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|Amber Brooks • 1/12/17|
The Short Version: Instead of bringing flowers to your date, why not be original and bring your date to the flowers? Open Tuesday through Sunday, the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco offers a romantic setting for daters looking to spend a quiet moment in nature. Their galleries, tucked in a corner of Golden Gate Park, hold over 1,700 species of plants and flowers from more than 50 countries. Since the Conservatory opened in 1879, millions of visitors have discovered the wondrous splendor of this tropical paradise. The Conservatory of Flowers has become a favorite site for dates, proposals, and weddings, entrancing visitors with its greenery. Today, anyone can visit the Conservatory with someone special and cultivate a deep connection in a stimulating, intimate, and awe-inspiring environment.
On a Monday not too long ago, the Conservatory of Flowers was closed for the day when Lau Hodges, the Director of Exhibits and Special Projects, saw an old couple peeking in the windows from outside.
She went out to say they were closed, and the couple told her their story: They met in Golden Gate Park during the ’60s and spent the summer of love falling for one another. Both their proposal and wedding took place at the Conservatory decades ago, and now they’d come back to visit the city and relive their romance. Lau was so touched, she opened the doors to give the couple a private visit to the galleries. “What better reason to let somebody in for free,” she said on a phone call with our team.
Hand-in-hand, the old couple lingered at the spot where he proposed and the place where they said their vows. Standing at a distance as the two reminisced, Lau could see how much the places meant to them. “It was incredible to walk through their love story with them,” she told us. “It’s definitely a moment that brings a tear to your eye.”
The wall in Lau’s office is filled with dozens of other sentimental stories and pictures from thankful patrons who had their proposals, weddings, anniversaries, and date nights at the Conservatory. “It’s the most romantic building in San Francisco,” Lau gushed. “I love it.”
The Conservatory of Flowers floods the senses with sweet-scented fragrances and striking visuals, giving visitors an unforgettable experience. Every year, over 100,000 people come to soak in the natural beauty of the tropical paradise.
Golden Gate Park’s picturesque white greenhouse boasts five main galleries, one of which showcases a different special exhibit every season. From November 2016 until June 2017, for example, the staff filled the gallery with live butterflies and fragrant flowers in full bloom. The other four galleries feature more permanent collections of aquatic, potted, highland tropical, and lowland tropical plants. The Conservatory is one of only four institutions in the U.S. to feature a Highland Tropics display. The lush scenery is a rare treat for daters who want to shake up their routines.
“There’s something about the beauty and mysteriousness of nature that draws people to us,” Lau said. “Plus, it doesn’t hurt to put people in a greenhouse filled with the best oxygen in the entire city.”
The moment you step into the Conservatory of Flowers, you’re surrounded by rich sights, sounds, and smells. You can ripen your connection with someone special by going on a colorful and aromatic journey together. From carnivorous plants to delicate orchids, the vast gardens of 1,700 tropical plants have all types of living wonders not commonly seen in the U.S.
If you’re looking for a unique date activity, a visit to the Conservatory could be just the thing to enliven your senses and stimulate conversation. Learning about flowers alongside someone can be fairly erotic and provide interesting conversation topics for many dates to come.
“A flower is just a sex organ,” Lau told us, “attracting pollinators with their smells and vibrant colors. They’re really not that different from us.”
Couples can learn about flowers and point out their favorites as they wander freely through the galleries, open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission prices are discounted when you show a San Francisco ID or student ID. Every first Tuesday, the Conservatory of Flowers is open for free to the public, excluding large groups.
Groups of 10 people or more can make a reservation ahead of time for a self-guided visit or guided tour. Tours typically last 45 minutes as an expert in the field walks people through the galleries. The docents in adult tours often emphasize the science of plant sex to interest hot-blooded men and women.
“There’s a lustful atmosphere to a garden. Plants do it just like us,” Lau said. “What attracts people to one another is playing off of all five senses — and flowers can provide that kind of stimulation and titillate the senses.”
