Filoli is a house and gardens you can tour in Woodside, California. It is located about 30 minutes South of San Francisco or 30 minutes North of San Jose. It was built by the Bourn family, who also own (and got their wealth from) the Empire Mine up in Grass Valley, in 1915. Mr. Bourn was also the President of the Spring Valley Water Company and chose this property near the Spring Valley Lake for this grand home. The name Filoli was created from the first two letters from each part of his personal credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.” You will learn a lot about the history of this historic site, including that it was the aerial view of the home in the tv series Dynasty and several movies like Heaven Can Wait and The Wedding Planner, but what will stay with you are the views.When you arrive you will see a grove of olive trees. Even in summer you will love this beautiful entrance area.
The visitors center is your first stop, where you will pay your fees of about $20 per person (children 4 and under are free) and where you can also grab a delicious bite to eat. There is a charming cafe there and we always make it part of our tradition to eat lunch before our self-guided tour. There is an indoor seating area if the weather is a bit chilly and a beautiful outdoor patio with lovely statues, flowers and ivy if the weather is nice enough to eat alfresco.
From the visitors center you can see the charming patio. All of Filoli is like this. They have looked at this property from every angle so that all you see is beautiful everywhere you look.
The grand entrance always takes my breath away. In the springtime the stoop is covered in tulips and the wisteria is in full bloom over the doorway but, even in summer, the presentation is stunning.
And, as with the rest of the property, the home has all of the details spot on. The furnishings are vintage elegance starting with the front door chandelier.
The stairway is ornate and stately. Usually the upstairs is closed off to the public but every so often they will let you see the rooms on a guided tour.
But the ballroom is the place that truly holds my heart inside this home. This fireplace is big enough to stand inside if you wanted. While definitely ornate, it's elegance is what will stay with you. The mural above the fireplace is just one of many that adorn the room. They are all scenes from the Bourn's ancestral home of Ireland.
The gold decor is real gold and from time to time they need to come in and restore the gleaming surfaces. The chandeliers in the room are reproductions of those in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles outside of Paris. Just so beautiful.
From the home you enter the gardens. I have been there in every season and they are always breathtaking. Planted differently every year they are also planted so that there is something in bloom all year round.
The centerpiece of the entry to the gardens is the clock tower. When we were there in early September they were having a sculpture art exhibit. We were a bit worried about how it would fit into the gardens but, as with everything else, it was perfection.
There are about 10 sections of the garden to visit and if you take your time it will take you all afternoon. We usually arrive around 11am, have lunch, do a brief tour of the home and then tour the gardens and leave around 3. Looking at this photo you would think this was taken in springtime but it was summer! It's just that gorgeous!
The reflecting pool is always one of my favorite places to try to capture. Since the beds are always planted in new ways with different flowers it is a new view every time.
This visit the water lilies were in bloom. So delicate but bright and colorful you can't help but be drawn to the water to admire their beauty!
Next to the reflecting pool is a beautiful garden house. Always a very nice place to rest for a few moments, this little house is filled with different flowers each time you visit.
Across from the reflecting pool, divided by a hedge and bordered on each side is the full sized pool. The whale tail isn't always there but I loved it! This is one of the many areas that has seating where you can sit and take in the gardens.
From there you can take one of the many entrances into the main gardens. In spring the cherry, apple and pear trees are in full bloom but in summer it's all about the ground cover!
What is usually pastel in the spring is colorful and vibrant in the fall. I saw more types of flowers that I had never seen before on this trip!
The gardens are set up on a few terraces to make the area very manageable for most of the visitors. There are areas where there are stairs but then there will also be a pathway were there are no stairs, just ramps, that gently lead you up to the top. With the exception of the green house area, which has pathways covered in small gravel and is hard for wheels to navigate, the rest of the property is very accessible.
But every where you look you are constantly reminded that it's the flowers that hold court here.And the structures are the perfect backdrop for these views. With the brick pathways, ornate gates, sundials and sculptures it is really easy to lose yourself here in their beauty.
The upper terraces have the green houses. Being September they were growing gourds and pumpkins in these gardens. We all loved that the huge pumpkins had their own parasols to shade them from the hot summer sun!
This area is filled with all sorts of edible plants like the gourds, chard, lavender and other herbs that are used for the cafe at the entrance.
The masses of flowers up in the green house area are worth the trek to the top. In the springtime there is also a daffodil field in the upper terraces making this area even more worth the climb.
Head back down the right hand side of this section and walk back towards the house. You will be rewarded with these beds and walkways (that lead to the pool) which are always fully planted and completely beautiful.
Lavender grows in huge bushes along this walk way and the smell is divine!
And this will all lead you back to the store. There is everything from souvenirs to collectables to paper goods to food in this store. It's very charming and I can never seem to walk away without something or other to take home.
You can also buy the plants! This gorgeous trumpet flower was there at the beginning of our day, when I took this photo, and gone when we ended out touring! So if you see something you want then buy it and have them hold it for you!
And if you think you are not creative enough to come up with some of the beautiful planting styles they have in the gardens you can just buy it already made up for you! This lovely succulent bench had a price tag on it!
The wonderful part of this store is that the patio is always set up to be as elegant and beautiful as the rest of the property.
The difference here, of course, is that if you see something you love you can just buy it! I'm still regretting not picking up this teacup set!
Filoli is closed on Mondays and some holidays but open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10am till 3:30pm. Sundays the hours are 11-3:30. As of today, November 18th, it is closed to the public as they prepare for the Christmas Holidays. It will reopen for those celebrations on November 28 and run through December 6th. There is a higher admission for some programs at this time. You can always find out what is going on here.
I hope you loved this tour of Filoli. I will be taking a break until after the Thanksgiving holiday to be with my family but will return on Tuesday December 2nd with a tour of the Sonoma/Napa wine country!