Filoli: A well timed visit.
Timing is everything. In gardening, many activities rely on proper timing. Planting seeds of seasonal crops, pruning, pest and disease control are a few activities, which require proper timing.
The same could be said of planning garden visits. Many gardens around the country have specific collections or themes, which are best, viewed at certain seasons. Others are grand in any season. Filoli is both. A grand and beautiful estate, with seasonal change outs, that add to the charm and drama. Our March 27th 2011 visit could not have been better timed to catch the exuberance of spring.
Filoli, a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation located 30 miles south of San Francisco, is the last remaining intact country estate of the San Francisco area’s Golden Age. The estate is situated on 654 acres with 16 acres of formal gardens surrounding the mansion. Many of San Francisco’s wealthiest citizens built grand estates south of the city after the 1906 earthquake.
William Bowers Bourn II, heir to the Empire Mine gold fortune, began construction of Filoli in 1915. Nearly a century later, more than 100,000 visitors who visit the estate each year would probably affirm his feeling that the estate would be “interesting a few hundred years from now.”
Mr. and Mrs. William Roth purchase Filoli in 1937. Under their care, the gardens flourished and gained worldwide recognition. Mrs. Roth lived on the estate until 1975 at which time she donated the Mansion and 125 acres to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The remaining property was given to the Filoli Center.
Filoli has the charm and feel of an English estate. Walled gardens, Croquet lawns, alleys, sunken gardens, gentleman’s orchard, Irish yew hedges and pollarded London plane trees are just a few of the features. The garden rooms have such separation visually that each room you enter is a surprise.
The seasonal changes to the gardens are quite dramatic. Our visit coincided with peak tulip bloom. Beds and pots of tulips under-planted with beautiful hardy annuals. The effect was stunning.
My trip to the West Coast was not planned around catching the tulips blooming at Filoli. I wasn’t even sure we would visit the estate. It was one item on a long list of possibilities. Luckily we did make the trip and we were rewarded with a lovely garden tour full of the exuberance of spring.
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