Golden Gate Park Dahlia Garden—In Full Bloom

Taking advantage of the warm weather we had in San Francisco this weekend, I went for a stroll through the Botanical Gardens and around Stow Lake out in Golden Gate Park. The slow and steady beats of reggae music from the Power to the Peaceful event—a truly San Francisco experience—echoed under the canopy of trees. In search of something more peaceful, I made my way, against the stream of revelers, to the Dahlia Garden, hoping the plants would still be in bloom.

The Dahlia Garden is a tear-drop shaped flower bed just east of the Conservatory of Flowers. Each year, a group of dedicated volunteers spend their precious free time pinching, snipping, and watering around 500 clumps of dahlia plants.

If you’ve never seen a dahlia, you’re possibly missing out on one of the natural wonders of the world. These blooms come in myriad sizes, from 1 inch across to as large as a foot across, and their colors span the spectrum, from bright pink and yellow to dark burgundy and purple. But it’s their shapes that are most amazing, clusters of complex petals; some explode from the stem like a starburst, others form tight geometric patterns like honeycombs. No matter their size, shape, or color, they all create a dramatic presence, demanding your attention.

The first time I visited the Dahlia Garden, the plants were nothing more than green clumps of weeds in a bed of dirt. Uninspiring to say the least. A few seasons later, I made it by the garden when a few plants were in bloom. Just enough to whet my appetite.

So as I approached the garden this time, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t even sure they’d still be in bloom. As I crossed the front of the Conservatory of Flowers, my pace quickened. I looked for signs of disappointment on the faces of people coming from the direction of the flower bed. And when I rounded the east end of the building, my heart skipped a couple beats. I had found the end of the rainbow; the dahlia garden my pot of gold. All 500 or so plants were in full bloom. I nearly tripped over my own feet to get closer. The hairs on my arms stood on end. I finally saw them in all their splendor.

If you haven’t already, you really should set aside some time in the next few weeks to swing by the Dahlia Garden. I don’t know how much longer the blooms will last, but I certainly plan to make it by at least once more. So maybe I’ll see you there.

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