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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.

Magnolia CylindricaMany of the wisteria are still blooming. The Japanese wisteria are looking particularly stunning.

Taiwan cherryThe rhododendrons near the Wedding Place are picture perfect this week.

Tulip MixtureBe sure to stroll around the tree peonies and look at the many different varieties, like ‘Souvenir Maxim de Cornu’.

Narcissus LorikeetSome of the roses are just loaded with buds, like ‘Johann Strauss’.

Garden Happenings
Week of April 13 – April 19, 2015

New Plantings:
Replacement planting in annual beds as needed; additions to cutting garden beds as plants are ready. Garden House is changing from spring bulb display to tropical plants.

Plant Highlights:

There is still tremendous spring color in the garden, although, just a few tulips and daffodils remain.  Roses, spring flowering trees and shrubs, and spring annuals are all quite beautiful.

The tulips in the Sunken Garden are past peak, but there are still quite a few flowers.

Chinese fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus) above the Sunken Garden is at its peak.

Weeping cherries are blooming. 

The (non-flowering) deciduous trees in the garden are waking up.  The Japanese maples, northern red oak, valley oak and copper beech all have vibrant new leaves stretching and growing.

Many beautiful Camellias are still blooming, particularly the Reticulatas.  Quite a few Japonicas still have lovely blooms as well.

The Woodland Garden is particularly beautiful with flowering dogwoods and many azaleas in full bloom.

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

Wisteria vines are blooming and looking gorgeous!  The Japanese wisteria are particularly beautiful throughout the garden.

A few of the 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 is beginning to bloom.

The lilacs along the Yew Allée are still blooming.  Be sure to stick your nose in one truss or another.

The chartreus seed heads on the Camperdown Elm are covering the tree. 

The annual beds are showing quite a bit of color with these warm days.  Violas, forget-me-nots and the catchfly (Silene dioica) in the Sunken Garden have lots of flowers.  ‘Jersey Jem’ violas in the Chartres really leaped up after our recent rain.

Various mid-spring-blooming shrubs are in bloom including the tea tree (Leptospermum) and cardinal shrub (Weigela florida).

Many roses in the Rose Garden are full of buds and beginning to flower.  The Rose Garden will probably peak at the end of April at this rate.

Many of the tree peonies are flowering!  The plants seem healthy this year due to the drier weather.   Herbaceous peonies have just begun to bloom.

Spring mowing in the Gentleman’s orchard and beyond; transplanting summer annuals in the greenhouses. 

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.

Historic Cycad Status
The December 2013 (a low of 16°) freeze scared many of us because of the immediate impact it had on many plants. Throughout the garden, various trees, shrubs, vines and annuals were affected. Some of our citrus was particularly hit hard, as were the forget-me-nots in many of the beds. In the end, all of the plants survived and most had rebounded by spring.

The one plant of particular concern was the historic cycad (Lepidozamia peroffskyana) that had been in the Woodland Garden. All of the frond-like leaves turned black after the hard frosts. Soon thereafter, we made the decision to dig up the plant, plant into a large terra cotta pot, and keep it in one of our greenhouses. Within in a month, the plant had sent out a new whorl of leaves and seemed very happy during the remainder of the year. In fact, by late 2014, the cycad produced a reproductive “cone”, that is still growing and developing.

Cycads are in the gymnosperm group of plants and are related to the conifers (pine, redwood, etc.) and the ginkgo. They are a more primitive and thus their reproductive structure is cone-like, but not the more evolutionarily-advanced cone of the pines. The unusual thing about cycads is that they are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants. (This trait is found in other plants, including some flowering plants.)  We will have to wait until our “cone” has matured before we know what sex our plant is, but by the clues of its shape and position on the plant point to it being male.

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