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Conservatory Chronicles
 Issue #39                                                                                                        
 January, 2011
In This Issue
Valentine's Jungle Pass Discounts
Community Calendar
What's In Bloom?
Spring Volunteer Training
Year in Review
Conductor for the Day
San Francisco Palms
In the Gift Shop
High School Writing Competition
Wish List

Conservatory Chronicles


Morgan Davis 
Content Contributers:
Annie Abernethy, Lupe Cota, Jason DeWees, Erika Frank, Nina Sazevich, Jane Scurich
Photograph Contributers:  
Annie Abernethy, Morgan Davis, Irja Elisa Photography, Erika Frank, Laura Keanon, Jane Scurich 

Visit the       Garden Railway
Railway Banner
Now through March 13!

Visit Us
Tuesday - Sunday

10am - 4:30pm (last entry is at 4:00pm)

The Conservatory is closed on Mondays.


Please note that on Sundays and all major holidays, Golden Gate Park closes many of its roads to all vehicle traffic.

Information line:


$7.00 for Adults

$5.00 for Youth 12-17, Seniors age 65 & over, and College Students with ID

$2.00 for Children 5-11

Free for Children 4 and under


Discounts available to all San Francisco City and County residents with proof of residency
The Conservatory is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of every month.


The Conservatory Of Flowers is wheelchair accessible for both motorized and non motorized chairs. Handicap permit parking is located at the east side of the building and also on John F. Kennedy Drive in front of the Conservatory. Strollers are not allowed in the Conservatory.


Roses are red

          Violets are blue

But a jungle full of orchids

 Really says, "I love you"


Anthurium by Steve Wright

February 14th is just around the corner.  Continue the Valentine's tradition of giving flowers, but instead of a bouquet, share your love and appreciation of beauty by giving an entire house filled with tropical plants and blooms year-round! Give the gift of a Jungle Pass - and give your sweetheart unlimited free admission to the Conservatory of Flowers


Enchantment, awe, magic and surprise are common expressions as visitors first enter the Lowland Tropics, experience a blast of warm air and encounter the century old imperial philodendron. Leaving the hot humid Lowlands for the Highland Tropics, guests are greeted with a cool, wet kiss from the moist cloud forest. Visitors' senses are fully engaged as they move from the tropical jungle to the Aquatics Gallery where sounds of moving water add to the totally sensory experience amidst extraordinary aquatic plants, bromeliads and carnivorous Nepenthes.


Place your order now to ensure your Jungle Pass membership gift plus a complimentary copy of our official keepsake book Treasures of the Conservatory is delivered by February 14th.  Visit our secure website to purchase, and enter code VALH5HGEQ to receive both a 10% discount on your membership purchase plus Treasures.  But hurry, this offer expires at midnight on February 14th!

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Ryan Anson's bouquet photo

Weddings, Corporate Luncheons, Office Holiday Parties... See how our event spaces will work for your private party. Visit the website for more information or contact Events Manager Morgan Davis at

Potted Plants Gallery event photo

Photo Credits: Top, Ryan Anson Photography, Bottom, Morgan Davis



January 26 

Golden Gate Park Volunteer Fair


The Conservatory is hosting the Golden Gate Park Volunteer Fair from 10:00-2:00 on Wednesday, January 26th. Learn about the exciting opportunities to lead tours, participate in garden work parties and contribute to the life of the city's most cherished open space. For more information, visit our website.



January 29 

SF Botanical Garden Society's 12th Annual Lunar New Year Celebration & Flower Market

SF County Fair Building 

10 am - 4 pm

Free Admission 



March 3 - 6

San Francisco Orchid Society's 59th

Pacific Orchid Exposition

"Natural Wonders" 


March 3

Gala Benefit Preview

6:00 - 10:30 pm


March 4-6

Friday,   10 am - 6 pm

    Saturday,  9 am - 6 pm Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm

 Fort Mason Center 



Donate Now!
Purple orchid photo by Todd Worley

 Your donation will help ensure the continued growth and success of this unique educational and historic living museum. 
Click here to make a donation through our secure online form.  
Join Our Mailing List 


The primary tenet of the Conservatory of Flowers' mission is to "connect people to plants". Of course, the successful fulfillment of our mission relies upon the essential human factor. One of the incredible strengths and resources present at the Conservatory is our 'human resource'! The unique, but powerfully effective team orchestrated within our 1879 Victorian glasshouse, combines the horticulture talents and expertise of our three Recreation & Park Department Nursery Specialists with the nonprofit staff AND our phenomenal corps of dedicated volunteers!

A tremendous amount of research, planning, design, financial analysis, marketing studies and visitor surveying goes into the Conservatory team's efforts to create extraordinary exhibitions, educational programs, special events and memorable botanical encounters for our guests. As we march towards welcoming our 2-millionth visitor since the triumphant Conservatory re-opening following its $25 million renovation in September of 2003, we continue to take our core mission very seriously. Our engaging Jungle Guides and docents are instrumental in "connecting visitors" from every corner of the world to our tropical slice of the global garden.  

