Conservatory Logo
Conservatory Chronicles
 Issue #50                                                                                                    
 December, 2011
In This Issue
Holiday Hours
What's In Bloom?
Holiday Tips From the Blog Reel
February Events
Be Conductor of the Day!
Happy Holidays from the Conservatory
Give the Gift of Membership
In the Gift Shop
2011 in Review
Community Calendar
In the Press
Deck the Conservatory
Wish List
All Aboard for a Discount to Walt Disney Family Museum

Conservatory Chronicles


Morgan Davis 
Annie Abernethy, Michelle Manzer

Photo Contributors:
Devin Begley Photography, Julie Michelle Photography  


This year's Garden Railway takes you on a trip through time...  

Playland at the Conservatory Banner

Visit Us
 Holiday Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday

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

The Conservatory is closed on Christmas and New Year's Day, and will close at 2 PM on December 24.  

The Conservatory will reopen on January 3: FREE DAY!   



Please note that on Sundays and 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.


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.  

Garden Railway 2009
Theme your Party:

Design your own event:
 ~ Cocktail Reception ~
~ Dinner & Dancing ~
~ After Hours Tour ~

Click here for more info on tours and booking, or email!

Don't miss a moment... 

COF December
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Share your photos, make recommendations and join the conversation!



"Tis the Season"


If your snailmail and email boxes are anything like mine, you are inundated with "end of the year" appeals for financial support of worthwhile organizations or causes. The Conservatory of Flowers is hopefully one of the special places that rises to the top of your charitable gift consideration before we ring in 2012.


This past year has been one of 'focused busy-ness' by our extremely dedicated team of professional staff and passionate volunteers! The success and popularity of both Wicked Plants and the current exhibition Playland at the Conservatory have been labor-intensive efforts to plan, design and present for our loyal members and visitors. Amid the myriad of educational programs, special events and countless Jungle Tours, we celebrated with a wow-filled Green & Gold Gala. The Conservatory's youth education program is the beneficiary of the Gala's proceeds, which is also funded by our vigilant pursuit of foundation grant funding and corporate gifts. Over 8,000 school children experienced the botanical wonders of the Conservatory's plant collections within our 1879 Victorian glasshouse's steamy tropical setting. Jungle Guides made the connection between people and plants fun and memorable with each unique personalized excursion.


We are fortunate to have a growing corps of supporters committed to the preservation and proper maintenance of the historic architecture and prominence of the Conservatory. Many include the Conservatory in their estate planning, and this quiet support will prove to be a substantial form of long-term funding for the Conservatory.

Whatever reason you find this season to direct a special gift to the Conservatory of Flowers, please know how much we appreciate your generosity. On behalf of all our staff and volunteers at the Conservatory of Flowers, Happy Holidays!  


We wish you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year in 2012!


 Brent's signature 

Brent Dennis

The featured bloom this month fills our galleries with a festive, traditional look, and probably graces your home, too. PoinsettaPoinsettias have long been associated with Christas. They have also long been touted as harmful, threatening plants included in your holiday traditions. After our big fling with Wicked Plants in 2011, we consider ourselves a bit of an expert on the topic... or, we'll put it this way: we now have Amy Stewart and Poison Control on speed dial.

The controversy has proven to be misleading. Now, we don't recommend eating plants at all, but read what Ms. Stewart had to say in the section of  Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins titled This Houseplant Could Be Your Last: "The poinsettia, one of the most reviled indoor plants, is not nearly as toxic as its reputation would lead one to believe. As a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, the sap is mildly irritating, but that is the extent of it. While the poinsettia gets plenty of bad press around the holidays, many other houseplants escape notice in spite of their more toxic qualities."  

The toxic quality is from the Vestibule Poinsettiassap: the Euphorbiaceae, or Spurge, family has many species with sap that contains latex, which can trigger reactions in about two-thirds of the population with latex allergies. Relatives that were featured in our Wicked Plants exhibit include the Rubber Tree and the Castor Oil plant. In all, the Spurge family includes 300 genera and 7700 species that thrive in temperate and subtropical climates.  


In nature, the Poinsettia grows shrub-like and can be up to 13 feet high. The plant can thrive as a potted plant only due to successful breeding. Native to Central America and Mexico, Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, brought the first poinsettia to America in 1825. That's 52 years before the Conservatory was built! Today you can view the festive plant in the Potted Plants Gallery, flanking the Garden Railway in the Playland Exhibit, or welcoming guests in the Vestibule.


Visit for info on how to enjoy your holiday plant for years to come.

Here's a little round up of the best of the internet, relating to gardens and the environment. Even the quickest tweeter has a hard time keeping up with all the content. If you have a moment's pause, here's what we found worth pursuing!

