A visit to the Conservatory of Flowers... like a trip to Hawaii without the cost of airfare

Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco 2011

Sitting like a white palace in Golden Gate Park is a magnificent building--the Conservatory of Flowers. Constructed in 1878, it has been there for a very long time. The building strikes me as a "she" for many reasons. She has survived a major fire in 1883; the horrific San Francisco earthquake of 1906; another fire in 1918; and devastating windstorms of 100 mph shattered the 30,000 glass panes and the glass dome in the winter of 1995-1996.

I'd say that sort of tenacity has to come from a "she" wouldn't you agree?

She reminds me of many of the women in my family that lived in the San Francisco area at the same time the Conservatory of Flowers was built.

Conservatory of Flowers, 1897 San Francisco
The above image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
For years after the catastrophic winter of 1995-1996, the Conservatory sat in a state of restoration. Whenever I would be driving through Golden Gate park I would wistfully look at her and wonder what she looked like inside. Fortunately, after a masterful restoration she is open to the public once again. And like any elect lady, her true beauties are within.

Tropicals at Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

Stepping into the first of five separate climate rooms, I was enveloped with the warm moist tropical air of the Lowland Tropics room housed under the main dome. It was chilly outside so my glasses and camera lens fogged up right away. But once everything got acclimated, it was time to explore.

Tropicals at Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

Stepping into the next annex, I found myself in the cool humidity of the Highland Tropics where more than 700 of the 1000 known species of high-altitude orchids native to Central and South America happily reside.

Tropicals at Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

Then stepping through another set of double doors I was enveloped by warm moist air even denser than in the Lowland Tropics room. The Aquatic Plants room showcases a massive pond in the center with a breathtaking array of aquatic tropical plants growing within it.

Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco

Some pale blushing anthuriums were one of many tropical flowers growing around the pond.

Anthurium at Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

Tracking back through the rooms and exiting the Lowland Tropics room on the opposite side, I found myself in my favorite room--the Potted Plants Gallery. Fashioned after what garden historians have termed the "Victorian Pot Culture", the room made me feel as if I had stepped back in time 100 years.

My favorite wing at Conservatory of Flowers San Francisco

Hubby and I sat for quite some time in this gallery on the large curved bench at one end. It was peaceful and serene. It felt like a home away from home. During certain times of the year this gallery's air is pungent with citrus blossoms, but on this particular day the air was only laced with the aroma of fresh soil and the smell of green life... and it felt like home.

More facts about The Conservatory of Flowers (from Wikipedia):
  • The building remains the oldest in Golden Gate Park and is the oldest municipal wooden conservatory remaining in the United States
  • The central dome rises nearly 60 feet (18 m) high and the arch-shaped symmetrical wings extending from it on either side make up 240 feet (73 m) in overall length
  • Physical evidence suggests that the Conservatory of Flowers was constructed originally of redwood milled on the West Coast
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  1. She certainly does look like a Grand Dame. Lovely.

  2. Ok, it's going on my list. Each time I visit San Francisco I think I'm finally going to go see the Conservatory and don't find the time... thanks for the pictures!


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