Breaking Travel News

San Francisco - A Spring Fling

San Francisco - A Spring Fling

Spring doesn’t arrive until March 20. San Francisco already has a case of “spring fever” though, and there’s plenty to make green fingers itch:

Feb. 16-May 28, 2012

Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art and Jewish Thought

Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St.

Inspired by the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, this three-part show explores the role of the tree in Jewish tradition. Part One of the exhibition, The Dorothy Saxe Invitational, builds upon the museum’s long-standing tradition of asking artists from a variety of backgrounds to explore a Jewish ceremonial object, holiday or concept. More than 50 artists across the U.S. created new works of art in response to this year’s invitation. Part Two:  “An International Survey of Trees in Contemporary Art” is a selection of more than 20 works by international artists who have examined the tree — conceptually or formally — in their work. Part Three of the exhibition is a site-specific piece in Jessie Square by Rebar using recycled lumber to create a group of brightly colored gem-shaped planters. A number of public programs are planned in association with the exhibition as well including “A Walk Among the Trees” in the Presidio with author Deborah Newbrun. For information visit or call 415-655-7800.


Feb. 18-26, 2012


Pier 39, 2 Beach St.

Tulipmania will transform Pier 39 into a floral wonderland. Thousands of tulips and other whimsical floral displays adorn both levels of Pier 39’s bayside location. Garden buffs are encouraged to take a free Tulipmania tour, guided by one of Pier 39’s landscaping pros. Tours are at 10 a.m. daily beginning at the Entrance Plaza. After each tour, participants are invited to enjoy complimentary coffee, Biscoff cookies and other refreshments at Fog Harbor Fish House. For information visit or call 415-705-5500.

Feb. 23-26, 2012

Pacific Orchid Exposition

Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center

The San Francisco Orchid Society’s 60th annual Pacific Orchid Exposition will combine the worlds of horticulture and architecture with a salute to the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.The largest orchid show in the country, the event showcases more than 150,000 orchid flowers from all over the world and offers educational exhibits from local, national and international orchid growers. Because of its diverse microclimate, the Bay Area is widely acknowledged as one of the best orchid growing regions and is home to an array of exotic species. For information visit or call 415-

March 13-17, 2012

Bouquets to Art

de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.

More than 140 of the Bay Area’s most innovative and sought-after floral designers will create a stunning array of floral arrangements in the de Young Museum for Bouquets to Art 2012. In creating their arrangements, these designers pay tribute to and draw inspiration from the art in the de Young’s permanent collections. Lively and engaging floral demonstrations by noted local, national and international floral designers, and luncheons and afternoon teas by McCalls on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday complement the flower-bedecked galleries and public spaces in the museum. For information and reservations visit

March 21-25, 2012

San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo

The largest world-class garden festival of its kind in the western United States, the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, March 21-25, enters its 27th year with a greener approach that celebrates “Gardens for a Green Earth.”  Twenty full-sized garden installations from top Bay Area designers and seminars led by well-known experts will invite attendees of all ages to learn more about forward-thinking, environmentally friendly techniques for private gardens.  Annie Sommerville, a pioneer in promoting organic cuisine and gardening through her restaurant, Greens, located at San Francisco’s Fort Mason, will be among the speakers. Also on deck are Wendy Johnson of Green Gulch Farms, television personality Martin Yan, Ahmad Hassan of DIY Network’s “Yard Crashers,” and Joe Lamp’l of “Growing a Green World.” A marketplace with more than 200 vendors, a special children’s garden and a show put on by the California Garden Clubs are also part of the annual festival. For information visit or call 925-605-2923.

March 25-April 7, 2012

Macy’s Flower Show “Brasil: Gardens in Paradise”

Macy’s Union Square

The oldest of the Macy’s Flower Shows, Union Square’s 66th annual show celebrates the arrival of the spring season. For two weeks Macy’s will showcase millions of live flowers, plants and trees from around the world. This year the gardens reflect everything from the dense rainforests of the Amazon to colonial Brasil as well as the colorful inner cities and the beautiful gardens framed by the modern architecture of Brasilia. Macy’s Flower Show is also a prime showcase for some of the nation’s most renowned floral and entertaining designers. This year’s Bay Area designers include Michael Daigian (Michael Daigian Design), Svenja Brotz (Chestnut and Vine Floral Design), Talin Tascian (Fleur de Vie), Dominique Pfahl (Floréal) and Rhonda Stoffel (Grace Street Catering). For a schedule of events, visit

April 14-15 and 21-22, 2012

Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival

San Francisco’s colorful Japantown will burst into full bloom on the weekends of April 14-15 and 21-22, 2012, when members of Northern California’s Japanese American community gather to celebrate their 45th annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Each year more than 200,000 people attend this dazzling tribute to the color and grace of the Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American community. The event spans two weekends and climaxes with a grand parade on Sunday, April 22. Leave time to explore the oldest Japantown in the United States, roam the food bazaar, and enjoy traditional arts and crafts including demonstrations of ikebana (flower arranging) and bonsai (tree dwarfing). Entertainment stages feature Japanese dancers, martial artists and taiko drummers. For information, visit

Perennial Favorites

Don’t forget, that no matter what the season, Golden Gate Park is a playground for garden devotees from the profusion of tulips in the Queen Wilhelmina Gardens to the serene tranquility of the Japanese Tea Garden. Also of note are the National AIDS Memorial Grove, the Garden of the Humanitarians, San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers. With the opening of the California Academy of Sciences in September 2008, visitors can now explore a living roof planted with 1.7 million native plants. Four perennial and five wildflower species were chosen for their ability to thrive in Golden Gate Park.

Conservatory of Flowers

100 John F. Kennedy Dr., Golden Gate Park

The oldest structure in Golden Gate Park and the oldest wooden framed conservatory in the nation completed a $24 million restoration in 2003. In this spectacular museum of living plants, immersive displays in five galleries engage visitors physically, intellectually and emotionally. Known for its extensive collection of orchids, the Conservatory is one of only four institutions in the U.S. to house a highlands tropics display featuring a large and diverse group of high-altitude beauties. For information visit or call 415-831-2090.

San Francisco Botanical Garden

Ninth Avenue at Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park

Every month is petal perfect for visiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden which covers 55 acres and includes more than 8,000 varieties of plants from around the world. Magnolia are at their peak in February and the California Native Plant Garden is filled with a profusion of calla lilies, California lilac and pink-flowering currant in the early spring. After enjoying a walk in the native meadow, stroll along the Redwood trail through a century-old grove of redwood trees. In 1965 the Garden of Fragrance was created for individuals with visual impairment to be able to experience plants through touch and smell. Frequent plant sales feature brilliant collections of flowering shrubs and bloomers including native plants at their peak. Docents also offer a number of tours, birding walks (co-sponsored by the Audubon Society), children’s story time and family strolls through the gardens. The Helen Crocker Library is one of the nation’s finest and most complete horticultural reference book collections and features seasonally changing art exhibitions. For information visit or call 415-661-1316.

San Francisco Flower Market

Sixth Street between Brannan and Bryant Streets

“This is the best flower market in the country,” according to “Martha Stewart Living.” While largely the purview of florists and professional landscapers, the San Francisco Flower Market is open to the public Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; wholesalers have access starting at 2 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and they “sleep in” on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday when the market opens to the trade at 5 a.m. Recent reconnaissance of the market has yielded branches of forsythia, tulips just at the peak of perfection and flowering plum blossoms. For more information, visit or call 415-781-8410.

Grace Marchant Garden

Tumbling, tumbling down the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill, the Grace Marchant Garden (off Filbert Street) is one of the most beautiful spots in the city. Marchant, who embarked on her labor of love when she was 63 years old, groomed this hillside retreat for 33 years. Offering views of the bay, the two-acre plot is cared for by a cadre of neighbors and volunteers. The climb is sweetened by fragrant wisteria vines, hydrangeas, roses, masses of foliage and a bench to catch one’s breath along the way. Settle in with a good book. Perhaps David Bittner’s “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” which documents his “love story … with wings,” or David Goodis’ thriller, “Dark Passage” which featured Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart taking refuge in a nearby home.

Yerba Buena Gardens

Located in the heart of San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens ( is not only a cultural hothouse but also the site of several gardens including the “butterfly garden” in the northeast corner; the Sister Cities Garden, home to a diverse collection of flowering plants from San Francisco’s 13 sister cities, and a secluded rooftop garden above Moscone South at Howard and Third streets.

San Francisco Community Gardens

Almost 40 community gardens throughout San Francisco are supported and managed by the Recreation and Park Department. Each garden is maintained by volunteers who grow ornamental plants and produce for personal use. A list of the locations and open garden days is posted at

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Beginning where the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has grown to more than 75,000 acres since it was established in 1972. For 60 minutes or a half-day excursion, it offers access to everything from a stroll through a restored coastal habitat or a wildflower walk at Fort Funston in the spring.

Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project

In 2003 the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy formed a partnership with the National Park Service to restore and maintain key gardens on Alcatraz. Through the Alcatraz Historic Gardens Project, the partner organizations preserve, rebuild, and maintain the gardens created by those who lived on the island during its military and prison eras, and interpret their history, horticulture, and cultural significance for visitors. For more than a century, gardens were an important part of everyday life for officers, families and prisoners on Alcatraz. Many of the plants selected by these unheralded gardeners proved to be excellent choices for the harsh and barren environment, flourishing through the four decades of neglect that followed the prison’s closing. Visitors can now experience an island that is alive with colorful plants gathered decades ago from around the world, and complemented by newly introduced plants. Docent-led tours of the island gardens are offered twice a week on Friday and Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. starting at the Alcatraz dock. Alcatraz Cruises ( serves the island; because tickets sell out quickly, advance reservations are strongly recommended. For information call 415-981-ROCK (7625).

San Francisco City Guides and Friends of the Urban Forest

While the free San Francisco City Guides tours are known for their architectural detail, rich historic footnotes, legends and lore, several have more natural inclinations including City Scapes and Public Places, Fort Mason to Aquatic Park and SOMA/Yerba Buena Gardens (year-round). For details call 415-557-4266 or visit The City of San Francisco has planted more than 26,800 trees, largely through neighborhood-based programs organized by Friends of the Urban Forest ( who plant more than 1,000 trees a year. Tree tours are offered throughout the year.

Beyond San Francisco

Many wineries boast impressive demonstration gardens and special garden-related festivals are not uncommon. The Kendall-Jackson Wine Center has a 2.5-acre organic culinary garden and their annual tomato festival featuring 120 varieties of heirloom tomatoes is a summer favorite (5007 Fulton Rd., Fulton, 866-287-9818, Some say Cornerstone Festival of Gardens (23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 707-933-3010, are “the most innovative gardens in America.” Each of the 20 different gardens has been designed by a well-known landscape architect. For more about the rural wiles of this area, visit or