Beyond our flourishing botanical collection, we believe people also grow in many important ways at the Conservatory of Flowers. As professional staff, volunteers, members, field trip school children, weekend families, dating couples, brides-to-be scouting out a beautiful wedding ceremony site, or a first-time visitor...everyone has the opportunity to grow at the Conservatory in their own special way.

Especially during the cooler, rainy months of our Bay Area winter, I invite you to escape to the Conservatory of Flowers...and get connected! You'll leave with a greater appreciation for our natural world, the beauty of tropical plants, and most-assuredly...a wonderful motivation to return often.

Brent's signature 

Brent Dennis


Want to really treat your valentine? Skip the measly dozen roses and come to the Conservatory of Flowers for an after hours Valentine's event featuring 12,000 square feet of exotic, fragrant and rare flowers, a cash bar, live music, poems on demand, and the ONLY after hours chance to come see the incredibly crafty and creative Garden Railway.


Garden Railway ConservatoryIt's a magical, miniature tour of San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Park with model trains and trolleys, replicas of ten of the Park's famous landmarks made from recycled materials by local SF Dump artist James Sellier, mini living versions of the Park's specialty gardens, sparkling water features, and even a wee bison paddock.


Enjoy live music by local romancers Jazz Quartet, taste the specialty brews of craft beHibiscuser makers Pacific Brew Lab and learn about their brewing process, steal a kiss in the Magnolia Photo Booth, and buy an instant poem created on the spot on a vintage typewriter by The Poetry Store.


Bring your sweetheart or find a new one in San Francisco's own tropical paradise under glass.


LOCATION:  Conservatory of Flowers

FEE: $5 entry at door; $5 beverages available for cash only purchase

INFO: visit our website or call  (415) 831-2090  

DATE: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TIME: 6-9 PM 

RSVP and invite your friends on Find us on Facebookacebook!  

The entry fee for this evening event applies to members, but visit the membership table and show your Jungle Pass for a special treat!

 Calamondin in Vestibule

Annually, the Conservatory's celebration of the Lunar New Year includes the introduction of citrus into our galleries. A few varieties of the Citrus Reticulata (mandarin orange) species are on display, now through February 20. You can find one 'Owari' variety of the Satsuma class sweetening the Lowlands Gallery, and one in the Potted Plants Gallery, along with a plant of the 'Dancy' variety of the Tangerine class. The 'Dancy' variety has been in cultivation just a few years longer than the existence of our greenhouse, and the 'Owari' first arrived from Japan in 1876. Another plant featured in Potted, and in the vestibule, is the "Kalamansi", a citrus hybrid. This plant is popular in the Philippines, where it is squeezed, like a lime, to flavor grilled street food. The citrus featured in the Conservatory were originally purchased from Four Winds Growers, and have been grown outdoors on the property over the past few years.  The dwarf trees not only produce elegant flowers whose fragrance permeates the building, they also produce colorful tangerine-like fruits. These taste a bit tangier than the typical tangerine, so buy yours from the store, and admire ours without touching!


Visit the Lunar New Year display in Potted Plants, which includes these and other plants, such as the Buddha's Hand, Rangpur lime, pomelo and kumqaut, February 1 - 20.

Share your love of plants with Conservatory visitors! The Conservatory's next volunteer training will be held in February and March. The seven session training program will prepare volunteers to lead tours for children or adults. Jungle Guides lead tours for 3rd-5th grade classes and cover the basics of plant evolution, conservation, and tropical ecosystems.
Docents lead daily tours for adults that cover our collection of tropical plants and historic building.

For more information, Volunteer Receptiondownload the training flier, or contact Erika Frank, Director of Volunteer Services, at 415-637-4326. 

Photograph of recent Volunteer Holiday Luau by Erika Frank

What an incredibly busy year at the Conservatory of Flowers! 2010 started on a great foot in January, as we welcomed Erika Frank, Director of Volunteers, who has invigorated our volunteer and education programs, and recruited talented and wonderful docents, Jungle Guides and horticultural helpers!  


ConnieThe Pacific Orchid Exposition's CARNIVAL! introduced "Connie" and our staff's award-winning display to the world of orchid lovers.


April showers brought May Flowers... vegetables, paella and Xanath ice-cream at the annual Member's Night dinner. Alemany Farms' Jason Mark reported on his recent trip to the Gulf Shore in crisis, and led a discussion about local farming. 


In June, we welcomed over 900 new members, thanks to a promotion through the daily-deals mogul, Groupon.


Paxton GateCarnivores revenged the COF bugs in CHOMP! 2, gulping down critters and turning beautiful colors in Special Exhibits. Peter D'Amato, from California Carnivores, hosted a "meat and greet" with these menaces at the COF, and provided a wonderful tour of his own Sebastopol nursery for our volunteers. After conquering local bugs, Chomp! 2 headed out of the Park and into the Mission to host weekend Carnivore workshops with youngsters at Paxton Gate's Curiosity Shoppe. 


getting hitchedIn the summer and fall, the Conservatory blossomed into a picturesque setting for wedding ceremonies and celebrations. The stunning creativity of these couples, their simple love, and the radiant joy of their supportive families and friends truly elevated the beauty of our Conservatory.


Three new guest service team members, Christina, Vanessa and Annie joined the crew during our busy Special Event Season, and the Development Department welcomed Development Associate, Eddie Edelson, to the nonprofit staff. We're so grateful for their contributions!


Brent Dennis and Gala ChairsThe third annual Gala, Tropics, Treasures & Trains, in November celebrated the Conservatory's education mission, and raised awareness and funds for this essential program. Supporters of the COF launched the Garden Railway in good company and style, honoring the 140 years of Golden Gate Park. Local designers donated unique holiday wreaths, launching our signature Wreath Auction. We also had a lot of fun --- and great food! 


Little Frosters!As winter settled in, December brought the floral displays of amaryllis and poinsettia. 40 families and couples participated in the gooey 'Frosting the Conservatory' gingerbread decorating event, creating a fun new tradition, and raising awareness for the COF's whitewashing and maintenance needs!


We look forward to another busy, productive year - and always welcome your feedback and ideas for new
ways you want to interact with the Conservatory! Please reach Special Event and Programs Manager Morgan Davis with comments.

Visit facebook to check out our albums or share your own photos of these events! 


Conductor of the Day and ThomasThrough the run of the Garden Railway, we're offering you and your little train enthusiasts the opportunity to be the Golden Gate Express Conductor For the Day! The ceremony begins at 9:30 am, when you are welcomed into the Conservatory before the public arrives. Once you arrive at the Conservatory Depot, your conductor will recConductor of the Dayeive their train whistle and engineer's hat, and view the options for the perfect engine to lead the Golden Gate Express for the day! After starting the train for its first run of the day, there is time for a photograph in front of the Conservatory Depot, and time to explore the rest of the Garden Railway exhibit!


To reserve your date a non-refundable donation of $50 to the Conservatory of Flowers is required. For more information, contact Development Associate Eddie Edelson at All aboard!      

Photos by Grandmother of the Day Laura Keanon 

A visitor at a recent private event observed the majestic palms on our property and asked, "Why can palms grow in San Francisco, when they don't grow in other locations as far north on the East Coast?"  I reached out to Jason DeWees, Palm broker & Horticulturist at Flora Grubb Gardens and Conservatory volunteer, for his insight on the matter. Here is his thoughtful response:


Palms at the COFSan Francisco is a good place for palm trees for a few reasons. Being on the West Coast, our weather comes from the mild Pacific Ocean -- never too frosty in winter (and yet quite chilly in summer). In Washington, DC, at nearly the same latitude (around 38 north) as San Francisco, the climate is much more extreme because air masses come from the continent, unmoderated by ocean waters. Only two or three species of palms can be grown outdoors there and only one becomes a tree.


The nearly 2000 species in the palm family most often originate in tropical climates like the Amazon, but the ones growing as ornamentals in San Francisco originate in Mediterranean, desert, and mild-temperate climates. The big palms in front of the Conservatory (Phoenix canariensis), for example, are native to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, where the climate ranges from Mediterranean January at COFto desert. Our foggy, cool, dry-summer conditions can be found in parts of the Canary Islands where this species grows in the wild. Other palms growing near the Conservatory originate in the Mediterranean Basin (Chamaerops humilis), Central Chile (Jubaea chilensis), and Mexico's Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Baja California (Brahea edulis).


More than 100 species of palms, ranging from fern-like understory species to behemoths like the Canary Island date palm, have been successfully cultivated in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of them, like Jubaea chilensis, can't tolerate the hot, humid, tropical conditions inside the Conservatory!  



As February approaches, it's time to plan for your winter vegetable garden. Consider the gift shop your source for unique and gorgeous organic greens, root veggies, herbs and more. Start indoor seedlings in our new Conservatory of Flowers terracotta pSprings Seedsots - the perfect accessory for a sunny spring window!


Seeds - $1.59-$5.99

Terracotta Pots - $9.95

For even more shopping convenience, visit our online store for Garden Railway 3 souvenirs and COF gift certificates! 

In memory of the late Barbara Pitschel, head librarian at San Francisco Botanical Garden library for 30 years, an essay competition has been established for San Francisco high school students. The subject is California plants or gardens.  Three cash prizes will be awarded and the first prize winner's essay will be published in Pacific Horticulture.


Entries to be submitted by March 31, 2011. Donations are also sought. For information, visit or download contest details here. 


Gently used or new Coffee Maker for Staff Kitchen

Bamboo Flooring donation for the Orchid Gallery

Gently used Digital Camera

Compostable Drinkware

1 or 2 Podiums for lectures and presentations

Beverage Containers for Special Events

Garment racks and hangers for Event Coat Check

New stanchions for the entrance

Flashlights for Jungle Guides and Docents


 Contact Morgan Davis with items for in kind donation!