Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Golden Gate Express Scavenger Hunt

Today I have a scavenger hunt for you. The Golden Gate Express trains are running now through April 19th in Special Exhibit Room at the Conservatory of Flower. The Golden Gate Express is a G-gauge, garden railroad that runs amongst a miniature landscape of dwarf conifers, orchids, and countless other small-scale plants. Though the layout is beautiful and the trains and landscaping impressive, I was completely taken with the building made by the talented people at Figureplant. They designed and constructed models of San Francisco landmark buildings using recycled materials.

See if you can find these items that were used to construct these buildings:

Audio cassette tapes, beads, buttons, cheese grater, chess pieces: queen, pawns, chopsticks, Christmas lights, motherboard circuit boards, clothespin, compact discs, corks, dentures, dice, dominoes, electric plugs, fire alarm, floppy disks, forks, Ghirardelli Chocolate wrapper, hors d’oeuvres forks, keyboard keys (1,000 of them!), kitchen timer dial, mah jong tiles, mini blinds, notice board letters, picture frame, plastic take-out bowl, poker chip, red monkeys, salt shaker, Scrabble tiles, spoons, Stratego game pieces, switch plates and electrical outlet plates, tape measure, thread spools, video cassete tapes, yard stick.

Here is their rendition of the Conservatory of Flowers. You can see photo of the actual one in my last two posts.

The Golden Gate Bridge:

This is the Ferry Building. See a photo of the actual building here.

This is the Federal Reserve Bank. See a photo of the actual building here.

The Transamerica Pyramid building. Photo of actual pyramid here.

Coit Tower. Photo of actual tower here.

Gate of Chinatown. Photo of the actual gate here.

Ghirardelli Square. Photo of actual building here.

Mission Dolores. Actual mission here.

Japan town. Actual here.

Merchant Exchange Building. Actual here.

If you need more clues, there are more photos, including some close-ups, on my Flickr account here. I hope you had fun.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers – Part III

The first time I returned to the Conservatory of Flowers after the restorationthe pond in the Aquatic Plants room was filled with huge Victoria amazonica waterlily plants with leaves that could measure up to six feet across. Alas, they are now gone.

Victoria amazonica at the Botanical Garden of Jena 

The Conservatory commissioned artist Stephen Hirt to preserve their image. Hirt used real lily pads to cast life-sized glass, bronze and steel sculptures.

Btw, I just learned that those beautiful etched-glass signs I showed you here were also done by Stephen Hirt.

When we left the Aquatic Plants room, we found a couple more orchids. One with the longest stamens I’ve ever seen on an orchid:

Gee, maybe it’s not an orchid. Anyone know?

And this one was just hanging around doing a headstand:

Then we entered the Potted Plants room:

I love this display because it is comprised of house plants that are fairly readily available. There is not one flower here, the camellias are still in bud, yet it is very colorful:

On the other hand, I have never seen a tortoise plant in a retail store:

Amaryllis blooms are gorgeous in any setting, but the perfect container and backdrop sure does wonders:

Another perfect container, this time for the Crown of Thorns:

On the way out I noticed this beautiful wreath of leucadendron epiphytes hanging overhead:

Just outside:

Across the street is a stand of tree ferns:

My sister and I then decided take a brisk walk through the Strybing Arboretum. It was dusk when we returned to the car:

It was getting too dark and we really had to go. We wished we could have stayed longer, but we were very grateful for the opportunity to recharge our souls.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers – Part II

Continuation of my post on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

Most of the orchids live in this room:

The tropical climate in this room creates a balmy and misty atmosphere which insisted on fogging up my camera lens time and time again. Please forgive my fuzzy photos.

The orchid cabinets are a dream, but the orchids are the real stars:

Unless you are a bromeliad fan:

This one has translucent leaves:

The Nepenthes pitcher plants were creepy, yet beautiful. A sign nearby says that these plants live in environments where the competition for food is fierce, so their leaves evolved into honey-glanded pitchers designed to capture and digest gnats, flies, or moths. But the Conservatory’s website cites that they also may capture a bird, frog or small rodent. Eek! Little Shop of Horrors!

According to the website Carl Linnaeus, he named them Nepenthes recalling Homer's Odyssey and the drug ‘Nepenthe’ that Helen of Troy poured into the soldier's wine to alleviate their sorrow and grief. Linnaeus felt the Nepenthes had a similar affect on botanists.”

Any botanists out there affected the same way?

That’s all for now, next time I will show you the artwork in this room and more plants.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers – Part I

Late Sunday afternoon, after a day of helping out our mother at her apartment building, my sister and I decided to give ourselves a pat on the back by rewarding ourselves with walk around Golden Gate Park. We decided to go to the Conservatory of Flowers since my sister had not been since the completion of the $25 million reconstruction project in 2003.

The Conservatory has interesting roots. It was found, still in crates, amongst the effects of the richest man in California, James Lick, after he passed away in 1876. After prominent San Francisco businessmen purchased the Conservatory from the Lick Estate, they donated it to the Park Commission of San Francisco. By 1879 the Victorian structure was erected and the Conservatory was open to the public.

Even though the structure has seen two fires, in 1883 and 1918, and suffered severe damage from a windstorm in 1995 which closed the structure for eight years, it survived the 1906 earthquake.

The Victorian architecture features plenty of gingerbread details: 

The dome looks great from the outside:

And the inside:


Their floors are divine:

Their signage is beautiful:

They have a some lovely displays:

and impressive displays of epiphytes:

This is just a sneak peek, next time I’ll show you lots of flowers. Watch this (blog)spot!

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