Sunset Gardens vs. Filoli Gardens

We wondered why with all our visits to the peninsula south of San Francisco, we hadn’t gone to Sunset magazine’s garden. While we monthly read the garden, home and travel information, we’ve missed the home office.

After driving past some luscious home (mansion) gardens in Atherton, we arrived at Sunset magazine’s headquarters. The front of the building was planted with foxgloves in full bloom. Through a gracious lobby was this view to the garden.

Sunset Magazine Garden

A path surrounded a vast lawn area. On the perimeter was a rose garden and various kinds of forests. Maple, redwood and cactus. Can cactus make a forest? It seemed like it.

Cactus Garden at Sunset

The demonstration garden was tucked behind one wing of the U or V-shaped building. It was disappointingly small. Guess the test stuff happens elsewhere. I admired the gardens as a tourist and was not in my journalistic inquiry mode.

The huge pots of flowers in the courtyard were our inspiration for the day, as we thought about our own little garden.

Potted Flowes at Sunset

The next day we went to Filoli Gardens in Woodside. Surrounded by Crystal Resevoir area, these gardens and house enjoy a fantastic setting. The property of 654 acres was originally developed  by the Bourns of Empire Gold Mine fame. The house was built in 1917-1919 and the formal garden was designed by Bruce Porter. The garden took longer to build.

Filoli Clock Tower

Mr & Mrs. William P. Roth, owners of Matson Navigation Co., bought the property in 1936. Mrs. Roth, a driven horticultural enthusiast, continued the gardens and promoted Filoli’s international recognition. She donated the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1975.

Filoli Mansion with Wisteria

Not unlike Sunset’s gardens there were formal gardens and intriguing areas, almost like a Chinese garden with windows on to the next ‘room.’

Filoli Arch

May is a great time to visit with all the blooming flowers – a viburnum, coated with white flowers, took my breath away. It also started a nice conversation with a couple of dedicated volunteers.

Filoli Foxglove

But some gardens were planted with leaf color for year-round visual delight. This day the flowering wisteria was exciting many.

Filoli Photographers Delight

Filoli Gardens are open February through October. You can wonder around yourself  or take a docent-led tour through the walled gardens, orchards, woodland garden and the more formal sunken gardens and terraces. The first floor of the house is open. There is also a yummy cafe.

It wasn’t a long walk, but absolutely gorgeous.

If you need a longer walk, try the nearby Crystal Springs Regional Parks. They’re adding more and more trails. This is also a popular area for bicyclists.

See you on the trail!

Lynn Millar

photos by Mike Millar

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