Dahlia Garden

I’ve spent a lot of time in Golden Gate Park. As a kid, every visit to my grandparents involved trips to the aquarium or to the children’s playground with its excellent carousel. When I moved to SF after college, I lived only 3 blocks from the park. I ran in the park weekly, often traveling around Stowe Lake and up to the top of Strawberry Hill. Every sunny Inner Sunset day, I spent in the arboretum.

But until a good friend moved into an apartment at Stanyan and Fulton and introduced me to the Northeast corner of Golden Gate Park, I had no idea there was a dahlia garden.

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Now I try to head to the dahlia garden at least once a year. It’s easy to find once you know where to look: just head to the Conservatory of Flowers and turn right. It’s that little fenced in area that may or may not be in bloom. Since it is quite disappointing to find simply a patch o’ dirt where you expect to find abundant flowers, go now while they are still in bloom.

It’s gorgeous. The different varieties of dahlias look like completely different flowers. Some are tightly packed with little curled petals; they look almost like a vibrant cabbage. Others are huge and showy with the longer, spiky petals.

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The dahlia patch is just one example of what you can find tucked away in Golden Gate Park. The AIDS Memorial Grove is another often overlooked area. It’s so lovely, and yet most people just walk on by, heading to the nearby children’s playground, or the baseball fields at Big Rec.

One word of caution, though: I can’t promise that there will always be something as wonderful as a bunch of blooming dahlias to discover in the park. It was in the Rhododendron Dell years ago that a man exposed himself to me and I’m still upset about it (especially because the Rhododendron Dell is such a neat place, and now I have such unpleasant associations with it). But it was just one bad incident in years of very happy, fully-clothed moments in the park.

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