Autumn in the San Francisco Bay Area

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As I bask in the Northern California autumn days of clear skies and sunshine with a little early morning fog, I am thinking about weather and gardens blooming. From my perch near the Carquinez Bridge, in a short drive, I can admire the succulents of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, the magnolias and maps of Quarryhill, and the Mexican garden (my favorite) at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden – although the succulents here also take up a good deal of my time. It is a bit farther to the splendid proteas in the UC Santa Cruz garden but I go there to see their magnificent collection. But my favorite is the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. That is where my friends the bromeliads, the orchids, the palms, the ferns, and the staghorns all hang out together waiting to brush against me as I walk past on the narrow aisles.

The San Francisco Conservatory was the target of a madman several weeks ago. He broke windows on successful evenings. Replacing them was expensive, and of course, the Conservatory would rather have bought more plants than replacement glass. But I was reminded of it recently while perusing through Trip Advisor, and finding comments from visitors at the Botanical Garden in Catania, Sicily, that the statues, stone marks, and large pots all had graffiti over them. With all the cement walls to practice one's graffiti, why do those ruffians have to target the botanical gardens as well?

I may have mentioned earlier that Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, is the hidden gem of the North Bay, the San Francisco Bay area with its surrounding nine counties. Year round, it provides a great walking tour with views of the surrounding countryside, with plants rarely seen in America, with impossible botanic credentials. See

Every shrub, bush, and tree in the garden was planted from seed bought over from Asia, most of it from Yunnan province in China. Recently, it was the subject of a popular travel show Days with Zahrah, aimed at the young and mid professionals who spend their weekends out and about instead of at Home Depot and Lowe's hardware stores.

The show aired on December 1, 2013 and can be viewed on her website. For a student of public gardens, it was a disappointment: the hostess showed Quarryhill's beauty but seemed not to have understood its significance in the botanical world.

I will be following up with the marketing staff at Quarryhill to find out whether the show results in more visitors, from Days with Zahra followers. I'll report back in a few months.

In fact, last week, early for a meeting at the SFCoF, I walked small paths of Golden Gate Park that I did not know about previously. All of a sudden I could imagine living in a city – if it had as much wildness as Golden Gate Park, with ponds, lakes, groves, and its own botanical garden right in the middle. I am looking forward to returning to Denver next spring, for the 2014 American Public Garden Association (APGA) annual member meeting. I recall having a wonderful time in their downtown botanical garden during a downpour, soaking wet, and still enticed by what lay around the corner on a walk through of their splendid collections.

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