Oh, I love Filoli. Filoli is fabulous. The historic Woodside mansion built in the early 1900s was styled after an English country estate, surrounded by 16 acres of elegant gardens -- reflecting ponds loaded with lily pads, stoic yews ever erect in military formation, ivy-veiled archways, sweet-pea-shrouded pergolas and flowers, flowers, flowers. It's a glorious escape where I often meet my sister for soul refreshment. And for the buttery lemon cake in the cafe.
But ... a sculpture garden? I envisioned a collection of naked and bronzed Greek gods corralled in a clearing somewhere. No offense, gods, but ... yawn.
Not so. This exhibit (which ends
Some works are massive and bold, set on a terrace or out in a field. Some are more delicate and whimsical -- small ceramic spheres with inspiring phrases like, "Live your dream," and "Creativity is contagious," are tucked under ferns and camellia trees in the woodland garden section, perhaps left behind by elves and fairies after a midnight game of croquet.
It's the first time Filoli has held such an exhibit, in part to show how art can enhance a garden experience. And it's not a bit boring. More like a fanciful Easter egg hunt. A challenge to find every piece. They even give you a map.
It's always a good time to go to Filoli, but it's really good to go early in the day just as it opens at
Hints of the sculpture to come are found along the driveway. A big hunk of bronze juts from the ground by the visitors center, like some rusty piece of an ancient alien spaceship that fell from the sky.
You can go straight into the gardens, but I always like to start with a walk-through of the beautiful brick mansion (you may remember it as the
Inside, friendly docents share the history of the 36,000-square-foot main house, furnished with an extensive collection of 17th- and 18th-century English antiques. Filoli was built for
On the hunt
After a short tour of the house, head out to the gardens and inhale the sweet floral breath. A sculpture rises from the middle of the reflecting pond with tall, twisting leaves of steel -- another
Suspend worries about drought in this oasis. Gardeners here are masters of drip irrigation and conservation. (In fact, read Filoli's detailed response to the drought: www.filoli.org/drought/.)
Totem sculptures are plentiful. Among the Chinese lace ferns,
There's even sculpture at my favorite Filoli spot, beneath the tent-like arms of the Camperdown elms. Next to the well-worn benches sits Starks' "Contiguous," a swirl of green metal, like large, green chain links, melted and stuck together.
As your visit ends, be sure to stop in the gift shop and linger over lavender lotions, fancy mints and apple-jalapeÑo jam, or buy some succulents and begonias. And pop in the cafe in the visitors center for artichoke-chicken Florentine soup and, of course, a slice of buttery lemon cake. On the drive out, listen to classical music to maintain your soul-refreshed mood. Spy a hippogriff flying low.
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