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California Gardens 2017: Filoli, the Garden


Clematis on the Southwest Terrace

Since 1975, Filoli, house and garden, has been owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is open to the public. Magnificent and varied gardens occupy 16 acres of the estate. From the Filoli website, “Exquisitely beautiful and ever-changing, the gardens of Filoli offer visitors the chance to learn about the estate's renowned horticulture practices or to simply enjoy the serenity for which they were designed.”

Entering through the reception building, the door in the direction of house and garden leads to a small patio. Occupying the far end of the patio, one has no choice but to meet and admire Percy the Peacock, a bird with a job. I had never seen such a well-groomed bird, not a feather out of place and it was clear he took his post seriously. In the few minutes I stood near him he continued a slow stately turn, seemingly well aware of his beauty from every angle and making sure each of us had ample time to appreciate and photograph, remarkable.

Meet Percy, everyone does.


I tore myself away from Percy and turned right onto a wide drive, then a left into an allée of plane trees that leads first to a courtyard and, finally, into the garden.


The first thing that catches the eye on passing through the wall that divides the garden from the nursery and gift shop, is the Garden House overlooking the sunken garden. My very favorite component of this complex landscape, it evokes a mood from outside and inside that most gardens aren’t fortunate enough to possess. If I could, I’d banish all visitors from Filoli and this is where I’d live.

The Garden House


The gardeners were out in force, clipping back the spring growth and restoring the crisp shapes of hedges and topiary, others planting annuals in the flower beds. I walked through the walled garden with fruit trees, then the kitchen garden.


Orchards & Vegetables


The Knot Garden


Perennial Borders


The Woodland Garden


Blooms everywhere, on steps...


...and in beds beside the Southwest Terrace.

I made a final circuit past the lawn and patio adjacent to the house and, with a last glance toward the Garden House, reluctantly went on my way, happy I’d had this opportunity to revisit an extraordinary piece of Northern California architectural and garden history.


For more history and visitor information, visit the Filoli website:


From last week, Filoli, the House.


More Travel for Garden Lovers.



Next week, a California garden new to me,
The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek.




Others of PortMoresby's contributions here.




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