With a succession of three winter storms lashing Northern California today, it seems appropriate to blog about winter color, though as soon as the storms pass, there’ll still be a few weeks more of fall color to report.
Each winter, one of California’s most distinctive and colorful shows of foliage is seen at the San Francisco Botanical Garden where nearly 100 rare and historic magnolias erupt in a fragrant riot of vibrant pink and white flowers.
This floral spectacle is worth planning a trip to San Francisco to see. Some of the ancient trees reach 80 feet in height and peak from mid-January through March. Visitors to the Garden can take advantage of free Magnolia Walk maps, docent-led tours, special signage and more to celebrate and learn about these magnificent trees.
San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to the most significant magnolia collection for conservation purposes outside China, where the majority of species originated. Its current collection includes 51 species and 33 cultivars, including many prized examples from Asia.
This unique and long-standing collection began in 1939 with Eric Walther, who planted the very first magnolia in the Garden and continued to introduce species and cultivars throughout his tenure as the first Garden Director. One of the most famous species he planted was the cup and saucer magnolia or Magnolia campbellii, the first of its kind to bloom in the United States in 1940, attracting huge crowds of excited and curious visitors who stood in long lines to see the magnificent large pink blossoms of this lovely magnolia that still stands in the Garden today.
The show is best, mid-January to March. The garden is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Jan., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Feb. and early March, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in March through Apr. Admission is free to San Francisco residents with proof of residence and $7 general, $5 seniors and students (12 – 17) with ID, $2 children (5-11) and free to kids 4 and under. Family passes (2 adults and one or more kids) get in for a flat rate of $15.