My friend Sandy accompanied her young son to a summer school program at Stanford University and it gave us an opportunity to catch up. We met up in Palo Alto and drove 30 minutes north to the home and gardens at Filoli in Woodbridge.
Floli is a gracious estate. It was built by the Bourn family in the years after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906. The Bourn’s wealth came in part from the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, California. The name of the estate is derived from the first two letters of the key words of the family credo: Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.
The gardens are among my favorite and this is the first time I have visited during the summer. Everything was lush and blooming. We enjoyed speaking with two volunteers shaping the miniature knot gardens.
The home is decorated in a traditional (and stuffy) style. We did love the kitchen–especially the aqua cupboards. We also loved the sculpture scattered throughout the grounds and buildings.
‘There is a gift shop with nursery plants for sale and some interesting garden furniture. We ate lunch at the Filoli Cafe. The sandwiches were fresh and delicious; however, there was entirely too much reliance on plastic containers. There are indoor and outdoor dining options.
Admission is $18 for an adult. Filoli is open Tuesday through Sunday, mid-February to late October. The hours may change and generally 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Filoli is located 86 Canada Road, Woodbridge, California.
For years I have wanted to visit the New York Botanical Garden. On previous visits to New York City I have not been able to carve out enough time from my business commitments or I could not convince my friends that it was more interesting than say, the Statue of Liberty. At last, I was able to spend about 3 hours in this world class botanical garden. I could have spent all day.
I entered at the Mosholu gate and proceeded to the nearest cafe. The view of the Conservatory from the terrace was breathtaking. I was overheated from my bike ride so I opted for the air-conditioned indoor dining. The chicken waldorf salad was satisfying and I poured over the garden map while I chewed.
The challenge of NYBG is choosing how to spend your time because there is so much to see and do. In an ideal visit, I would have time to just sit and relax by the soothing lily pond. (How do they grow pineapples in large pots?) And wander through the native plant garden.
A sure sign of the level of excellence of an institution is the quality of the staff and exhibits. NYBG manages to combine the best of both. I was lucky to visit on the last weekend of “Wild Medicine” in the Conservatory. The exhibits packed a lot of fascinating information in a readable, entertaining way. I was torn between reading every word and pressing on to see more of the Garden. Then they took it to another level and offered interactive booths with very knowledgeable docents giving demonstrations on tea and chocolate with samples!
I kept moving because I had only scratched the surface of the Garden and it closes at 6 pm. I walked toward the visitor center and admired the mature plants. I have visited a number of botanical gardens and the younger gardens are at a disadvantage because a well cared for garden improves with age. NYBG has the added advantage that due to the foresight of the founders, they even have original forest from pre-development Bronx.
Plus they take advantage of existing buildings like the Stone Mill. Even the more modern buildings are designed to complement the Garden. The impressive library, the gracious visitor center, and even the modern research center are all signs that the Garden is well supported by the community.
With still so much to see, I hopped on the tram and rode it through the rest of the Garden. You can hop on and off, or stay on and get a windshield tour in about 30 minutes. I am glad I did this or I would have missed my favorite plant in the garden–the Turkey Oak.
My last stop before closing was at the Library. There are special films shown at designated times during the day along with special collections. My mouth dropped open at the beauty of the rotunda. I wished I had more time and promised myself that I would come back and spend the entire day. To think that at one point I thought I would visit both the Garden and the Bronx Zoo (nearby). Ha!
Since my visit I have been thinking about my favorite gardens. NYBG stands in a class above the rest with Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. All the same I have enjoyed some other gardens, including:
Honorable mention: whimsical garden at Belfast Castle–lovely memories of searching for all of the “cats” and the cut flowers at the University of Portland Farmers Market.
And if I could go to any garden, real or imaginary I would go to Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove, or the Secret Garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s imagination. And my wanderlust will someday take me to Versailles, Amsterdam Flower Mart/Show, the Philadelphia Flower Show, Longwood, and Victoria, British Columbia.