Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers

Lowland Tropics room, Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco offers a number of sites for the plant lover. In a view from the road, we see two sun-lovers sprawled on a blanket on the wide open lawn space. Annual garden plots set off a strikingly-bright white Conservatory of Flowers beyond. Small chaperoned troupes of delightful children are prancing about . . . taking in the fresh April air between potty breaks.

The Conservatory’s main center dome is flanked by a wing of two galleries on the right—Highland Tropics Plants and Aquatic Plants. The wing to the left of the dome offers a Potted Plants display and temporary special exhibit room. I cross the entrance threshold and immediately find myself in a moist Palm Court of towering green Lowland Tropical plants—a magnificent thick display of ferns, banana, cacao, Jurassic cycads and much more. Here and there blue and orange bits of color are randomly cast, source being the sunshine through the structure’s stained glass.

Through the next door, the Highland Tropics gallery recreates high elevation forests of the tropics. There’s a nice display of mosses and the epiphytes which I like—plants that grow on other plants. The room offers much to whet our appreciation of orchids. This is where a renowned collection of Pleurothallid orchids can be found. Through another door, the Aquatic Plants room is picture perfect as we learn about water lilies and lotus. Also on view is a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants and bromeliads.

This striking building is said to be the oldest public conservatory in the Western hemisphere—opening in 1879—as well as the oldest structure in the park.

Much thanks goes to recent restoration efforts and dollars to do so. With these plants well-established and in such a yesteryear atmosphere, I just might get inspiration for writing a Victorian historical novel. At this conservatory one can get close to specimens: smell the gardenia, inspect the fronds, study orchid details and view exotics from around the world. http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/

While others might prefer a huge botanical exhibit extravaganza as found in some other large cities, I felt this was just the right size with an ambiance for a mini-retreat—leaving time for other Golden Gate Park experiences. Next stop: Japanese Tea Garden.

Nancy R. Peck

Aquatic Plants room Conservatory of Flowers

Aquatic Plants room, Conservatory of Flowers


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I’m fascinated by mention of gardens that crop up in unexpected places and under unusual circumstances. Of course, gardens don’t just crop up. They are initiated and fostered by humanity.

Nevertheless even in serious controlled places, there’s gravitation toward experiencing the beauty, challenges, and the pride that comes along with gardening. Perhaps gardening is doubly inspired because of entrapment, restraint and a pervading heavy atmosphere.

Rocky, raw, remote Alcatraz Island is one such site. The island was used as an army fortress in the early 1800s, a military prison in the mid-1800s, and a federal penitentiary established in 1934. Over the years, soldiers, wardens, guard families and prisoners were drawn to gardening however possible. 

When the penitentiary system abandoned the island in 1963, flowers and plants found freedom to wander and grow unsupervised, unguarded—Agave, Albizia, Baccharis, Centranthus, Fuchsia, Pelargonium, ivy, yucca. 

Today, we see that the Alcatraz gardens have come back to life under the dedicated nurturing of an active staff, 40 volunteers and docent led tours.

garden tours at Alcatraz

Garden tours at Alcatraz

The Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project was spearheaded in 2003 by the Garden Conservancy in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Much research, planning, and fundraising preceded a year’s worth of overgrowth and debris-clearing. Between 2003 and 2008 more than 22,000 volunteer hours were logged. Finally, plants were able to be re-introduced in their original areas. Heirloom rose hybrids were discovered as well as Welsh rose bushes previously thought to be extinct. The island finds more than 200 species of plants. (more…)

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