Emily Compost details how to deck your halls with poisonous plants, without harming a guest.

Plantgasm's Guide to Holiday Plant Care  


The Sierra Club's Guide to a Green Holiday Party


You Grow Girl's Guide to Stylish Gardener Gift Giving, if you've already covered the basics.


Mark your calendars for upcoming engagements at the Conservatory. You can always visit the website for more upcoming programming and ticket information.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

 Playland the Early Years: 1914-1945 with Author and Historian James R. Smith

Playland The Early Years Book CoverEnjoy Playland after the crowds, opening at 6pm with Playland Marv available to answer questions. Lecture 7-8, with Q&A

$5 entry, Free to Members

Tickets available online and at the door.


Tuesday, Feb. 28

Introduction to Digital Flower Photography with Allen Rokach: Shoot It! Play with it! Enjoy It!

Allen Rokach Photo 5Join us for a one-day workshop exploring digital photography basics to help you create stunning floral photos, shooting the beautiful Conservatory of Flowers. Through demonstrations and hands-on practice you will hone skills in photographic seeing, composition and mastering digital camera settings. We'll critique, edit and learn to improve and enhance images. $150 General Public, $130 Conservatory Members 

Tickets available online and at the door. Presented by Photobotanic. Reach Morgan Davis at 415-846-0538 with registration questions! 



All aboard!!! The Conservatory of Flowers offers train enthusiasts of all ages the opportunity to be Conductor of the Day during the run of Playland at the Conservatory. Join us before the Conservatory opens to visitors! Conductors receive a whistle and engineer's hat, get the chance to start the trains that day and can try their hand at the arcade games in the exhibition. Afterward wishing the train bon voyage and enjoying the amusements of Playland, Conductors and their guests enjoy the serene Conservatory before the doors open to the public. A $50 donation to the Conservatory is required, which provides for the Conductor and three guests. For extra guests, general admission fees are added. Choo-choo!!

For more information, contact Development Associate Eddie Edelson at or 415-577-2584.
Playland at the Conservatory is open Tuesdays - Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm, through April 15. Conductor of the Day is not available on Christmas and New Year's Day, as the Conservatory is closed.

                       HAPPY HOLIDAYS
Conservatory of Flowers executive staff 
We hope to see you often in 2012!


With an exciting, constantly changing program of special exhibitions and seasonal delights,
the Conservatory of Flowers is a great place to bring the whole family more than once a year.
Members admire plants in Aquatics Gallery.

Visit our website to learn about the various tiered benefits for membership levels, and to join!


All membership levels include the following benefits:

* Year-round free admission   

 *10% discount in the Conservatory Gift Shop and selected merchants including Flora Grubb Gardens and The Urban Farmer Store

 * Invitation to exclusive members-only events and discounts for select special events

* Monthly 'Conservatory Chronicles' enews subscription annual print newsletter

* Knowledge that you are an important steward of the historic Conservatory of Flowers

* Reciprocal privileges at more than 250 horticultural organizations in North America through the AHS.


Photo by Photographer and Jungle Pass Member Matt Laws


This year, our little Gift Shop has turned into Santa's Workshop and, like old Saint Nick, we have something in store for the vast array on your gift giving list: those who have been nice.. and just a little bit naughty! Real Orchid Necklaces


For the trend-setting  fashionista: Banner Tote Bags ($35) and Real Orchid Necklaces ($25)


To keep the Local History Buff occupied, San Francisco's Lost Landmarks by James R. Smith ($14.95)* and Remembering Playland at the Beach Documentary by Tom Wyrsch ($20)*


For your favorite Book Worm? Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart ($18.95) is a page turner! 

 Playland Tix

Is your hubby an Amusement Park Junkie? Framed Original Playland at the Beach Tickets ($20-$30) and Key Chain ($4)


Every family has a Model Train Expert.. accessorize their hobby with Playland at the Conservatory T-Shirt sizes 2-12 ($18.95)* and Playland at the Conservatory Train Whistle ($3.50)


Beer MonsterAnd for the Month-Long Mooching College Student on Winter Break- GROW Me- Beer (Hops) Kit ($7)


Last but not least? YOU! You can always hint at what you want, and tell them exactly where to get it for you: a stocking stuffed full of Botanical Interests Seeds ($1.29-$5.99) and a Jungle Pass Family Membership ($60)*


*Available online at 


Playland at the Conservatory tee shirts, magnets, films and books are also available for purchase online.


What a year at the Conservatory of Flowers! We started off the year with a Garden Railway celebrating 150 years of Golden Gate Park. In February, we hosted Jungle Love, an After Hours event featuring the Quartet du Jazz. Guests took home poems for their Valentines typed in the Highlands Gallery, by the Poetry Store.


