For the past 34 years, Suzanne Legallet has been making the drive from her Atherton home to Filoli at least once a month, often more. That’s how long she’s been volunteering as a docent — and contributing in multiple ways to make the visitor experience the best it can be.
“I believe I’m in the third class of docents,” she said during a recent visit to the house and garden that’s been part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1975. “We had a tea here recently for volunteers who’ve worked for 25 years or more. I was delighted to find so many people I didn’t know. That’s how large the volunteer corps is.”
Filoli is open to the public for nine months a year. The season kicks off this Friday through Sunday (Feb. 24-26) with an opening celebration called Daffodil Daydreams, three days of talks, tours, demonstrations and hands-on activities. The event is free for Filoli Members or with paid admission to Filoli for non-members.
Suzanne, who grew up locally, graduating from Encinal [when it was a K-8] and Menlo-Atherton, was initially drawn to Filoli because she was doing a lot of home gardening but not as successfully as she would like.
“Volunteering here has inspired me to look after my own garden,” she said. “Because of my work here, I took a class on ornamental horticulture at CSM. And, that increased my knowledge even more.”
Now serving her second term as a member of the Filoli Governing Board, Suzanne has worn a number of hats over the years, including chairing the annual flower show, being a house, garden and self-guided docent, and for the past six years, a part of the Garden Information Services.
“This program was started about six years ago with a friend of mine from M-A,” she said. “We work with master gardeners who arm us with the information to answer visitor’s questions about plants and gardening practices. I really enjoy doing it.”
On our visit, we talked with Suzanne about bulbs and learned more details about daffodils, which leads the bulb blooming parade each year. On display are over 100 varieties, many of them historic, and in sizes that surprise the less knowledgeable. They’re planted in pots that get rotated throughout the garden in the coming months as well as in a number of fields.
“It’s just one example of how the garden is planned so that no matter when you come, at least one thing is going to be at its best that day.”
After three plus decades of involvement, Suzanne continues to find inspiration and transformation from her association with Filoli. “Every time I come out here, I go away feeling better,” she said. “Both from a sense of appreciation and rejuvenation.”
Photo by Scott R. Kline