It’s amazing what you can do with a mail-order greenhouse kit, a plot of public land and a deep love of pollen.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers recently re-opened, after much of the glass structure was smashed in a storm in 1995.
It started as a structure built in the late 19th century, from a mail-order greenhouse kit. Over time, the official propoganda goes, it grew into one of the most varied collections of flora in the U.S.
(An interesting side-note about the official line: it claims that the death of James Lick, the wealthy investor who purchased the original kit and had intended it to be a greenhouse on his San Jose estate, is unfortunate. It seems fortunate to me that he died, otherwise S.F. would be bereft of this beautiful conservatory and we’d all be trekking to San Jose to see it. Talk about blessings in disguise…)
Whatever the official line is, the Conservatory houses an amazing collection of flowers, trees, shrubs (shockingly, no Bushes) and even some butterflies. It’s sort of uninteresting to descibe what it was like, right? There’s a bunch of plants, and a few animals, and they all hang out in this glass-and-white metal tripartite domed structure that rises up from a grassy hill like alien breasts.
What was interesting were the colors. I’d never seen such shades. Who knew that in fog-drenched Ess Eff – and folks, call it San Fran and you’ll get dope slapped, it’s like calling New York “the Big Apple” to its face – you could find tropical reds, blacks, yellows and purples.
Flowers were not a favorite subject of mine to photograph, until I started using my digital camera. Forced to use color, because the quality of digital black-and-white didn’t impress me, I was confronted by the vibrancy of flowers whenever they made their way into my shots. They jumped off the page at me.
The colors were intense, sometimes overwhelming, and became entirely different subjects. At the Conservatory, this point was practically beaten into my head. Flowers don’t have much in the way of texture, but then, their beauty lies in their visual appeal.
Tortoise trees and meat-eating greenery, catepillar cocoons and the cool of mountain air, the Conservatory is a tiny but complex jewel well worth exploring.
(written on Tuesday, September 30, 2003 at 18:35.)