The Conservatory puts on many events, the most popular of which comes every February. On Valentine’s Day, the venue invites singles and couples to attend the Aphrodisiacs of the Tropics, a perfect date night activity. Adults 21 and over enjoy a night of flowery scenery at the greenhouse and specialty cocktails at the cash bar. Food trucks also wait outside to give visitors a bite to eat as they take in the night air.
The event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., during which time couples roam hand-in-hand exploring the paths, drinking complimentary champagne, and participating in a fun scavenger hunt for tropical aphrodisiacs, including bananas, coffee, cinnamon, and cashews.
Lau described the Aphrodisiacs of the Tropics event as a magical after-hours mixer where couples bond and singles mingle. Attendees are typically young people looking for a romantic way to spend an evening on the most romantic night of the year. The gardens provide them with a beautiful backdrop to a memorable moment. “We want to bring that next generation of people together at our galleries,” Lau said, “much like we did for that sweet old couple I met.”
The Conservatory of Flowers has a long history of bringing people together. Lau traced their roots back over a hundred years to 1879 when a booming middle class created demand for more leisurely activities. In a time when having a house plant was considered a luxury, the public gardens became a popular attraction.
From inception, the San Francisco Conservatory was a place for spending a peaceful day connecting with nature. “You escape your humdrum day-to-day life,” Lau said, “surrounded by the lushness of beautiful plants.”
Many happy couples over the years have chosen to exchange their vows under the canopy of the Conservatory. You can rent the space for your ceremony, cocktail hour, seated dinner, or reception and enjoy the beauty of an outdoor wedding at an indoor venue.
“Weddings are our bread and butter. We pretty much look like a big wedding cake,” she joked. “We have a long history of people falling in love with and in this building.”
In an undeniably romantic setting, couples marvel at the Victorian architecture, the vast plant collections, and the intimate escape offered by the Conservatory of Flowers.
“What really sold us was realizing we would always be able to go back and visit the place where we got married,” said Beth, a bride who had her wedding at the Conservatory in 2012. “We can’t thank the staff there enough for making our wedding day such a happy one. The Conservatory will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Behind the Conservatory of Flowers’ success is a diverse group of horticulturists passionately pruning and planning their plant collection. Many of the staff members specifically sought San Francisco’s famed greenhouse for employment and have held their positions for years. “Everyone really properly believes in what we’re trying to do,” Lau commented. “Everyone wants to be here.”
Many horticulturists covet jobs at the Conservatory of Flowers because of the opportunity to spend workdays surrounded by the intoxicating fragrances and aesthetic beauty of the galleries.
According to Lau, the staff members are a bunch of unapologetic plant nerds. “We’re the weirdest group of people,” she laughed, “but we’re an absolute family. Even in hard times, we’ve never wanted for anything because people pitch in and make it happen for the sake of this place.”
If you share the team’s passion for preserving and celebrating plant life, you can support the Conservatory of Flowers with a donation sent online, by phone, or by mail. You can even make the donation in honor of your significant other and have a special notification card mailed to him or her. It’s a sweet gesture and helps the Conservatory continue wowing visitors with their extensive botanical collections.
San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers excels at creating special moments for visitors. This historic site has shared its beauty with multiple generations of daters and continues to be appreciated by couples young and old. Throughout the years, the galleries have borne witness to countless first dates, proposals, weddings, and anniversaries as couples return again and again to the longstanding landmark.
The Conservatory even hosts special events geared toward dating, planting the seeds for healthy relationships in people of all backgrounds and orientations. On a date there, couples can discuss various flora as they meander under the shade of palm trees, along the banks of a pond, or through a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Whether part of a group tour, a wedding reception, or an afternoon date activity, visitors will find their senses overwhelmed by the gallery collections of plants and flowers.
If you want to stimulate a budding romance, you can go on a date to the Conservatory of Flowers where a rich, engaging environment fosters connections between people. “Ever since we opened, the Conservatory of Flowers has been a place that people view very romantically,” Lau said. “I think that’s something that still really attracts people to us.”