Filoli has become one of my favorite gardens to visit. A great day trip, it’s about 30 miles south of San Francisco and a little over an hour and a half drive from Davis. Originally built as a country estate for wealthy San Franciscans Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourne, the gardens were built just after the house, between 1917 and 1929. After they died in 1936 the 654 acre estate was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth. During their ownership the gardens gained worldwide recognition. Today the Filoli Center operates the estate as a California State Historic Landmark and it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
The gardens at Filoli change with the seasons and each time I visit I see something else to love. My most recent visit was in mid-October, timed to catch the gardens right before they close for the winter.
The first things that caught my eye this time were the Twinny Yellow Shades dwarf snapdragons in containers with blue lobelia and Victoria Blue salvia. The climate at Filoli is not the same as Davis, of course, but we can certainly grow this combination. I have already ordered seeds with hopes of replicating this look!
These pots were arranged near the pool in the Sunken Garden; nearby a hummingbird sipped at the edge of a small fountain.
The pool in the Sunken Garden is one of the first things seen by visitors after passing through the service courtyard that serves as the entrance to the gardens. The service courtyard also houses a nursery selling many of the plants that grow on the grounds and the adjacent former garage is now a gift shop with books, clothing, kitchen goods, Filoli branded items, and a nice selection of garden related decorative items and tools.
Fruit is harvested here from more than 1200 trees, some original and others planted to replace original trees according to the requirement that they have been available during the time the estate was privately owned. Filoli has the largest private collection of fruit trees in America including common and uncommon varieties of apples, pears, loquats and unusual things like pawpaws. Some of the fruit is given to staff and volunteers, some is used for the Autumn Festival and some is donated to food banks. We took time to eat in the Cafe at Filoli where you can taste some of the fruit grown here and where they have wonderful sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts.
The rose garden with many varieties, the woodland garden with its camellias, hellebores, ferns and cyclamen, a cutting garden where flowers are grown specifically for bouquets in the house and other hidden treasures can be viewed as you wander the many paths and imagine what it must have been like to live in such a beautiful place. We finished our trip by touring the house. With it’s antiques, ballroom and even a walk-in safe for the silver in the butler’s pantry it is another interesting look into the lives of the families who once owned this estate.
Filoli is now closed to visitors until February when they will reopen and you might get to see something like this: