Conservatory Logo
Conservatory Chronicles
 Issue #51                                                                                                    
 January 2012
In This Issue
Visit Us
What's In Bloom
From the Blog Reel
February Events
Valentine's Membership
In the Gift Shop
Nickels for Non-Profits
Interview with Allen Rokach
Community Calendar
In the Press
Be Conductor of the Day!
Wish List

Conservatory Chronicles


Morgan Davis 
Annie Abernethy, Lupe Cota

Photo Contributors:
Annie Abernethy, Morgan Davis, Julie Michelle Photography, Allen Rokach     


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) 


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.  

Gala 2009

Orchid Gallery September Reception

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
Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

View our profile on LinkedIn

Share your photos, make recommendations and join the conversation!



The Conservatory's New Year's Resolution

Many of my big ideas are generated while I exercise at the gym. In this first part of January, the influx of well-intended gym-goers got me thinking about the annual occurrence of healthy New Year's Resolutions. These resolutions are being realized all around us! In the park, the number of early morning runners is increasing (though it may be due the unseasonably dry weather!), and around the lunch table, I see healthy snacks being consumed.  


When we attempt these resolutions, we're setting goals for ourselves. I think goal-setting is a wonderful, healthy way to start the New Year. Each January, I ask my staff to submit three goals they aim to accomplish that year. I might ask the same of the Conservatory, herself. As her Director, I'll go out on a limb and project these would be the Conservatory's New Year's goals for 2012:


1) Welcome each visitor in ways that will bring a smile to their face

2) Infuse each visit with a moment that decreases their stress

3) Use my unique floral qualities to inspire special memories for each visitor


Help fulfill her New Year's Goals: visit often, and keep us posted on her success! Best of luck with your own goals and resolutions this year. Happy 2012 from the Conservatory of Flowers!


 Brent's signature 

Brent Dennis


by Nursery Specialist Lupe Cota

Each year the Year of Dragon imageConservatory of Flowers honors the Chinese New Year, which begins in 2012 on January 23. Traditionally, fragrant Citron are placed as an offering on temple altars, and so we incorporate this plant tradition into our celebration. To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, we will incorporate kumquat plants in the exhibit galleries. Kumquats are ornamental citrus of the family Rutaceae and are small evergreen shrubs that grow no taller than 3 meters.


Kumquats in VestibuleOur kumquats are Fortunella margarita 'Nagami,' the most commonly grown cultivar. The fruits' flowering season is summer and it matures in late winter.  The entire fruit is eaten raw, including the rind. We purchased these kumquat plants from Four Winds Growers. You can find more information on growing citrus on their website: The cultivar 'Meiwa' has round fruit and has sweet juice. Fortunella crassifolia 'Meiwa' is grown for cool summers, but it is quite rare commercially in the U.S.  You can find more information about their availability online:


Mandarin oranges, Citrus
reticulata, are the most Kumquats in Lowlandspopular and abundant citrus during Chinese New Year; their shape and color symbolize the sun.  Buddha's Hand, Citrus medica, is popular too. Citrus medica have fruit that develops very slowly. Ours have been doing very well in the greenhouses, and we will bring them in for display in the galleries. Happy 2012! 

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!
Garden Rant
Enriching blog featuring one of our favorite authors, Amy Stewart, as a key contributor. This post features the new SF initiative to produce all of the city's Meyer lemon needs using trees that grow on our own sidewalks!
Conservatory in 1957 And speaking of city streets... SF Streetsblog posted a magical glimpse into our city's past. A narrated drive through San Francisco in 1955, captured on Cinemascope, takes viewers around the city, and through Golden Gate Park. They stop to admire "the veritable paradise of rare, tropical plants." A good portion of the film is devoted to the treasures we've recreated in Playland. 20 minutes of time travel!  
Mark your calendars for upcoming engagements at the Conservatory. You can always visit the website for more upcoming programming and ticket information.

Tuesday, February 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.

Wednesday, February 8  

Aphrodesia After Hours  

Cocktail Lab at Fine Art of PoisoningCocktail Lab at Fine Art of Poisoning

Dark Chocolate, Flowers, Cocktails, & Playland Nostalgia: what puts you in the mood to romance faster? Taste, hear, smell, see and feel it all! Come as a couple, or come prowling for company, but get yourself to the Conservatory After Hours for a sense-ational evening in the tropics. Tap your toes to Le Quartet de Jazz, drink a love potion brewedZoltar at the Conservatory up by the Cocktail Lab while strolling through Playland, snuggle up in the vintage photobooth, and taste the difference when chocolate is crafted by makers who are obsessed with the whole process. Beer goggles provided by Comrades Brewing.

cacao | TCHO's Chief Chocolate Maker Brad Kintzer will discuss the fusion of art and science behind making fine chocolate. We'll begin the journey with the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) through the finished wrapped chocolate bar. We will look into all of the key variables that influence chocolate quality, specifically cacao plant varietals, fermentation and drying, roasting and chocolate making. A special focus will be on the comTCHO dark chocolateplexity and importance of creating innovative, sustainable relationships with our cocoa farmers. The talk will include a guided tasting of diverse origins and chocolate flavors.

