San Francisco – Perfect for a Spring Fling
By: Cindy Hu
San Francisco already has a case of “spring fever.” Even though spring doesn’t arrive until March 20, there are already plenty of options to make green thumbs itch.
Every February Tulipmania transforms Pier 39 into a floral wonderland. Thousands of tulips and other whimsical floral displays adorn both levels of Pier 39’s bayside location. While the official celebration of these voluptuous imports just passed, many of them are still on view for several weeks to come. For information visit www.pier39.com or call 415-705-5500.
March 18-23, 2014
Bouquets to Art
de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
More than 125 of the Bay Area’s most innovative and sought-after floral designers will create a stunning array of floral arrangements in the de Young Museum for Bouquets to Art 2014. Now in its landmark 30th year, the event allows designers to create displays that range in style from classical to avant garde, highlighting art in the de Young’s permanent collections. In addition to pairing floral designs with the museum’s artworks, the annual exhibition features an extensive program of floral design demonstrations and activities for all ages. This year the show coincides with the special exhibition, “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George,” celebrating O’Keeffe’s lush depictions of flowers and nature. For information and reservations visit deyoungmuseum.org/bouquets or call 415-750-3504.
March 19-23, 2014
San Francisco Flower & Garden Show
San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo
The third largest shows of its kind in the U.S., the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, March 19-23, provides an opportunity for gardeners of all ages and levels of expertise to dabble in the green arts and learn more about gardening in a drought year. More than 200,000 square feet of space will be filled with display gardens, exhibits, chef/cooking demos, seminars by experts, children’s activities, garden products and much more. For information visit www.sfgardenshow.com or call 415-684-7278.
March 23-April 6, 2014
Macy’s Flower Show “The Secret Garden”
Macy’s Union Square
For two weeks Macy’s will showcase millions of live flowers, plants and trees from around the world. “The Secret Garden,” this year’s floral extravaganza, will offer visitors a threshold into the magic of a variety of lush landscapes. In-store special events, music, fashion, cooking and DIY demonstrations will tickle floral fanatics fancy. The gardens include themes such as “The Abandoned Estate,” “Maze Garden,” and “Rooftop Gardens.” The rooftop versions will showcase multiple concepts including fruits and vegetables, wild flowers and a formal garden set within San Francisco scenery. Macy’s Flower Show is also a prime showcase for some of the nation’s most renowned floral and entertaining designers. A flower show favorite, “Bouquet of the Day,” will draw on the talents of Michael Daigian (Michael Daigian Design), Billy Cook (Taste Catering & Event Planning), Emily Dreblow (Soulflower Floral Design) and others. New this year, Macy’s welcomes an in-store pop-up shop by the Maker Boys Jawn McQuade and Mike Stone. For a schedule of events, visit www.macys.com/flowershow or call 415-397-3333.
April 12-13 and 19-20, 2014
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
San Francisco’s colorful Japantown will burst into full bloom on the weekends of April 12-13 and 19-20, 2014, when members of Northern California’s Japanese American community gather to celebrate their 47th annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Each year more than 200,000 people attend this dazzling tribute to the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American community. The event spans two weekends and climaxes with a grand parade on Sunday, April 20. Leave time to explore the oldest Japantown in the United States, roam the food bazaar, and enjoy traditional arts and crafts including demonstrations of ikebana (flower arranging) and bonsai (tree dwarfing). Entertainment stages feature Japanese dancers, martial artists and taiko drummers. For information, visit www.sfcherryblossom.org or call 415-563-2313.
Don’t forget that no matter what the season, Golden Gate Park is a playground for garden devotees from the profusion of tulips in the Queen Wilhelmina Gardens to the serene tranquility of the Japanese Tea Garden. Also of note are the National AIDS Memorial Grove, the Garden of the Humanitarians, San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers. With the opening of the California Academy of Sciences in September 2008, visitors can now explore a living roof planted with 1.7 million native plants. Four perennial and five wildflower species were chosen for their ability to thrive in Golden Gate Park.
Conservatory of Flowers
100 John F. Kennedy Dr., Golden Gate Park
The oldest structure in Golden Gate Park and the oldest wooden framed conservatory in the nation completed a $24 million restoration in 2003. In this spectacular museum of living plants, immersive displays in five galleries engage visitors physically, intellectually and emotionally. Known for its extensive collection of orchids, the Conservatory is one of only four institutions in the U.S. to house a highlands tropics display featuring a large and diverse group of high-altitude beauties. “Butterflies & Blooms” has been extended until March 16, 2014. From April 11-Oct. 19, 2014 the mysterious world of carnivorous plants is exposed in “Chomp! They Came from the Swamp.” For information visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org or call 415-831-2090.
San Francisco Botanical Garden
Ninth Avenue at Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park
Every month is petal perfect for visiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden which covers 55 acres and includes more than 8,000 varieties of plants from around the world. Magnolia are at their peak in mid-January through March and April and May see hundreds of native irises, poppies, meadowfoam and more put on a colorful show in the native meadow. After enjoying a walk here, stroll along the Redwood trail through a century-old grove of redwood trees. In 1965 the Garden of Fragrance was created for individuals with visual impairment to be able to experience plants through touch and smell. Frequent plant sales feature brilliant collections of flowering shrubs and bloomers including native plants at their peak. Docents also offer a number of tours, birding walks (co-sponsored by the Audubon Society), children’s story time and family strolls through the gardens. The Helen Crocker Library is one of the nation’s finest and most complete horticultural reference book collections and features seasonally changing art exhibitions. For information visit www.sfbotanicalgarden.org or call 415-661-1316.
San Francisco Flower Market
Sixth Street between Brannan and Bryant Streets
“This is the best flower market in the country,” according to “Martha Stewart Living.” While largely the purview of florists and professional landscapers, the San Francisco Flower Market is open to the public Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; wholesalers have access starting at 2 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and they “sleep in” on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when the market opens to the trade at 5 a.m. Recent reconnaissance of the market has yielded branches of forsythia, tulips just at the peak of perfection and flowering plum blossoms. For more information, visit www.sfflmart.com or call 415-781-8410.
Grace Marchant Garden
Tumbling, tumbling down the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill, the Grace Marchant Garden (off Filbert Street) is one of the most beautiful spots in the city. Marchant, who embarked on her labor of love when she was 63 years old, groomed this hillside retreat for 33 years. Offering views of the bay, the two-acre plot is cared for by a cadre of neighbors and volunteers. The climb is sweetened by fragrant wisteria vines, hydrangeas, roses, masses of foliage and a bench to catch one’s breath along the way. Settle in with a good book. Perhaps David Bittner’s “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” which documents his “love story … with wings,” or David Goodis’ thriller, “Dark Passage” which featured Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart taking refuge in a nearby home.
Yerba Buena Gardens
Located in the heart of San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens (www.yerbabuenagardens.com) is not only a cultural hothouse but also the site of several gardens including the "butterfly garden" in the northeast corner; the Sister Cities Garden, home to a diverse collection of flowering plants from San Francisco's sister cities, and a secluded rooftop garden above Moscone South at Howard and Third streets.
San Francisco Community Gardens
Almost 40 community gardens throughout San Francisco are supported and managed by the Recreation and Park Department. Each garden is maintained by volunteers who grow ornamental plants and produce for personal use. A list of the locations and open garden days is posted at http://sfrecpark.org/.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Beginning where the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has grown to more than 75,000 acres since it was established in 1972. For 60 minutes or a half-day excursion, it offers access to everything from a stroll through a restored coastal habitat or a wildflower walk at Fort Funston in the spring. For some suggestions, call 415-561-4700 or visit www.nps.gov/goga.
Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project
In 2003 the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy formed a partnership with the National Park Service to restore and maintain key gardens on Alcatraz. Through the Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project, the partner organizations preserve, rebuild, and maintain the gardens created by those who lived on the island during its military and prison eras, and interpret their history, horticulture, and cultural significance for visitors. For more than a century, gardens were an important part of everyday life for officers, families and prisoners on Alcatraz. Many of the plants selected by these unheralded gardeners proved to be excellent choices for the harsh and barren environment, flourishing through the four decades of neglect that followed the prison’s closing. Visitors can now experience an island that is alive with colorful plants gathered decades ago from around the world, and complemented by newly introduced plants. Docent-led tours of the island gardens are offered twice a week on Friday and Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. starting at the Alcatraz dock. Alcatraz Cruises (www.alcatrazcruises.com) serves the island; because tickets sell out quickly, advance reservations are strongly recommended. For information call 415-981-ROCK (7625).
San Francisco City Guides and Friends of the Urban Forest
While the free San Francisco City Guides tours are known for their architectural detail, rich historic footnotes, legends and lore, several have more natural inclinations including City Scapes and Public Places, tours of Golden Gate Park — including the popular Stroller Walks, Fort Mason to Aquatic Park and SOMA/Yerba Buena Gardens (year-round). For details call 415-557-4266 or visit www.sfcityguides.org. Friends of the Urban Forest (www.fuf.net) working in collaboration with private citizens and the City of San Francisco has planted more than 47,000 trees. Tree tours are offered throughout the year and demonstration “forests” are dotted throughout the city for those in the market for a tree.
Beyond San Francisco
Many wineries boast impressive demonstration gardens and special garden-related festivals are not uncommon. The Kendall-Jackson Wine Center has a 2.5-acre organic culinary garden and their annual tomato festival featuring 120 varieties of heirloom tomatoes is a summer favorite (5007 Fulton Rd., Fulton, 866-287-9818, www.kj.com). Some say Cornerstone Festival of Gardens (23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 707-933-3010, www.cornerstonegardens.com) are “the most innovative gardens in America.” Each of the 20 different gardens has been designed by a well-known landscape architect. For more about the rural wiles of this area, visit www.sonomacounty.com or www.sonomavalley.com.
To the south, visit the splendid gardens at Filoli (86 Canada Rd., Woodside, 650-364-8300, www.filoli.org). A 34,000-square-foot Georgian-style home is surrounded by 16 acres of world-famous gardens. Throughout the year there are art exhibitions, classes, programs for families and hikes. To the south, Half Moon Bay is noted for its acres and acres of greenhouses and deals from roadside stands selling seasonal produce. For a unique experience, take a drive down Hwy. 92 to Yerba Buena Nursery, the state’s oldest nursery dedicated to native California plants. Visit www.visithalfmoonbay.org for more information.
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