If you live in San Francisco, you’ve most likely heard of microclimates: a bizarre combination of the Bay area’s topography, water and wind currents that make some parts of the city cold and foggy and others warm and sunny. So from your hipster pad in the Mexican Mission, you’ll see the fog rolling downhill but it won’t likely reach your sunny backyard.
But the San Francisco Botanical Garden takes that to an insurpassable level. Its 55 acres are home to carefully curated microclimates, from a Succulent Garden to a Redwood Forest. Within just a few steps, you find yourself on a different continent. I truly think it’s the most magical place in San Francisco. And, dear SF residents, it’s free with a California ID!
Here’s a blurb from the SF Botanical’s website explaining what makes this magic possible:
The Botanical Garden is a living museum within Golden Gate Park, offering 55 acres of both landscaped gardens and open spaces, showcasing over 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world.
The Bay Area’s mild temperatures, wet winters and dry summers, coupled with San Francisco’s famous coastal fog, provide a range of climatic conditions that exist in few other botanical gardens in the world. These unique conditions allow it to grow and conserve plants from all over the globe, including plants that are no longer found in their native habitats.
Words surely don’t do it justice, so without further ado:
Entering Temperate Asia
Transitioning to South Africa
Photo from when I first visited the Botanical, on an overcast day. Something to note is the seasonality of the garden – the different climates peak at different times.
For example, the South African section had so many more flowers in bloom than when I last visited. It looked entirely different!
Native California. There are also benches nestled everywhere throughout this quiet, secluded park. The perfect place to come for some contemplative time.
Ferns greet your entry to the Redwood Forest
Love the cleverness of this – plants growing in a felled redwood trunk.
And to think that all this is just ten blocks from where I live. Truly magical.
Cozy campsite surrounded by California redwoods!
Then you leave the Redwood Forest, and you’re in a completely different climate again. This fuzzy tree is my favorite.
Ready to burst into bloom.
What the flowers look like in bloom. So effervescent!
Succulent Garden. Seriously, is this AMAZING or what? How do they do all this landscaping??
Spiderwebs. All these succulents were covered in crusty cobwebs – I suppose because they don’t get watered as often?
En route to the Zellerbach Garden of Perennials
The Zellerbach Garden wasn’t peaking this time around, but it’s still got lovely trellises flowing with flowering things.
The Andean Cloud Forest.
OMG the most amazing flower of the day.
They look like purple pasta!
Case in point about the seasonality: The last time I went to the Botanical, this was one of the most unique plants I’d seen. It was in the Andean/Chilean part of the garden, and just had these gorgeously brilliant turquoise flowers.
And this is what that plant looked like today. Nature is amazing – hope this one blooms again soon!
I <3 flowers. So much.
It’s impressive that one side of the pond looks like California…
And the other side looks like this.
Now entering Australia!
Australia and New Zealand, unsurprisingly, border each other in the garden. I just love these gorgeous, fibrous trees. It’s really so transportative to walk through these microgardens – I’ve never experienced anything like it.