TCHO Lectures in the Orchid Gallery, 7 pm and 8:30 pm (included in the price of admission)

$10 General Public, $7 Members 

Visit the Aphrodesia Event Page for more details about the evening and to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are also available at the door.

Cocktail Lab photos by Julie Michelle Photography. 

Tuesday, February 28

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

7 SPACES REMAININGAllen Rokach Photo 1

Join 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. Read our interview with Allen Rokach, in this issue!  


Reach Special Events Manager Morgan Davis with questions!  


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


Much like your love, these Valentines will blossom year-round.  


Gift Shop Items Honey, Bee Mine

Help your honey save the bees! Our honey bee garden kit ($13.95) includes coconut husk starter pots, plant markers and a collection of flowers to spread the love among these important pollinators.


Viola Valentine

Edible FlowerThis sweet and fragrant edible flower is packaged in a self-watering cultivation kit ($12.95), for the valentines with too much else on their plate.


Let Love Grow

A great way to say "I dig you!" This adorable Wish Garden kit ($18.95) propagates all life's essentials including love (forget-me-nots), friendship (sweet pea) and happiness (lavender).


Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Flower ConfidentialAmy Stewart's New York Times Bestseller ($5.00) is an expos into the international flower trade, and explains why that bouquet of roses may not smell much like roses. Gift it along with our Fragrant Flower Scatter Garden ($12.00).


For the Real Thing, Baby

Living orchids are hand-preserved in lacquer, some are dipped in gold, and turned into a variety of necklaces and brooches ($25.00). A must for the orchid-lover you love.


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

Content and photos provided by Annie Abernethy.  

Whole Foods Logo

Our new neighbors over at Whole Foods are committed to the community. We're one of two featured non-profits in their Nickels for Non-Profits program through March 31! For every bag you bring in to the store to bag your groceries, you receive a 5 refund of your bill. That money is then donated to the Conservatory of Flowers. Simple! Thank your for your support of us, and the environment!  


Whole Foods Market 

690 Stanyan Street | San Francisco, California




Professional photographer Allen Rokach will join us on February 28 to teach a day long workshop on digital floral photography. Rokach's distinguished career includes fourteen years as the staff photographer and Director of Photography at the New York Botanical Garden, and ten years as a Senior Photographer for Southern Living magazine, as well as editorial assignments for National Geographic, the New York Times, and Better Homes & Gardens, amongst a vast number of other publications. He took the time to answer a few questions about his photography, and the upcoming workshop.       


How long have you been studying photography? What hooked you?  

I began taking photographs some 40 years ago while working as a geologist. My photos then were strictly functional, though I always enjoyed being in some of the beautiful outdoor locations. When I gave up geology, I decided to make photography my profession, though I wasn't very good. I learned on the job, but also took workshops with some outstanding photographers, such as Ernst Haas, Bruce Davidson, Arnold Newman, and Roman Vishniac. They were wonderful people who guided me, encouraged me, and helped me transform my vision. In the late 1970s, I landed a position as Director of Photography at the New York Botanical Garden. That's when I got hooked on photographing flowers, something I really hadn't done much before. 


Allen Rokach image OrchidWhere do you call home, and what is the furthest from home you've gone on a photography shoot?

I grew up in Brooklyn as a child of immigrants. I remember being fascinated by National Geographic magazines, but never in a million years did I believe I would actually travel to such exotic locations. Fortunately, I have managed to get photographic assignments that have literally taken me around the world - to all seven continents. The farthest I've ever gone is probably Papua New Guinea, which I did on an assignment for the National Geographic! In between my travels, I make my home in Florida and New York.


What are your favorite locations to shoot?

I can't say that I have specific favorite locations but my greatest love is outdoor location photography. I love photographing flowers, whether they are in the wild or in gardens. As I explored America's public gardens, national parks and other nature locations with my camera, I collected enough images to produce my first book, written with my wife, Anne Millman: "Focus on Flowers: Discovering the Beauty of Flowers in Gardens and Wild Places," which won the Award for Excellence from the Garden Writers of America. I also love all aspects of nature and have traveled the world in search of magnificent natural locations, birds and other wildlife. As a result, Anne and I produced a six-book series of field guides on aspects of nature photography (flowers, gardens, trees, landscapes, birds, seasons). 


Were you a gardener before a photographer, or vice versa?

I am not a gardener, but I love photographing gardens.  Over the years I've photographed America's leading botanical gardens and countless private gardens for books like "Gardens of the Heartland" and for all major gardening magazines, especially for Southern Living, where I was Senior Photographer for many years. 


Allen Rokach photo PoppyDo you have a favorite plant, and if so, is it your favorite plant to photograph as well?

