As I’ve travelled more and more trails, I’ve come to realize that just walking the same ole’ trails wasn’t really cutting it for me anymore. As I continue to cross off more and more trails in the bay area, I decided I would branch out “off trail” and visit Filoli, a historic site open to the public with some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve seen outside of Italy.
Now that I always have Eleanor with me on my hikes I’m always pointing out the different trees and flowers we see along the way and I realized that I don’t know what most of them are besides, “oak tree” and “redwood.” Ashamed with my lack of knowledge of California native plants, I decided that plant identification would be my new trail hobby so I ordered myself this handy-dandy pocket guide.
I’ve since become obsesses with wildflower identification and couldn’t wait to get over to Filoli to capture some of the flowers there.
A short history of Filoli:
After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, several wealthy families moved down to the peninsula and built large estates. Filoli is the last of these estates remaining today with all 654 of its original acres. Built by Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II and later sold to Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, the estate was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975 by Mrs. Roth. Mr. Bourn created the name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” The estate has been meticulously maintained and is now open to the public.
The cost to visit is $20 per adult. You can join a docent led tour or explore the grounds yourself. They offer docent led hikes but do not allow hikers to explore the estate’s trails on their own, which is unfortunate. I hadn’t yet wanted to visit knowing that I could not hike here but I was persuaded by the pocket guide, it promised it would satisfy my wildflower obsession and at the very least it would make for some cute baby photos.
Eleanor and I decided to explore the gardens first. I did not know what to expect but the moment I walked in, the gardens were absolutely breathtaking. Perfectly maintained, beautiful flowers of varying colors everywhere, perfectly green grass, flowing fountains, GARDEN GOALS. It instantly brought back memories of the beautiful gardens of Versailles or the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. It was much larger than expected with a huge rose garden, fruit garden, daffodil meadow, and more. I couldn’t put my camera down. It was garden heaven!
A monarch butterfly sits atop an orange zinnia
Gate leading from sunken garden to chartres garden
Tree covered entry to the Cutting garden
“The high place”
Apples growing in Yew Allee
Hydrangeas on the path to the Woodland garden
Blood orange growing near the swimming pool
Eleanor under an arch of Sally Holmes roses
I could have walked around this garden, smelling the flowers, taking pictures of bees and butterflies all day, but the sun began to beat down on us and things were getting a little sweaty in the Ergo Baby. We headed towards the house for a short self-tour, to escape the heat.
The house is beautiful as well and the interior was fit for royalty. Eleanor and I walked through the grand rooms admiring the period appropriate furniture and extravagant gowns on display. I joked with Eleanor that we are moving in but then I remembered it is probably haunted so, we better not. A live piano player serenaded guests in the ballroom, a nice touch.
Kitchen, with head chef and maids’ clothing on display
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I couldn’t stay as long as I would have liked as Eleanor was starting to get fussy so we headed back outside. We browsed the gift shop and small nursery for a bit and then headed home.
I left feeling so inspired by the beauty of Filoli’s gardens. I can’t hardly wait to get started on my own flower garden, although with fall upon us, it’s not great timing. I’ll be dreaming of Filoli all winter until the blooms of next spring arrive.
Where are your favorite places to nerd out over wildflowers? Please share in the comments!