Whitewashing in JuneMany of you showered the Conservatory with our Spring Shower fundraiser, providing maintenance for the Greenhouse and school supplies for our students.


The Wicked Plants exhibit brought with it a myriad of plant related programs. Our members and donors had a sneak peek of Wicked Plants, led by Author Amy Stewart, on the eve of the exhibit's public opening, and the Boxcar Theatre ensemble gave a sneak peek of their new production of Little Shop of Horrors entwined in our poison garden. We celebrated those naughty plants, at Plants Behind Bars on 4-20. Guests were tatted up in our temporary tattoo parlour, Pacific Brew Lab served hemp flavored ale, and Le Truc, the school bus that serves food, pulled right up to the Conservatory to dish out healthier plant-based treats. Mayhem ensued, with Mischief & Mayhem in the Garden. Author Rosemary Harris shared her experiences writing mystery novels set in gardens, telling us how she finds real world instances for sinister plots. Amy Stewart visited again in June, and spoke about her research for the book Wicked Plants to a full house, who often cheered along as she divulged stories about the demonic plants! Later that month, we greeted 80 couples for a deadly-date after dark, enjoying delightfully dangerous plants cooked into submission in the form of bread pudding, and maniacal music by the Wally Cutthroat Duo on a Wicked Night Out. On Bastille Day, we had the pleasure of Billy Goodnick's Crimes Against Horticulture presentation. The truly troubling instances of urban landscaping not thought through, and neighbors with a vengeance, left our audience committed to following Billy's easy guide to creating sustainable, livable outdoor spaces.  


Orchid Gallery September ReceptionAfter an eight week training this summer, a new crop of enthusiastic volunteers joined us as docents and Jungle Guides. In the greenhouse, Janet Spellman joined us, and now cares for Potted Plants, and Larry Lindsay came aboard to assist the Horticulture Staff.  Before the height of wedding season, we welcomed a stellar team of new event staff. Ten couples shared their vows at the Conservatory this year, along with two very special surprise engagements.   


ConBrio plays Conservatory of Flowers Just before Golden Gate Park hosted the SF Marathon, we teamed up to host their runners and organizers for a MASHUP night in the Conservatory. We met our new comrades at Comrades Brewing, a match made in hop heaven, and listened to the beats of in the greenhouse.  


All summer, we experienced the Greenhouse Effect! No, we're not referring to the hothouse climate before the Conservatory was whitewashed in June... this was the name of the summer reading series with local nonprofit Quiet Lightning. In August, we gathered in Wicked Plants for round one. Labor Day brought a litnic to the lawn of the Conservatory, with musical performances by ConBrio and Michael Musika, before the readers took the stage. In October, we were officially sanctioned as the only submission-based reading event for Litquake!


Fine Art of Poisoning CollageAs Halloween approached, Amy Stewart returned to San Francisco, to tell us about her newest topic of interest and book, Wicked Bugs, before jetting off on a 100+ stop book tour. Before we bid the Wicked Plants farewell, we threw a final party teaching our guests The Fine Art of Poisoning. The head of the San Francisco Division of Poison Control spoke to an SRO crowd, curious about the real world implications of plants in their homes and gardens. Jill Tracy screened her film collaboration with Bill Domonkos (watch here if you missed it!), and performed a cabaret act, telling tales of woe.


Two new chairwomen, Meryl Mikal and Kelly Hansmann, with a familiar team of committed volunteers, rebranded our annual youth education fundraiser as the Green & Gold Gala. Their creativity and dedication shone on November 17, as we danced the night away to Swing Fever, were stunned by the marvelous DecoBelles, and celebrated the launch of Playland at the Beach in vintage style, with classic cars gracing the lawn and guests dressed to the nines!


Our second annual holiday event, Frosting the Conservatory, saw its attendance more than double, with 150 folks enjoying a day of sweet fun, creativity and holiday cheer. Click the collage to see more images on facebook! 


To end the year with hope for many new plants and partnerships in the year to come, we hosted a tour after dark, "Sex and Survival in the Tropics," sponsored by Atlas Obscura. Our visitors learned all about the inner workings of the different species struggling to perpetuate their species in the climates represented in our greenhouse.


Stay tuned for a peek at the different delights 2012 has in store. Thousands of visitors joined us for events outside the regular visiting hours, and if you're one, we hope you'll come back in the New Year. See you in 2012!


Gala Photos by Devin Begley Photography. Photos in Fine Art of Poisoning Collage by Julie Michelle Photography; all others by Morgan Davis.






February 23 - 26 

Pacific Orchid Exposition    

Fort Mason, Festival Pavilion  

  GALA Thurs, February 23  - 6:30pm - 10:00pm
Fri, February 24 - 10am - 6pm
Sat, February 25 - 9am - 6pm
Sun, February 26 - 10am - 5pm
March 13 - 17 
 Bouquets to Art

the de Young Museum  

9:30 am to 5:15 pm  


March 21 - 25
San Francisco Flower & Garden Show
San Mateo Events Center

Wed-Sat 10 am to7 pm, Sunday 10 am to 6 pm  

NEW Bay Citizen Drawing Crowds  Reporter Thorina Rose could publish a book with her beautiful watercolors of the Conservatory, its collection, and visitors at Saturday night's event. It wouldn't be a children's book... but quite educational! If you missed the after hours tour 'Sex & Survival in the Tropics', take a peek at scenes from the evening, in The Bay Citizen's Drawing Crowds.  

San Francisco Chronicle 96 Hours Get the inside scoop on Frosting the Conservatory.

NEW San Francisco Chronicle  The SF Ballet's Sugar Plum Fairy, Courtney Elizabeth, was transplanted from North Carolina nine years ago. Her love for the Conservatory and its tropical climates made her the perfect candidate to lead the city on a tour through the Galleries in the Ballet's Guide to San Francisco.

NEW San Francisco Chronicle Catherine Bigelow's Social City column notes that smell of corn dogs aloft on sea breezes could almost be detected at the Conservatory of Flowers during the Green & Gold Gala. She speaks with guests and Playland at the Conservatory sound designer Andrew Roth.      
 NEW San Francisco Chronicle Replaying Memories of Playland at the Beach; reporter Sarah Adler interview Green & Gold Gala guests about their nostalgia for the bygone amusement.  

ABC7 News Don Sanchez explores the thrills of Playland and chats with Exhibit Director Lau Hodges.

KTVU Lau Hodges explains the Seaside Amusements of San Francisco's past, highlighted in this year's Garden Railway, and demonstrates the charms of the 1930s bumper car.

Richmond Blog SF Dig into the stories behind the exhibit to learn how the Conservatory accumulated all the nostalgic and novel elements of the Playland exhibit. A photo slideshow of the Playland Exhibit.  

Go behind the scenes on one of our Jungle Tours!  


SF Recreations & Parks Get Out & Play View our videos on YouTube features interviews with Amy Stewart and Exhibits Director Lau Hodges, and introduces viewers to the bewitching plants.           


COLE HARDWARE IS GIVING the Conservatory of Flowers 10% OF YOUR PURCHASES!

The Conservatory is a member of Cole Hardware's School and Community Partnership program. Cole Hardware gives us 10% of purchases made by you, every day of the year! Earn money for us while shopping for your hardware needs at any Cole Hardware location. The more you spend, the more they donate to us! Ask the cashier to post your purchase to the Conservatory of Flowers. You can mention partner #21401 at the checkout.

It's that simple!

You can donate to our wishlist account, from which we can purchase from Cole Hardware at a substantial discount. That will really help!



Hand Carts and Dolleys for Daily Operations


   Hi Lumen Projector and Screen for Presentations 


Drape Sponsorship for the Orchid Gallery Interior Decoration Upgrade 


2 Podiums for Lectures and Presentations


Chalk Board for Announcing Upcoming Events and Deals 


Flashlights for Jungle Guides and Docents


Contact Morgan Davis with items for in kind donation!





Alison and Nathan

One of the 2010 COF weddings was the marriage of two creative and crafty minds. Their big day was featured in 7x7's wedding blog.

Read the full article online:

 Tech Geek Wedding at Conservatory of Flowers 

Photo Credits: Mapurunga Photography


"I want it to look like nothing else in the world... and it should be surrounded by a train." Walt Disney was referring to his vision for Disneyland, and his love of trains is apparent at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco's scenic Presidio where visitors can view one of the most intricately detailed miniature live-steam home railroads ever created: the Lilly Belle, the one-eighth scale Carolwood Pacific Railroad that Walt helped build in his backyard. Plus, all month long in October, see The Great Locomotive Chase on the big screen at the Museum. Conservatory friends: Print out this email and bring it the Museum for $3 off admission. Valid for up to 4 people, through December 31, 2011.

ABOUT THE MUSEUMWalt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum presents the fascinating story and achievements of Walt Disney, the man who raised animation to an art, transformed the film industry, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a global and distinctively American legacy. Opened in October 2009, the 40,000 square foot facility features the newest technology and historic materials and artifacts to bring Disney's achievements to life, with interactive galleries that include early drawings and animation, movies, music, listening stations, a 14-foot model of Disneyland and much more.

Conservatory Chronicles 5

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