Human Flower Project

Walking with ‘Sharp-eyed’  Margot

For flower lovers, there’s a “there there” along San Francisco’s East Bay. With prompting from a pink rose and garden writer, Georgia Silvera Seamans gets a move on, and we tag along.

imageBerkeley Rose Garden, Berkeley, California

Photo: City of Berkeley, Parks and Recreation

By Georgia Silvera Seamans

The hybrid pink tea rose has peaked.  It has several bloom cycles, each bloom boom happily enjoyed from the kitchen window during breakfast.  It’s not a gathering rose.  The small flowers wilt within a day.

The rose is on my mind by way of Margot Patterson Doss’s 1978 “There, There,” a book of walks in San Francisco’s East Bay. One takes her through the Berkeley Rose Garden, a chapter she opens a quote from the poet W.E. Henley:

O gather me the rose, the rose, while yet in flower we find it.

imageMargot Patterson Doss, on foot before the Golden Gate Bridge

Photo: Jerry Telfe

Doss saw ‘Roman Holiday’ (a floribunda) and ‘Bewitched’ (a pink hybrid tea rose, big flowers) along the way. (Confession: When I visited the Berkeley Rose Garden in June, it was to see the view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.)

The City of Oakland has its Morcom Rose Garden, formerly called the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses for the still-standing amphitheater at the Jean Street entrance.

The Morcom Rose Garden is not featured in Doss’s “There, There,” but she does write about the chrysanthemum display at Lakeside Park, near Lake Merritt: “From September until the winter rains scatter the petals, Oakland’s noble cascaded chrysanthemums, each one a waterfall of blossoms, outline a great semicircle enclosing the chrysanthemum garden south of Lakeside Garden Center.”

Back in Berkeley, Doss takes an Easter walk through the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park.  The list of plants is enticing: big island bush poppy, golden and coast currants, fuchsia, flowering gooseberry, San Luis ceanothus, pine mountain ceanothus, red trilliums, white trilliums, leopard lily, and Volmer and Bolander lilies.

imageCalypso bulbosa

Photo: Marin chapter, California Native Plant Society

Flowers found their way into Doss’s “At Your Feet” columns for the San Francisco Chronicle.  In April 1991, she wrote about “one of the most exhilarating trails for seeing the flowers” in Mount Tamalpais State Park.  Taking the path known as the Matt Davis Extension, “the sharp-eyed” may discover yellow mariposa lilies, coral root, and the calypso orchid throughout the park’s “wind-swept meadows.”

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has been in the news as of late.  The new California Academy of Sciences building opens on Saturday.  Read a glowing review here  or read about the collections at KQED’s Quest Community Science Blog.

Another attraction in Golden Gate Park is the 70-acre Strybing Arboretum.  The arboretum was founded with $100,000 from Helene Strybing’s estate.  The legacies of two other women are prominent here, as well: the library, named for Helen Crocker Russell, houses California wildflower illustrations by Barbara Adair.  Doss, in a 1985 piece, recommended a walk through the arboretum to see the magnolias – “Nowhere in the Bay Area is there a comparable display.”  The Magnolia campbelli is the flower in the arboretum’s logo.  Other magnolias are Magnolia grandiflora ‘Saint Mary,’ Magnolia kobus, Whitebark magnolias, Magnolia stellata, and Magnolia denudata.  A patch of ranunculus near the Tea Garden gate signal that you are almost upon “a spectacular Magnolia springeri.”

Hopefully, the gardeners at Strybing remembered Dorothy Cavanaugh’s advice:

1. Don’t 
2. Forget 
3. To 
4. Plant 
5. Your 
6. Ranunculus

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/26 at 03:32 PM


Georgia, I really enjoyed your piece on roses and walks around the bay. There were some saucer magnolias in full flower in D.C. last week. Beautiful but odd timing.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10/06 at 03:37 PM
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