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Peninsula and South Bay Gardens Offer Lush Retreats

Peninsula and South Bay Gardens Offer Lush Retreats


Between the big-city bustle of San Francisco and high-tech frenzy of Silicon Valley, there serenely lie three garden oases: Filoli in Woodside, the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, and Hakone in Saratoga. Each one is very different from the other in size and style, but all elicit a sense of idyllic tranquility and the appreciation of nature as sculpted by human hands. One of the best things you can do while you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, a visit to these lush Peninsula and South Bay gardens will refreshingly slow things down and reinvigorate you—no green thumb required!


Flowers, plants, and trees abound on this vast 654-acre historic landmark that was built in 1915 in rural San Mateo County and recalls the English country estates of the early 1700s. Stroll through numerous large gardens framed by brick walls and manicured hedges. The gardens, which open from one to another, feature such plantings as creamy-white southern magnolia trees, purple Japanese wisteria vines, and red cashmere bouquet flowers. Other attractions include an olive orchard, heritage oaks, an allee of pollarded plane trees, and garden pools. Make sure to visit the stately Main House as well, a modified Georgian English country structure with 43 rooms (not including bathrooms and storage rooms, elegantly carved moldings, marble fireplaces, and many other architectural highlights). The house is also an interpretive museum exhibiting 17th- and 18th-century English antiques. Admission fee. http://filoli.org.

Allied Arts Guild

Much smaller than Filoli but just as enchanting is the 3.5-acre Allied Arts Guild, a complex of Spanish Colonial buildings and Spanish-inspired gardens built in 1929. Located amid a wooded residential neighborhood, the Guild features a handful of delightful gardens such as the Court of Abundance with its splashing fountain and gold and yellow marigolds, wallflowers, and nasturtiums. The Garden of Delight, meanwhile, features blue Nile lilies, aster, salvia, and hydrangeas. You can also walk down an allee of tree roses and enjoy mosaics and frescoes. In addition, the Guild houses artist studios, workshops, and galleries as well as retail shops and a café. Free admission. http://www.alliedartsguild.org.


You travel up a narrow mountain road to reach this picturesque destination: the oldest Asian estate in the Western Hemisphere. Created in 1917, Hakone replicates a Japanese mountainside village on 18 acres. Entering this village, you first notice a small lake with koi fish and turtles. Gentle waterfalls flow into the lake, and a footbridge crosses the water. This is the Hill and Pond Garden, the heart of Hakone. Overlooking this central area is the Moon-Viewing House, built in the traditional Japanese style along the slope of a hill. Hakone’s three other main gardens feature a forest of tall bamboo, a gravel-and-stone area for meditation, and delicate tea plants. There’s also the Cultural Exchange Center, an authentic reproduction of a 19th-century tea merchant’s house and shop. The center houses art and cultural programs as well as a tea museum. Admission fee. http://www.hakone.com.
By Neil Gonzales
Neil Gonzales is a freelance writer based in Redwood City, Calif. Previously, he worked as a newspaper reporter for nearly 20 years.

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