.

Garden Information

Learn about Filoli plants and gardening practices—ask the experts.

Art Exhibits

Birds of America: Audubon Collection Feb. 10–March 22

Plant Highlights This Week

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

rose‘Full Moon Rising’ rose is bright and sunny on the Cutting Garden cage.

rhododendronMany historic bearded iris, like this one from the “Space Age” group are blooming around the garden.

buckeyeThe Knot Garden is just starting to bloom and approach its early summer peak.

dogwoodMany happy pansy faces are ready to greet folks around the garden.

sculptureWhat could be finer than sitting under the ‘Sally Holmes’ rose on a spring day.

Garden Happenings
Week of May 18 – May 31, 2015

New Plantings:
The plan for this week is to plant the Chartres with Phlox drummondii ‘Fedco Mix’, and begin planting the Sunken Garden. The Summer Display list can be found on the Garden Resource Page:

We have already pulled and replanted the seven beds along the southern edge of the Walled Garden. The forget-me-nots, particularly in two of the beds had become quite dull. Since the begonia plants were ready early (Begonia benariensis ‘BIG Rose with Green Leaf’) for all the beds, we decided to pull and replant all seven.


Plant Highlights:

As is typical this time of year, the Rose Garden is looking beautiful. Most shrubs are full of flowers and just stunning!  The belle this year is the beautiful, orange ‘October’. At over six feet tall, and loaded with blossoms, everyone is gushing over this hybrid tea rose shrub. ‘Sally Holmes’ is also a showstopper this week.

Most of the tree peonies are finished, but there are still many gorgeous blooms on some of the plants. The plants seem healthy this year due to the drier weather.  

The herbaceous peonies are blooming.

In general, the Cutting Garden is lovely this week with peonies, Watsonia, delphinium, climbing roses, sweet peas and many other perennials and annuals.

A bit later than in years past, the wonderfully scented Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ is in full bloom this week. Although found in a few locations around the garden, its prime location is on the south wall east of the Garden House.

The Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) north of the Swimming Pool are at their peak of bloom.

The water lilies in the Sunken Garden pond are particularly floriferous this spring.

The staghorn ferns hanging around the Tennis Court, some of which suffered damage during the December 2013 freeze, have all rebounded and are looking magnificent.

The exotic banana shrub (Magnolia figo) is blooming at the west side of the main house.

Succulent containers on the Northwest Terrace are blooming including the Aloe plicatilis, Beschorneria yuccoides and Echeveria elegans.

Our historic iris collection on the west side of the Yew Allée still has many blooms.


Most projects are related to pulling and replanting for summer.



Notes and Common Questions

Drought Status
Last year’s drought situation was not fun for anyone. But, you have to make lemonade when you have lemons.  By the end of the 2013-14 rain season, we received only 12.01”.  Since our annual average is over 33”, this was not only a considerable shortfall, but also the driest year since we began keeping records in the late 70s.

The current season looks a lot more promising, but we’re not counting our chickens yet.  December brought 15.32” (!) of rain and increased the 2014-15 total to 18.60”.  We were extremely optimistic going into January, but with 0.00” of rain last month, we’re now cautiously optimistic.  With over 5” of rain in February, we’re now just over 24”.  This is twice the rain we received last year, but we still have a ways to go.

Update:  Our plan for this summer is very much like last summer.  The high-profile lawns, like the Walled Garden, front of the house, and Bowling Green, will receive normal irrigation.  All of the others will receive reduced irrigation, either at a reduced percentage (40% of normal), or not receive the typical supplemental watering we do in the drier zones.  A few more lawns than last year will be allowed to go completely dry this summer.

Service Courtyard Lawn
In an early effort to save water this year, and also to better protect the roots of the flowering cherries, we are mulching over the lawn in the Service Courtyard / Plant Shop.  With many above-ground roots that are regularly nicked by weekly mowing, we hope that these trees will fare better with the added TLC.

Walled Garden Oak
Last year I reported about our concern for the giant coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) near the entrance to the Walled Garden shop area- home of the blue hydrangea bed. Two different decay fungi have been found on the tree. Oak root fungus (Armillaria mellea) was evident on the west (hydrangea) side and weeping polypore (Inonotus dryadeus) on the east (Dutch Garden) side. Either one of these can spell the death of an oak tree.

In the fall we had a tomographic study conducted. (Tomography uses sound waves to determine the density of the wood in a tree.)  The results were much more promising than we’d predicted. Two scans of the trunk were made: one about a foot from the soil line, and the other just below where the two major scaffold branches arise at around seven feet. We were encouraged by the arborist’s quote, “We did not find any compelling evidence based upon the tomographic scans that we performed, that the subject oak poses an imminent risk of failure at this time.”

In January, as part of the large tree work done around the garden, significant weight was removed from the tree’s canopy. In early March, we had a McClenahan arborist out to look more closely at the extent of the oak root fungus decay. As expected, he found a decent amount of decay- an estimated 30% of the trunk’s circumference. Our plan was to watch and see how much new growth the tree put out in the spring. If there was not any growth, indicating that the tree had no vigor, we planned to remove the tree. Well… by early April, the tree had put on a burst of new growth. At this time, our intent is to keep the tree for the next few years, but to vigilantly keep our eye on it and be prepared to act if it shows and further signs of decline.

Southern Magnolia Propagation
Another plant of concern discussed in the Garden Happenings in 2014 was our iconic southern magnolia. The cause of the thinning of the crown on the southeast side, at this point, has not been determined. Thus, we have embarked on a two efforts to propagate this historic tree. We have taken traditional cuttings , which are in our propagation house. More noteworthy, are the air-layer cuttings that are presently in-process.

As a tree matures, it typically becomes more and more difficult to propagate. One technique that sometimes proves more successful is starting the rooting process on small branches while still on the plant. Here, moist, sphagnum moss is wrapped around the branch base and is enclosed by a dark plastic wrap. The idea is that the moist, dark conditions mimic the soil environment, which promotes roots to grow. Sometimes the process can take several months, so we are hopeful that this technique will eventually produce rooted cuttings. You can view these in situ cuttings looking into the lower canopy from the north (main house) side of the tree.

Update:  These cuttings have still not begun to initiate roots yet.  We will keep trying and keep our fingers crossed!

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. Brent Heath’s family has long been in the bulb business and because of their lasting relationships with the Dutch growers, Brent and Becky are able to sell top quality bulbs. If Filoli could afford to buy all of their bulbs from this company, we would.

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.

Written by Jim Salyards, Filoli’s Head of Horticulture