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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.

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.

sunkengardenThe annual phlox (Phlox drummondii 'Fedco Mix') in the Chartres Cathedral Window Garden has come alive the past couple weeks.

hydrangeaAnother striking phlox, perennial phlox (Phlox paniculata 'Mount Fujiyama'), gets a lot of attention in the Service Courtyard bed each summer.

petuniasThe Sunken Garden is bursting with vibrant colors this week.

bellbedsAn astounding variety of colors, shapes and textures make for a bountiful Cutting Garden.

fruitOur drought tolerant turf trial process continues to go well, although it will probably be another year before we have made our final evaluations.

fruitOur golden black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia') has put on tremendous growth the two years since it was planted, and can now be easily be seen from the Sunken Garden.

Garden Happenings
Week of July 25-31, 2016

New Plantings:
All of the summer beds have been planted and beginning to fill in nicely.  For a preview to the Summer 2016 Display, go to the link:

Summer Sculpture Exhibit:
Our third annual summer sculpture exhibit is up around the garden. Look for blown glass pieces by Cristy Alyosi and Scott Graham; metal sculpture by Anna Martin, Patricia Vader and Alex Nolan-Justin Grant; concrete and clay pieces by David Putnam and John Toki; and two, mixed metal and glass pieces by Rik Ritchey.

Plant Highlights:

Many of the summer beds have filled in quite nicely over the past few weeks. The Sunken Garden is quite colorful with the orange zinnias, blue Ageratum, purple salvia, violet spider flower (Cleome), and blue pots of petunias. In the Garden House Beds, the Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’ is already quite stunning. And the recent warm weather has pushed along the phlox in the Chartres resulting in a very colorful display. It will still be several weeks until the begonia beds start having their moments of glory.

One of the more unusual beds for summer is the Bell Beds, planted in the style of a Victory Garden. Though intended to be highly ornamental, the bed is planted with tall, ornamental, purple peppers, grey ‘Lacinato’ kale, and red and green savoy cabbages.

The summer display pots are out in many of the sunny locations throughout the garden including pots of geraniums, petunias, and zinnias.

The Knot Gardens are still looking nice. All the various herbs and perennials are blooming and/or are looking quite lush.

Although the initial flush of late spring color has faded from the Perennial Border, many of the later season, or season-long bloomers are still very showy.

The Rose Garden is still blooming with hundreds of shrubs in flower.

Many plants in the cutting garden are flowering and looking very showy. A number of the dahlias have begun blooming.

The Kitchen Garden has filled in nicely with the array of vegetables, herbs, fruits (strawberries) and flowers. Continue to watch this bed through the season as the veggies start producing peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, etc.

Several summer vines around the garden are blooming, many in the Sunken Garden area: trumpet vine (Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’), Chilean bellflower (Lapageria rosea ‘Alba), Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla laxa), and purple clematis (Clematis ‘Jackmanii’).

Perhaps it was our wet winter, but the hydrangeas are laden with blooms this year!

The stone fruit in the Fruit Garden (western Panel Garden), have very nice crops of fruit this year. In fact, we harvested peaches this year and used them to make Filoli peach jam for the Garden Shop. This should be available later this summer.

And speaking of fruit, we have already begun harvesting the early apples this year: ‘Gravenstein’, ‘Pink Pearl’, ‘Wolf River’ and others. In the next couple weeks, we’ll be sending up the first load of apples to be made into apple butter. In addition to some of the single-variety butters we’ll do this year, we will be doing mixes of early, mid, and late season blends. These will be fun to compare at the Autumn Festival and Holiday Traditions.

Tending to summer annual beds.
Summer pruning of spring-flowering shrubs.
Rough-cut mowing roadsides around the property.
English laurel hedge project.

Notes and Common Questions

New (2016) Plantings
During the past two drought years, we have refrained from planting woody plants in the garden. This year, hopeful that El Niño will at least bring normal rain, we have started to do some planting. Over thirty new roses have been either donated, by Star Roses, or purchased from Edmunds’ Roses for the Rose Garden and Chartres. Some of the new roses in the Rose Garden include ‘Grande Dame’, ‘St Patrick’, ‘Elina’, ‘Dee-Lish’, ‘Icecap’ and ‘Betty White’.

We also plan to fill some of the openings in the Gentlemen’s orchard that have occurred the past two years due to loss from fireblight and other causes. Because we waited to see how wet the winter turned out, we missed the opportunity to buy more than a few trees because many of the growers were sold out. This fall we will put in a bigger order and plant several trees next winter.

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.

Drought / El Niño Status
With a final measurement of over 36” of rain for the 2015-16 season, which is above the seasonal average of 33.5”, we have made the call to maintain our irrigation as we have typically done in a normal rainfall year. Therefore, all the lawns will be irrigated at their normal rates. Where we will reduce irrigation rates this year somewhat are some of our woody shrub plantings. We won’t return to the 100% “thrive” mode of pre-2014, but will irrigate above the 40% reduction of the past two “survive” years.

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