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.
Week of May 2 –
May 8, 2016
Although we have pulled the Garden House beds in the Walled Garden, all others, for the most part, have held up well enough for the Flower Show. Next week, we will begin pulling beds in earnest. Look for the forget-me-not beds to go first, and any other locations where the summer annuals are getting close. By the end of May, we should be fully into summer planting.
The Rose Garden is already quite colorful and should be near its peak between now and early May.
Some of the annual beds, particularly the forget-me-nots are waning, but the Sunken Garden, Garage Beds and Chartres are loaded with color.
Our historic, bearded iris border, west of the Yew Allée, is nearing its peak.
The Knot Garden plants are looking nice and full. These should be getting better and better between now and July.
Many of the Perennial Border plants are beginning to bloom. This border typically peaks in late May.
The herbaceous peonies are loaded with flowers. Many plants in the cutting garden are flowering and looking showy.
Several of the succulent containers at the Northwest Terrace are blooming, including the aloes, Echeveria and Beschorneria.
Some of the later spring shrubs and vines have begun to bloom. Two fragrant favorites are the Rhododendron ‘Fragrantissimum’ and the banana shrub, Magnolia figo. Another attractive late-spring shrub are the New Zealand tea trees (Leptospermum scoparium ‘Jubilee’) in the western Lower Balustrade bed.
Perennial border work.
Dutch renovation project.
Rock wall building in the Woodland Garden east of the Tennis Court.
Notes and Common Questions
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.
Related to this, in some of the turf areas where we have reduced or stopped irrigating the past two years, we have decided to bring some of these back for the season owing to the normal rainfall levels we’ve had this year. We have renovated and seeded the following lawns: the two pool allées, the lawn behind the pool pavilion, and the Iron Gate lawn on the north side of the house.
A generous donor has made a promise of an annual gift for the next 10 years in an effort to develop, market, and bring notoriety to our daffodil collection. [Filoli is one of only 25 Daffodil Display Gardens recognized by the American Daffodil Society.] With this first gift, we purchased 2500 top-size ‘Dutch Master’ and ‘Exception’ daffodils for the Daffodil Meadow.
An old friend that left the garden for a few months has returned! The beautifully restored Bourn door, originally from the Bourn’s Webster Street home, was just rehung this week. Greg Clayton, who restored the pocket doors at the Webster Street home, was commissioned to redo our door. It is, in a word, STUNNING!
Drought / El Niño Status
We are cautiously optimistic that this season will bring normal rainfall (33.50” average) or more. (Currently at 34.73”!) At this point, we are planning to continue with some of our drought efforts implemented the past two years, but not necessarily to the same degree. One of our goals this year is to trial some low-water turf varieties to find some alternatives for the future. More on this as we move forward with the project.
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