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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.
Week of October 24 – October 30, 2016
The Fall Garden:
In this last week that the garden is open, many of the trees, shrubs, vines and perennials are showing autumn color. Mid-fall is always a lovely time to visit the garden as there is a stillness and quietness as the plants are approaching dormancy. However, there is also a lot of work happening in the garden as we plant for the spring display. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the garden one last time before we close out the year.
This week we will pulling more of the summer beds and planting the Spring 2017 display. Our bulb orders arrived earlier this month, and we’ve already planted tulips in the Sundial and Garden House Beds, and next will start planting in the Sunken Garden.
The summer display is one of the best in terms of longevity in recent memory: very few annuals have faded or succumbed to late summer diseases as has often been the case in the past. The Sunken annuals are still very showy. The begonias throughout the garden are also in peak bloom, and will continue to get better throughout the remainder of the season.
The stunning light and dark blue salvias (gentian sage: Salvia patens ‘Patio Sky Blue’ and ‘Patio Deep Blue’) in the Garage Beds are in full bloom. The display is quite striking, with the two lovely shades of blue.
The summer display pots are out in all locations throughout the garden including pots of geraniums, petunias, impatiens and begonias.
Autumn is definitely in the air! Some of the early-to-turn trees, particularly the peaches and nectarines in the Panel Garden, are beginning to show fall color. There are autumn bloomers that are also in flower, like the Japanese anemone, the silver lace vine (Fallopia aubertii) and Cyclamen hederifolium.
Autumn is also the time of year that some of the woody plants known for their fall fruits are at their showiest, like the dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum var. nana), English hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), and English holly.
The Rose Garden is lovely and still has loads of flowering shrubs.
One of the most exciting displays in the late season garden is the exotic love vine growing on the Cutting Garden cages. Also known as Spanish flag or fire cracker vine (Ipomoea x multifida, formerly Mina lobata), is vibrant in color, and alive with the likes of bees, butterflies and humming birds.
Another showy harbinger of fall are the Sasanqua camellias, which have begun flowering behind the garden shop, in the Main Courtyard, and in the Walled Garden.
The fall crops, in particular, in the Kitchen Garden, are looking lush and showy.
The hydrangea beds are all in full bloom and full of color.
Thus far, we have sent several loads of fruit to Hurley Farms kitchens to be made into jam and butters. These are available in the shop right now! In addition to some of the single-variety butters we’ll do this year, including Gravenstein and Jonathan apples and Bartlett and Comice pears, we will be doing mixes of early, mid, and late season blends along with a perennial border blend. These will be fun to compare at Holiday Traditions.
Transitioning beds from summer to spring displays.
Pollarding plane trees.
Notes and Common Questions
The renovation of the Dutch Garden began last fall with pulling the four inner beds of the garden, redoing the alignment of the main paths, installing new header board, and replanting the boxwood hedge. This spring, the remaining beds were removed and new header and boxwood was installed. We then embarked on renovating the tawhiwhi (Pittosporum tenuifolium) hedge.
Because the Dutch Garden began as a sunny garden room, the tawhiwhi was a good choice for a tall hedge species that enclosed this garden room. Over the past fifty years, as the oak, camellias, and New Zealand beech trees have matured, sections of the hedge have not done as well, and in places, the boxwood has done much better. Additionally, in the sunny (eastern) sections, the hedge became overgrown and out of scale. To bring all of the sections into scale, the eastern and southern sections of the hedge were renovated. The hope was that the tawhiwhi would sprout well and then could be retrained into the proper size and scale.
Unfortunately, only some of the plants sprouted well from these cuts. Therefore, we have cut most of the east side shrubs to the ground. We are in the midst of propagating new plants from cuttings taken from the plants that have sprouted. Later this year we will be grinding out the stumps of the old plants, and will eventually be planting new tawhiwhi plants to replace the original ones. It will take several years until the enclosing hedge is reestablished, but it will hopefully last well into the 22nd century doing just that.
Turf and Turf Trials
Recently, the Garden Information Docents were asked about the turf grass varieties that Filoli uses. Historically, we have used four different types: perennial rye, creeping red fescue (CRF), tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. Typically, the Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue were used as individual varieties in specific applications. The perennial rye and CRF were mixed and used in many locations around the garden. The advantage of this mix was that the perennial rye grows well in sunnier and drier microclimates, and the CRF in the shadier and moister areas.
The past few years, we have been using a pre-mixed blend from Pacific Coast Seed called ‘Pacific Showcase’. This mix is made up of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial rye and fine fescue. Again, this blend works well for the microclimates found around the garden, i.e., the cooler, coastal area of northern California.
After a few years of below average rainfall, we have decided we need to educate ourselves on some of turf varieties that might grow well for us with less water. In the North Lawn, one we have let go completely dry the past two years, we have sown or planted 10’ x 12’ blocks for a formal turf trial. The twelve species and blends that we 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 will have corresponding signs 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 foot traffic. For example, it would be ideal to find a replacement for the turf running down the Yew Allée that gives the green color, but doesn’t require as much water or needs to be mowed weekly. Look back over the course of the summer and coming year for our evaluation of these varieties.
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 (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.
Written by Jim Salyards, Filoli’s Head of Horticulture