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Filoli Gardens

Last summer when I traveled to Northern California to participate in the Tour des Trees Bicycle Ride I made a pit stop at Filoli, a country estate and garden just south of San Francisco.  The stroll around the grounds turned out to be a very nice break from sitting on a bicycle.    

The house was built in 1917 by William Bowers Bourn II and his wife Agnes Moody Bourn. The Bourns created the name for the estate from its creed “FIGHT for a just cause, LOVE your fellow man and LIVE a good life.” The first two letters of each point form the name, Filoli.   

After the Bourns passed away in 1936 the estate was sold to Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, who continued to develop the house and grounds.  Mrs. Roth donated Filoli to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.  

For me, the highlight of the visit was not only the garden, but also the library.  Curator Tom Roger was kind enough to show me a book by one of my gardening heroes, 18th century English landscape designer Humphry Repton.  Repton is the mastermind behind the technique of the borrowed view where a point outside the garden is framed in such a way that it becomes a part of the design. Repton is famous for both his innovative garden designs and his Red Books, which were collections of watercolors with overlays showing prospective clients before and after views of their gardens.  I like to think of these as an early version of the makeover craze that dominates television today.  The book Tom showed me was a compilation of bits and pieces from several of his Red Books.  Titled "Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening,” it was published in London in 1803.  

If you are interested in visiting Filoli it’s open to the public spring through fall. With 16 acres of formal gardens, there is plenty to see, so be sure and wear comfortable shoes!

Address: Filoli, Canada Road, Woodside, CA 94062
Web Address:
Dates Open: Mid-February through the End of October
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am-3:30 pm (last admission 2:30)
Sunday 11:00 am-3:30 pm (last admission 2:30 pm)
Admission Fees: Adults $12
Students $5 (ages 5-17 or with valid student ID)
Free for children under 5.
Additional/increased admission fees apply on Filoli's Special Event Days.  There is a calendar on their website that indicates these dates.