Going daffy

Nearly a million blooms highlight Filoli's 'Daffodil Daydreams' event

It could be argued, especially by those of us who read seed catalogs for pleasure and drool over new plant introductions, that Lucy Tolmach, as Filoli's director of horticulture, has the best job in the world.

She gets paid to plan things such as where to plant the 72,000 new daffodil bulbs that were added this year to the garden's collection of close to a million daffodils.

The cheery spring bloomers will be celebrated at Filoli in a special program called Daffodil Daydreams from Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28.

Programs range from classes on assembling mosaics from broken china and demonstrations of flower arranging and painting, to children's craft workshops.

Tolmach will give a talk titled "Dancing with Daffodils" at 2:30 p.m. Friday and the Northern California Daffodil Society will be present to answer questions and hand out information.

For the past 33 years Tolmach has worked in the gardens of the grand 654-acre Woodside estate, which was left to the National Trust for Historic Preservation by Lurline Matson Roth.

Not only does Tolmach work in what many believe is one of the world's most beautiful gardens, but she and her husband also live on the grounds as do a handful of other Filoli employees. In fact, Lucy and Jonathan Tolmach, who is Filoli's head of maintenance, met while working at Filoli.

Lucy Tolmach started her job a mere six months after Filoli was opened to the public in 1976. She admits it was love at first sight. "It really was," she says, even though that first sight was in the winter and little was even in bloom.

In those early days there were only six gardeners on the payroll instead of the 14 Tolmach now oversees, and the entire garden was watered with nothing but eight hoses that had to be moved from place to place every 20 minutes.

A volunteer program was started in 1977, with 10 original garden volunteers. There now are 10 times that many helping in the garden, with a total of 1,200 volunteers overall. Many of those volunteers, Tolmach says, have been at Filoli longer than most of the staff members.

One thing that has been at Filoli longer than even Tolmach is daffodils.

"This garden was planted during the great daffodil renaissance," Tolmach says. Nearly 100 years ago, when the gardens at Filoli were originally planted, daffodils were extremely popular and were being planted in masses on many large estates. Many of Filoli's original daffodils, which were new introductions at the time, are still growing where they were originally planted, but now labeled heirlooms.

While new daffodils are planted each year at Filoli, this year Tolmach was able to indulge in her passion for the cheery flowers to an extraordinary degree thanks to the legacy of a former garden volunteer. Linda Caruthers left money in her will to be used by Tolmach for creative garden projects that wouldn't otherwise be funded. This year that was 50,000 daffodil bulbs for the meadow at the rear of the main house.

The Golden Dawn daffodils, planted by the loyal garden volunteers, should start blooming in late February and are expected to reach their peak around the end of the first week of March, Tolmach says. Visitors will be able to meander through the field of flowers on a path left open for that purpose. The variety is known to rebloom and may keep flowering in to April.

With the green walls of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the background, the meadow should be a scene reminiscent of the poppy fields in the Wizard of Oz.

The Golden Dawn variety was bred in Moss Landing by William Welch, known as "Bill the Bulb Baron." It is multi-flowered, naturalizing and scented.

Believe it or not, however, the meadow is not the part of the garden with the most daffodils. That honor goes to the area that was once a fruit orchard, but is now known as "Daffodil Field."

Each year, Tolmach says, once the potted daffodils finish blooming they are planted in the field, which now has between 600,000 and 700,000 (yes -- more than half a million) daffodils. Visitors can also wander on paths through this field, which additionally features some young fruit trees that should be blooming at the same time.

Tolmach says that March 15 should be the prime time for that show which will also have a long bloom period because there are at least 46 different types of daffodils planted in it. "It's going to be a great show this year," she says.

If that's not enough daffodils for the Filoli visitors, never fear, there are also bulbs planted along most of the paths and in several other areas. The "Bulb Slope" is a 500-foot-long border of daffodils, many of them old heirloom varieties. Another 500-foot-long border is planted under a row of olive trees.

Even children will have their own special daffodils at Filoli this year with 13 different types of miniature daffodils planted in pots and placed on the brick walls outside the Visitor and Education Gallery.

Daffodils, Tolmach says, are especially well suited for our Mediterrean climate. They are also not attractive to two of our more vociferous pests -- deer and gophers.

Filoli has been named an American Daffodil Society display garden, the only one on the West Coast.

What: Daffodil Daydreams

When: Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28

Hours: Tuesdays though Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Admission: $15 for adults, $12 for seniors (65 and older), $5 for students and free for children 4 or younger

Info: Call 650-364-8300, ext. 507, e-mail or visit Filoli for the full program and registration.

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Like this comment
Posted by Judith Wood
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Great story, Barb. If I had $12 and a way to get there from here (here being Oregon) I would certainly attend what will have to be one of the most beautiful sights this Spring. Take a few sniffs and ohs and ahs for me.

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