Gardening at Filoli

Filoli stands for “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” Credo of Mr. Bourn, original owner and builder of Filoli.

Filoli stands for “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” Credo of Mr. Bourn, original owner and builder of Filoli.


Gardening at Filoli

Interview with Jim Salyards, head of horticulture

Filoli flowers

Download these free resources to get your garden going!

• Gardening Resource List - favorite tools, books and gardens
• Jim’s Pear Tart Recipe
• The “Mighty Fine Nine” can’t fail plants anyone can grow

This list covers Jim’s favorite sources for books, plants and tulip bulbs as well as essential equipment he uses to create and maintain these amazing gardens. It also lists his favorite gardens to visit in the U.S. along with links to their websites. Plus, Jim’s yummy pear-chocolate frangipane tart! I’ve also included a list of easy perennial plants that anyone can grow with success.

    The sunken garden and reflecting pool is one of the most striking features at Filoli.


    Jim selects and plants tens of thousands of tulips each year, and the double-flowered, pink Angelique (above) is one of his favorites.


    These glass sculptures were part of a temporary art exhibit in the sunken garden.

    tulips at filoli

    Jim says that in order to keep the gardens going strong, Filoli has interns that come and help out. These interns come from schools such as UC Davis, Cal Poly, Foothill Junior College, San Francisco City College, Rutgers, Ohio State, University of Wisconsin, North Carolina State and University of Florida.

    He favors the English roses bred by David Austin, and his absolute favorite is Carding Mill. The picture below is from Wayside Gardens website. And the more orange-colored one below that is from White Flower Farms website. The amount of pink or apricot will depend on your weather. Both web sites are excellent for buying roses.

    CardingMillrose at WaysideGardens
    Carding Mill Rose from WhiteFlowerFarms

    When asked about his favorite sources of bulbs, Salyards replied that they buy in bulk, directly from Dutch brokers. But he did mention some catalogs and books he’s fond of and catalogs he thinks are best to buy bulbs from. You can download those in the Gardening Resources List near the top of this page.
    Who doesn’t love big, bodacious peonies?!

    Who doesn’t love big, bodacious peonies?!


    In our interview, Jim talked about their orchids and how they were doing more with them lately. Let’s hope so! They are gorgeous!


    Although he favors the peony-type forms of the English roses, Hybrid Tea roses will always be a part of Filoli, partly because they are integral to the many, lush flower arrangements you will find inside the home on a tour. This is unusual for historic places because most of these elegant homes don’t allow floral arrangements—fear of pollen, bugs and other things to soil the interior. But since the family of the house historically always had flowers inside, the tradition continues. And, you can take classes on flower arranging to create your own masterpieces.

    The flower arrangements throughout the house are stunning.

    The flower arrangements throughout the house are stunning.

    Christmas at Filoli is a jaw-dropper. The flower arrangements and goodies to buy are amazing to see.


    Filoli not only has extensive gardens, a gorgeous mansion with sumptuous floral arrangements, they also have classes. You can take classes on horticulture, painting, flower arranging, making products like lavender lip balm, and classes for children. As well as fancy teas, gala events, jazz evenings, etc.

    Filoli doorway.jpg

    What are you waiting for? Go visit Filoli!

    You can find out all the details, plan your visit or sign up for classes at

    Don’t forget to download your free Gardening Resources List above!

    You can listen to the podcast on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. And don’t forget to leave a review!

    Pin me and help others!

    Pin me and help others!
    Laurie Kehler