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What's Blooming

More Information
baby blue eyes
Drought Response

Filoli’s planned water conservation measures and recommendations.

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.

Flower Show

Treat your mom to this delightful show — Broadway in Bloom.

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.

All photos taken Monday, April 21, 2014.potted Hyacinths

Camas flowers on the bulb slope with lilac blooming in the background.

potted Hyacinths

Columbine “Sterling Blue” in the Panel Garden.


Salsify flower and seed head.

Garden Happenings
Week of April 21-27, 2014

New Plantings:
There are no new plantings in the garden this week beyond additions to the Cutting Garden and a few replacements in the annual beds. Some spring beds may be pulled in the next or two to help clean up the garden for the Flower Show. Ideally, these beds that are pulled will be replanted before the show, but this will depend on time and whether the summer plants are ready to install. There is always a time during the end of many spring display when we must decide whether a bed is showy enough with the plants or it is better to pull and have empty. Look for the Summer Display list to be added to the resource pages on the Filoli website the week of the Flower Show.

Plant of the Week:
Although much of the garden at Filoli is formal and intricately designed, there are many unplanned, ephemeral components of the seasonal display that add charm to the garden. Some of these plants were originally planted in one place and have slowed increased and spread to other places. There are native plants and even showy “weeds” that have been encouraged and add a bit of color to a corner of the garden each year. It has been said that the English weigh whether a person is a good gardener by how well he or she can distinguish between weed seedlings and the seedlings of ornamental plants. Here are a few of these waifs that are giving a show in the garden right now.

There are camas bulbs (Camissia cultivar) in various patches in the Panel Garden. Dave Lesser, lead horticulturist in the PG, claims that there was small patch of these at the south end of the Garden Orchard/ Daffodil Field when he began working here nearly thirty years ago. Since then, they have spread, presumably by seed, and now can be found all around the Orchard and Yew Allee. There is an abundance of flowers this year- the most we’ve seen in years past. Camas form tall spikes of lavender flowers in mid-spring. They follow the English and Spanish bluebells in many of the same locations. Originally native to the western US, they were bred by bulb breeders to create taller and more colorful flowers. Native people harvested, ate and bartered with the prized bulbs. The death camas, a related native bulb, can be found in the woods around Filoli.

The dark blue/ purple columbine that flowers each spring throughout the garden is known as “Sterling Blue.”   From the garden of Wallace Sterling, the first governing board president at Filoli, this columbine has successfully reproduced over the past thirty-plus years. We have sometimes collected seed and used this plant in spring displays or sold it in the garden shop. A robust variety of columbine, it sometimes forms massive plants with stems over three feet tall.

Sometimes considered a weed in a garden, but also cultivated commercially, oyster plant, or salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) has formed a large patch on the western edge of the Panel Gardens. It is possible that the plant was originally cultivated in one of Filoli’s vegetable gardens, but also is known to be a weed in the cultivation of other plants. The three to four foot plants have showy mauve flowers followed by oversized dandelion-like seed plumes. The flowers open during the sunny part of the day and then close when the sun passes. It is the fleshy root of salsify that is cooked and eaten.

Plant Highlights:

Filoli has over fifty wisteria specimens throughout the garden!  A number of the plants are still blooming this week, including two Japanese (W. sinensis) varieties, the double, purple variety ‘Violacea Plena’ and pink ‘Rosea’.

The Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus) is still a puff of white flowers.

Many of the beautiful flowering trees, shrubs and vines are in the midst of their spring bloom. The tree peonies are still looking great. The lilac shrubs in the Panel Garden are still blooming. The Gold of Ophir (‘Fortune’s Double Yellow’) roses are at their peak in the western balustrade and Service Courtyard.

Azaleas and Rhododendrons are blooming throughout the Woodland and Walled Gardens. The corridor from the Chartres to the Wedding Place is a riot of pink, carmine, coral, red, cream and white. The exotically fragrant R. fragrantissimum, on the wall east of the Garden House, is blooming. We’ve recently planted several plants of this species on the north side of the Dining Room Terrace. The ‘Ward’s Ruby’ and ‘Snowbird’ azaleas still have some blooms in the Lower Balustrade bed.

Many of the succulent plants at on the Northwest Terrace have begun to bloom. Fan aloe (Aloe pilicatilis) and Mexican gem (Echeveria elegans) are in bloom and Cotyledon orbiculata is full of buds. The two Mexican lily (Beschorneria yuccoides) plants have 4’ stalks arising from the rosette of leathery leaves. These are a hummingbird favorite and should continue blooming the next month or two.

The historic iris border along the west side of the main Yew Allée is stunning right now!  The tall, white ‘Purissima’, which grows in between the other varieties, is at its peak. Many of the others are flowering or are in bud. Be sure to take a stroll through this off-the-beaten-track part of the Panel Garden.

The Sunken Garden is full of color with the blue pansies, blue and white columbine, yellow Siberian wallflower, pink catchfly, and mauve, rose, cream and white foxgloves. The ‘Jersey Jem’ violas are flowering away in the Chartres and Garage Beds. The columbine mix in the Bell Beds is just beginning to flower. And finally, our spring workhorse, the pale blue forget-me-nots, is spectacular as always!

Several roses have begun to bloom in the Rose Garden and Chartres Cathedral Window garden. Typically the roses are at their best around Mother’s Day, but this year, should be fantastic by the end of the month.

Notes and Common Questions

  • Drought
    The Filoli drought page has been added to our website (http://www.filoli.org/drought/). Titled, Filoli’s Drought Response, the page details the measures we plan to undertake this spring, summer and fall to do our part in reducing garden water consumption. Here, one can learn about Filoli’s water resources and irrigation systems. We recommend a number of things you can do in your garden to get though this uncommonly dry summer and come out the other end with your garden in decent shape. A list of recent online articles and state agency websites are provided for additional information. We plan to continue adding the latest information to the page so that we can keep everyone current with what is happening in the garden and in the community around us.

    Chilean Myrtle Trees
    We removed our last remaining Chilean myrtle trees (Luma apiculata) from the garden last week. This original garden feature has always stood at the north end of the garden. The original tree succumbed to a root rot (Phytophthora sp.) of some kind in the late 1990s, and the now second-generation stand seems to be infected by a new fungal disease (Mycosphaerella sp.), which is also affecting our native manzanitas. We are growing a third generation of seedlings in the nursery and hope to plant these in the next few years.

    Creatures in the Pond
    A question we get from visitors is in regard the creatures living in the Sunken Garden pond. One year-round inhabitant are the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), the only fish presently living in our ponds. These guppy-like fish eat many types of aquatic insects, but are marvelous at consuming mosquito larvae. Many counties in California have Mosquito Abatement programs and provide these fish at no cost to homeowners with garden ponds. Filoli received its fish many years ago and they continue to reproduce very successfully. Each time we clean one of our ponds, the mosquitofish are caught and released afterward.


Written by Jim Salyards, Filoli's Manager of Horticultural Collections and Education, and Internship Program Coordinator