Woodside's Filoli Gardens Provide Drought Lessons to Bay Area Gardeners - NBC Bay Area
Bay Area Drought Watch

Bay Area Drought Watch

Coverage of California's looming water problem

Woodside's Filoli Gardens Provide Drought Lessons to Bay Area Gardeners



    Gardeners at Filoli are considering several drought measures, including planting fewer flowers and avoiding watering some lawns. Joe Rosato Jr. reports. (Published Friday, Feb. 21, 2014)

    The tulips were open in full regalia of blazing red. The daffodils were wrapped in a blanket of yellow. The flowers on the magnolia tree were already showing a post-Spring rust.

    The calendar may have said February, but the sprawling 16 acres of Woodside’s Filoli Gardens were clearly showing Spring.

    “As soon as it warms up which it did in abundance in January,” said Filoli garden manager Jim Salyards, “they just go into bloom and start blooming away.”

    The historic Filoli estate just off Hwy 280 in Woodside, might be more vast and formal than most home gardens -- but its ornate and verdant lands are a colorful barometer of how unseasonably warm weather is tricking foliage across the Bay area into prematurely blossoming. Salyards said some flowers like tulips and daffodils are blossoming anywhere from two weeks to a month early.

    "If anything, it’s pushing Spring along quickly," Salyards said.

    The warm and dry weather is already shaping up as a double-whammy for gardeners big and small. Salyards said two of the property’s three wells have gone bone dry – which has managers there etching plans for a summer of drought.

    “This isn’t the year to go crazy in your garden planting things,” advised Salyards. “It’s gonna cost you extra money or you may not get the water you need.”

    Salyards said gardeners at Filoli are considering a cadre of drought measures; planting fewer display pots of flowers; avoiding watering some lawns; purchasing fewer water-dependent plants.

    “We don’t want to have beautiful green lawns and lush plants throughout the property when everybody else has a dead lawn,” Salyards said.

    Another concern on the property is some fruit trees have already started to bloom. That could spell trouble if Winter decides to show-up in the next couple months.

    “If all of a sudden your peach trees are two weeks early, you’re still in frost season,” said Filoli horticulture manager Alex Fernandez. “You get a late season frost there goes your crop for the year.”

    The sprawling Filoli mansion and gardens were created in 1917 by the Bourn family, and now open to the public. Thousands of visitors flock from around the world to see what are continually ranked some of the world’s most impressive gardens.

    Salyards said the early bloom this year means many of the flowers and trees will have already wrapped-up their show of Spring colors by the time the calendar actually shows Spring.

    “When I’m asked, I tell people if they’re planning to come beginning of March or beginning of April,” Salyards said. “Come at the beginning of March.”