Find out what’s blooming at Filoli from January to December.
Learn about Filoli plants and gardening practices—ask the experts.
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.
Weeks of October 12 – October 24, 2015
Our bulb order has been delayed in transit and will hopefully arrive by October 15. We will begin planting the Chartres Cathedral Garden this week. The violas for the Chartres are the furthest along of our fall-planted bedding plants, so we will start there. As is often the tradition in the Chartres, we will plant Viola cornuta ‘Jersey Gem’.
Plant of the Week:
On Friday, October 2, with no warning, one of the (two) giant Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea) trees behind the High Place fell. Fortunately, other than taking out part of the back nursery fence, no other damage was sustained, including any other trees damaged. The tree fell from the roots, and there is no apparent cause for the failure. The root mass, though small, looks healthy. We will continue to evaluate the visible parts of the tree, but the cause may remain a mystery.
Update: The tree is still in place, on the ground, as we await our tree company to find time to remove the tree. The tree can be seen at the far south end of the Tree Peony bed, or from the Ivy Yard, which is southwest of the High Place.
The likely cause, as was the cause for Filoli’s original, Bourn-planted stone pines to fail, was the fact that these trees are adapted to grow in poor, dry soils, with no irrigation. Although these trees received no direct irrigation, their roots had access to nearby irrigated beds. With supplemental water, the tree does not produce the extensive root system needed to hold up these very top-heavy trees.
The pine trees behind the high place were the children of the original stone pine trees in the Walled Garden. (These trees were grown from a pinecone given to Mrs. Bourn by Mrs. Crocker, collected along the Appian Way in Italy.) The Walled Garden trees toppled over during fierce winter storms in the early 1980s.
We have dug up seedlings from underneath the remaining tree, and plan to find a more suitable place to plant one of these grandchildren trees.
Although the Sunken Garden and zinnia displays are gone, the begonia, and dahlia beds will stay in place as long as possible until the season closes on October 24.
Many lovely shrubs and perennials brighten the fall garden. The first of the Camellia sasanqua shrubs have started blooming. Japanese anemone and cyclamen are blooming in shady places in the garden. Many of the hydrangea flowers have faded, but new flowers continue to emerge and bring color to these beds.
Our display pots are still looking great, particularly the begonias and SunPatiens. A new crop of mum pots (Argyranthemum frutescens) have been brought down from the greenhouses to the Visitor’s Center steps and the Main Courtyard.
In the Kitchen Garden, the lavender was recently pulled and replaced. The historic Filoli lavender (just Lavandula angustifolia), are typically replaced every four to seven years. The frequency with which they are replaced depends on the wetness of our winters. The drier the conditions, the slower they grow, and the longer the plants remain strong and showy.
The Cutting Garden is full of stunning shows of color and horticultural excellence, including broomcorn plants that are more than twelve feet, the ever-popular swan plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus), and the new African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba).
Dahlias are blooming in the Lower Balustrade Bed adjacent to the Sunken Garden as well as in the Cutting Garden. Late summer is when dahlias are at their best, and our plants are bursting with flowers right now.
The hydrangeas are exploding with color right now. Each of our four patches has many blooms in various shades of white, pink and blue.
Annual beds pulled and prepped for spring planting.
Notes and Common Questions
Drought update, September 2015: Our usage this summer has been approximately 25% below our 2014 usage. We are thrilled that we have been able to keep the garden looking beautiful while doing a great job of conserving water.
Our total rainfall for the 2014-15 season was just over 26”. Although below average (~32”), this is a huge improvement over last year. 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.
See the Filoli Drought page on our website for more information: www.filoli.org/drought/
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: The cuttings were checked recently and HAVE begun to produce root initials! (Initials are small, pre-root growths emerging from the bark.) We are excited that this technique does seem to be working for us. We have decided to try the method on several other branches so that perhaps we can propagate several trees for the future.
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