I love photographing flowers!  Flowers are beautiful, yet every flower that I have ever photographed was a challenge. It's the challenge that makes the process of making imaginative pictures of flowers so exciting.


Did you begin with film photography, and switch to digital?

When I began, the only way to make photographs was with film. I switched to digital eight years ago. It was a challenge and it was a long learning curve for me, but it was worth it. Digital photography opened up a whole new world of wonderful possibilities. I now see the world of photography quite differently than I did just a few years ago - and I enjoy sharing those insights with students.


What do you enjoy about the medium of digital?

First, I enjoy getting instant feedback. I don't have to wonder and wait to find out how the image looks. Also, I enjoy being able to take as many images as I want without additional cost. And, of course, I enjoy using after-capture software (e.g. Photoshop) to improve or transform an image in ways that would be impossible using film. Today we have the freedom to create images based on our imagination and that's very exciting and liberating. 


What can those attending your class at the Conservatory hope to come away with at the end of the day? 

Most importantly, I want participants to feel they got what they needed from this workshop, that they learned what they needed to learn. My workshops are not one-size-fits-all. I try very hard to respond to the needs of every participant. I do this in the field while we are shooting and at the review sessions we hold in the classroom.


What words of encouragement do you have for our readers that might be considering registering for the class?

Allen Rokach Photo 5I know from many years of offering photo workshops that everyone has a creative core, everyone can learn and everyone can improve. We may learn in different ways and at different speeds. We may start from different places. Some may need to learn techniques and develop their skills. Others may need to find their personal vision and gain confidence in finding their creative selves. We are all unique and I strongly believe that everyone can create meaningful, imaginative photographs. There are no failures. Photography is wonderfully accessible means of self-expression and my passion is to help you discover your own form of expression as a flower photographer.


What else would you like to share with Conservatory Chronicles readers?

People ask me, "Is it possible to learn to be creative with the camera?" My experience has been that it certainly is!  Some of you will learn from instructions and demonstrations; some will learn from the critique sessions and some will gain insight by seeing how others approached the same subjects. With a small group shooting in the same area and using the same basic equipment, you will see that each individual will find a unique photographic perspective.  As we review each person's work, you will be amazed by how each of us sees the world differently. I get tremendous pleasure from guiding this learning process and seeing how much fun people have along the way. 

For more information about the February 28 workshop, and other upcoming events, visit: or click here to register. All photos in this article by Allen Rokach.   

Allen Rokach Image Anmeones Israel


Friday, January 20, 5pm to 9pm
Saturday, January 21,  1pm to 5pm

San Francisco Dump Artist in Residence Exhibitions

Work by Terry Berlier, Donna Anderson Kam and Ethan Estess

503 Tunnel Ave
Environmental Learning Center Gallery at 401 Tunnel Ave
Free and open to the public,  

all ages welcome, wheelchair accessible.  



January 29, 2012

Glass Jar Terrarium Building

Workshop SF  

1798 McAllister Street

1:00 - 3:00 PM



 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 - 5:15 pm  


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

Wed-Sat, 10 am - 7 pm

Sunday, 10 am - 6 pm  


NEW SF Chronicle Datebook Front page story in Datebook shares the surprise elements of Playland, chronicles visitors experiences and tells about the exhibit's unsung heroes. Then writer Peter Hartlaub challenges our staff to rig a video camera on a boat! Stay tuned, readers...   


NEW SFGATE The Big Event Chronicle event concierge Peter Hartlaub delves further into Playland nostalgia in this follow up to this Datebook article, with photos from the Chronicle archives.  


NEW 7 x 7 Guest Blog features the Moms at Red Tricycle as they review our dazzling miniature Playland! 


NEW Marin IJ The Master Gardeners column offers advice about how to keep busy in your garden during the winter months... from learning how to compost, pruning dead wood, or cleaning your tools and toolbox...and if it's too cold outside, suggests a visit to the tropical Conservatory!


NEW Backwoods Cottage What a delight to read this visitor's account of her visit to the Conservatory in December! The post includes really colorful photos of our orchids. There's a second blog entry if you click 'More Photos of our Visit' for some blooming bromeliads.. and our favorite neighbor, Claude.


NEW Far Out Flora Some of our favorite visitors stopped by during the holidays! Check out the blog post from the duo at Far Out Flora, as they explore Playland at the Beach, which may or may not be featuring a Fountain of Youth! Is that why our turtles are so energetic these days? 

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  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.

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.      

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

 The Western Edition Go behind the scenes on one of our Jungle Tours!  

Visit our website's press page to view more recent coverage of the Conservatory.  

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, visit the website, or 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.  


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!

Visit the Conservatory Support page for other fundraising initiatives.




   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!




Conservatory Chronicles 5

Miss an issue? Looking for a specific article? Read previous issues of the Conservatory Chronicles in our archives.   
Join Our Mailing ListRPD logo