We have been warned for three weeks that we will be doing pruning demonstrations RAIN OR SHINE, no matter how cold, so we all came prepared for the worst. But already the sun seemed visibly much higher, the angle of light greater, as I drove in. The smell of the breeze through an open window somewhere made it very tough to sit still through a long lecture on fruit tree diseases and production pruning methods. It was so gorgeous, a few of us snuck out onto the balcony of Mrs. Roth’s dressing room, adjacent to the classroom, to soak up the sunshine during our lunch break.
Finally, after learning everything I’d ever wanted to know–and quite a bit more–about coddling moth and peach tree borers, we finally got to walk out in the gardens! This private, back stage pass to Filoli before opening weekend was such a pleasure. It’s lovely to see a formal garden in all it’s obsessively clipped splendor, but to me the real interest lies in the *why* and *how* people maintain it that way. I mean, you have to be incredibly OCD to manage a garden with 100-year-old wisterias and miles of boxwood for “sameness” year after year. Although, as Alex Fernandez, the garden manager noted, “it’s the “wild” naturalistic areas that are the most challenging to maintain.”
Personally, I prefer a looser, more naturalistic approach, but I can only admire the horticultural knowledge and skill that goes into managing this historic garden with the long-term mindset of maintaining the design for generations to come.
Next week we’ll be doing some hands-on pruning ourselves, can’t wait!
I smell SPRING!!! I want to be outside!!!
View of the east wing patio. I’m having lunch in Mrs. Roth’s dressing room.
View out to the formal gardens from the roof patio outside of Mrs. Roth’s dressing room.
The volunteers gather for pruning demonstrations after lunch.
Alex Fernandez, the Garden Manager (center left), gives a brief lecture on pruning methods.
View of the front of the house, with formal clipped hedges.
Ever wonder if it’s possible for juniper to look good? Here’s how: Layered pruning.
Filoli before the crowds: pots just beginning to bloom.
Pots are just being set out in preparation for the gardens to open next weekend.
One of the horticulturalists demonstrates some pruning methods for training wisteria.
Demonstrating how to properly layer wisteria.
Demonstrating how to train for hand-shaped clusters that allow the blooms to dangle fully.
Removing all suckers from the root stock to ensure maximum bloom and healthy structure.
Now that’s a knife edge. They must shear with a level and tape measure!
Some awesome boxwood topiary balls in the panel gardens.
Formal edges around the fountain garden.
The orangery building is my favorite.
Filoli grows all of its annual color on-site. There is a horticulturalist who specializes just in propagating, managing the Filoli greenhouse.
If you want to keep your pittosporum hedge to a specific size, this is what it should look like right now, bald edges included.
We meet the horticulturalist who cares for the panel gardens.
I LOVE camellias, and Filoli has some amazing specimens. This camellia tree is about 20′ tall.
Proper pruning of hydrangeas. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of Oakleaf Hydrangeas, but we covered those, too.
You didn’t really think Filoli looked perfect all the time, did you?
Time to keep walking, this time from the panel gardens to the kitchen gardens.
Fruit trees along the perennial border.
Don’t try this at home.
The wired gardens.
These color beds are maintained primarily for all the flower-arranging and botanical art classes taught at Filoli.
Wired gardens keep birds out of the berries.
This is the backside of the espalier fruit walk, which is absolutely amazing.
A horticulturist demonstrates methods for climbing roses. Lots of talk about basal breaks and bud scars. Yay!
Another view of the orangery.
The gardening staff is hard at work getting all the annual color planted in the bulb beds.