Take a Day-tour to Visit the Beautiful Gardens of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
Most of the gorgeous gardens open to the public in San Francisco are located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, but there are also a few gems scattered throughout the city. For a city that is covered in concrete and asphalt, there is an amazing amount of green to be found in the form of trees and grass. There are countless parks and POPOS (publicly owned private open spaces) but this time I will only mention a few, focusing on gardens in Golden Gate Park rather than lawns and urban woods.
By far my favorite garden in SF is the San Francisco Botanical Garden (formally known as the Helen Strybing Arboretum) in Golden Gate Park. Located centrally off of 9th Ave. and Lincoln, it is in the main attraction hub of the park– a stones throw from the CA Academy of Science and the de Young Fine Arts Museum. Long before I was a garden coach, I was just a horticultural student and my teacher would meet me and my classmates every Saturday at the Arboretum to learn about the extensive plant collection presented at this botanical garden from five corners of the Earth. With over 7,500 varieties of plants stretching over 55 acres, this was the ideal outdoor classroom to learn about both unusual beauties and common species. A lot of the plants are labeled with plaques describing it’s botanical name, common name, family, and where it’s naturally found in the world. For all the time that I spent in the garden, I was always able to learn more. You might say that without this spectacular resource within my reach, I might not be a garden coach today!
The Arboretum is sub-divided into 24 mini gardens that flow together marvelously. Pack a lunch, and arrive in the morning to beat the crowds and see more wildlife, such as birds and squirrels. From the entry garden, travel through the Asian Cloud Forest of Magnolia trees, raining giant satin petals and littering the ground in pink to enter Japan, with it’s ponds and dwarf conifer trees. You will then find yourself skirting a field of CA wildflowers before entering the dusky and cool Redwood forest. Next you will briefly find yourself in a bright and vibrant Mexico before heading into Southern Australia with it’s unique Bottlebrush trees, and then popping out at my favorite scene, the subtly colorful succulent garden, canopied by an enormous Monkey Hand tree. A short trek will lead you into New Zealand, then Chili, and Eastern Australia, where the aroma of Eucalyptus trees prevail, before arriving in the in the primitive plant plot where you will be in awe over the colossal trees and perennials that accompanied the dinosaurs in ancient times. Take a minute to ogle the ducks and geese in the wildfowl pond before moving on to sensory overload in the garden of fragrance. Head past the fountain down into Africa to view the awesome and jaw-dropping Proteas and Leucadendrons, and then end your stay with a picnic on the main lawn.
If you haven’t had enough plants for one day, after lunch, head out the back entrance of the Botanical Garden and cross over the street into the rose garden on your way to the Japanese Tea Garden, for an afternoon stroll through peaceful Zen gardens of finely manicured plants and grasses. Fluffy Bamboo, stout Camellias, and grand Maple trees pervade this garden, along with evergreen Bonsais and boxwood topiaries. Color interrupts the blissful green in the way of cascading Wisteria blossoms and persistent Azalea blooms. Travel serenely past Koi ponds, over stone bridges and down wooden walkways before taking an afternoon break in the outdoor tea room.
If you are ready for one more late afternoon garden, it’s time to cut through the de Young sculpture garden on the north side of the building, and head over to the Conservatory of Flowers. Before entering the building, take time to admire the bright blanket of annuals and bulbs covering the beds in front of America’s oldest wooden and glass domed conservatory. In the Conservatory, you will be transported into a different world, one of heat, humidity, tropical wonders, and your own imagination. You will spy many rare orchids and other exotic epiphytes hanging from the impressively sized glossy-leaved trees. Blooming vines wind their way through the canopy while a plethora of carnivorous plants abound and amaze. The indoor pond sports a mini rice paddy and giant lily pads, strong enough to hold a grown man; look through the glass sided pond to see the roots. When you finally need to leave the thick, cloying air of the Conservatory behind, be sure to check out the neighboring outdoor Dahlia summer garden (if the timing is right) and the breathtaking succulent garden that borders it.
That concludes your Golden Gate Park garden tour– now it is time to head back out of the park on 9th Ave and get some dinner at another San Francisco gem– award-winning Marnee Thai Restaurant! Enjoy, have fun, and don’t forget your camera!!!