A Knot Garden at Filoli

When I was in the Palo Alto area in June this year, I visited Filoli again (as well as the Elizabeth Gamble Garden). It was blazingly hot, and I wasn’t sure I would get any good images because of the sun and time of day. So today’s post is sort of an ode to my B&W circular polarizing filter, as you’ll see.

I knew Filoli’s gardens were formal, for the most part. But on my prior trip I hadn’t ventured far enough to discover its Knot Garden. Located just beyond its rose garden area, this was no ordinary knot garden. All the knot gardens I had seen before were clipped boxwood shapes. The one at Broughton Castle was clipped and had roses inside the spaces.

Broughton Castle, Ladies Garden, English gardens

The walled knot garden on the south side of the castle, known as the Ladies’ Garden, was established in the 1880s on the site of the sixteenth century kitchen. The fleur de lys beds are planted with Rose ‘Heritage’ and Rose ‘Gruss an Aachen’.

Oh so tidy and veddy British, don’t you think? Closer to home, I’ve seen a knot garden at the National Arboretum, with its edging plants somewhat more loosely clipped.

National Arboretum, Knot Garden

A knot garden in the National Arboretum in Washington, DC

So at Fioli, I was delighted to come across a knot garden composed of barberry, lavender, santolina, and little rosemary balls trimmed like lollipops – all viewed against a hedge of copper beech. Originally planted in 2007 by a local garden club or two, I’m not sure its shape is as tidy as the original plan, but I absolutely loved the sweeps of lavender, just coming into bloom.

Filoli Garden, lavender, knot garden

A rosemary standard is silhouetted against a copper beech hedge and provides a formal contrast to masses of Angustifolia lavandula ‘Hidcote.’

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any elevation when shooting so the shape of the knot garden isn’t that evident from my photos. And the sun glared off the barberry leaves mercilessly.

Filoli, knot garden

Here you can get an idea of the sweeps of barberry, santolina and other plants used in the Knot Garden at Filoli, with the copper beech hedge in the distance. The sun’s glare on the barberry leaves is very evident.

Filoli, knot garden

A more tightly-cropped view of the same scene, with three of the rosemary standards visible from left to right, ending at an opening in the hedge.

Finally, I brought out the polarizer for my 24-120mm lens, and used it to cut the glare on the barberry shrubs. Here’s the result.

Filoli, knot garden, circular polarizer

Now the barberry leaves, while a deeper red due to the polarizer’s effect, have lost their glare. And I like the line of the plantings as they lead your eye back to that little rosemary standard.

For more information on Filoli’s Knot Garden, click here. I have to say I didn’t experience the layout as two separate shapes as shown in this description, but gardens change over time. And I loved seeing the concept updated for a California climate!

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5 Comments on “A Knot Garden at Filoli”

  1. Adele Says:

    Beautiful photographs, Melissa! The color, the composition… what a treat
    Adele

  2. Melissa Says:

    Thanks, Adele. So nice to know you see these posts from time to time! And the California aspect to this design was very enlightening. I’ve just come back from the APLD conference in the Bay Area, so look for more California-themed posts in the future!

  3. Trish Spillane Says:

    Very inspiring pictures, I love the permanent structure of these gardens and the interest they contribute all year round. Some thought with foliage, colour and patterns makes an awesome design. Thank you

  4. Nicole Brait Says:

    Beautiful knot garden. The polarizer really did work. You got rid of the glare but, like you said, the red still pops.


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