I’ve been to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California so many times that I’ve lost count. But somehow I’ve never visited the gardens in the summer. Hard to believe, even for me. I usually stop by Filoli Gardens in the spring for their Daffodil Daydreams Extravaganza, or in early summer around May for a Mother’s Day girls afternoon out, or to attend one of their classes on watercolor painting.
I’ve never gone to Filoli Gardens in the peek of summer – i.e. July. I’ve assumed all the flowers are frying in the summer-time heat, so why bother going? But this year I had an opportunity to stop by this beautiful garden with my Uncle Chary and his niece Geetha and husband Sampath who were visiting from Mumbai, India.
Who knew Filoli Gardens could be just as spectacular in the summer as at other times of the year? At least not I. The garden is amazing in the summer!
History of Filoli Gardens
Before I give you a tour of the gardens, let me give you a brief history of Filoli Gardens.
The Bourn Family: The Filoli estate and gardens was built by Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II who bought a 654-acre property south of San Francisco after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake demolished the city.
The Bourns made their wealth in mining during the railroad, mining, mercantile, banking boom of what is known as America’s Gilded Age. They owned the largest hard-rock mining operation in California, which is now the Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley, California. They also owned the Spring Valley Water Company and its Crystal Springs Reservoir that is now owned by the San Francisco Water Department.
Their main home in Woodside was built between 1915-1917, while the formal gardens were designed and built between 1917 and 1929. The gardens are considered to be a Renaissance-style garden that highlights California’s surrounding natural beauty.
The Roth Family: With the death of Mr. and Mrs. Bourn in 1936, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, owners of the Matson Navigation Company, bought the Filoli estate. William P. Roth succeeded his father Captain Matson as company President of the shipping line his father founded. Captain Matson came from Sweden as an orphaned teenager and began a long association with Hawaii in 1882 by sailing his three-mast sailing ship to Hilo from San Francisco. He then started The Matson Navigation Company that sailed some of the first tourist cruises to the islands of Hawaii where Captain Matson also built hotels including the Royal Hawaiian. The Matsons also pioneered nautical innovations like cold storage and electric lights.
Mrs. Roth was a noted horticulturist who enjoyed the gardens at Filoli and brought worldwide recognition to the gardens. The Roths maintained the Filoli estate and surrounding gardens as much as possible and when Mrs. Roth died in 1975 she donated the estate, gardens, and surrounding acres to the National Trust for Historic Preservation so that future generations could enjoy the garden’s beauty. Today, 1,000 volunteers maintain the estate and gardens.
How the name Filoli came about.
I always wondered why the property was named Filoli when the two families who owned the property were the Bourn Family and the Roth Family. I finally read the Filoli brochure and found out that Mr. Bourn came up with the name Filoli from his philosophy on life. He combined the first two letters of his life moto to create the acronym Filoli: “FIght for a just cause; LOve your fellow man; LIve a good life.” – FILOLI
Here is a look at this spectacular garden gem in the summer.
Admission and Visitor Center:
Garden Gift Shop
The Sunken Garden
The Garden House
The Walled Garden
Pear Allee: OMG there were over 30 pear trees each dripping with over 500 pears!
The Rose Garden
Heather and Lavender Garden
Stopped at the Pavilion for a pre-packed picnic lunch
Last stop was the charming cafe at Filoli Gardens for afternoon coffee before heading home.
We spent three hours exploring this lovely garden on a cool and warm sunny afternoon. We could have spent more time but had to leave to pick up the twins from summer school. This was a perfect afternoon excursion to show the beauty the Bay Area has to offer to my out of town guests from Mumbai, India.
Filoli Gardens is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am – 3:30pm. For more information and details on Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California check out their web site. Filoli Gardens