San Francisco Botanical GardenspacerSan Francisco Botanical Garden


From the Director

Dear Friends,

Our Intrepid Gardeners

Recreation and Park Department's eleven excellent gardeners keep the San Francisco Botanical Garden's 55 acres watered and weeded and pruned.

Terry SeefeldJanet LopezPatrick QuinnJeanne Rich, Nursery Specialist
Diane SchaumleffelJoe FavettiDelores GamezShannon Sweeney
Jason MartinezGary HoffmanBob Fiorello

From left to right, top to bottom: Terry Seefeld, Janet Lopez, Patrick Quinn, Jeanne Rich (Nursery Specialist), Diane Schaumleffel, Joe Favetti, Delores Gamez, Shannon Sweeney, Jason Martinez, Gary Hoffman, Bob Fiorello.

A cross-section of soil strata at SFBG
Thin strata of soil sitting atop sand.

Golden Gate Park is built on sand dunes
Creating a park out of sand dunes.

With the advent of summer, I am once again awed by the ability of the Recreation and Park Department's 11 excellent gardeners who keep so much of these very special 55 acres watered and weeded and pruned. It's a huge effort that, as all of us who are gardeners already know, never ends. These professionals are up against two major irrigation challenges. Well, three if you count our dry summer Mediterranean climate. The first is the lack of a modern irrigation infrastructure that necessitates a great deal of lugging and pulling of heavy hoses.

The second is that almost the entire 55 acres is actual sand dunes, sand dunes overlaid by a few to several inches of topsoil, sand dunes that percolate downward very rapidly most of that applied water.

This latter point was made clear as the pathway project proceeds through the Garden. In order to achieve the grades on paths acceptable to the Americans with Disabilities Act, some cutting is required. Often these cuts reveal a thin stratum of soil sitting atop rolling sand dunes.

It has brought home to me the fragility of this beautiful landscape and the hundred-plus years of determined effort required to achieve it. It also makes me more determined than ever to build a sustainable future for the Botanical Garden, a future that includes more gardeners and a modern irrigation system that conserves water and work.

Of course, this requires money. It is perfectly clear that our strapped City is not able to help. The loyal donors who support the Society's programs are doing all they can to sustain the 10,000-strong youth education program and the horticultural library and to initiate visitors into the wonders of a future of wholesome conservation and sustainability.

Frankly, infrastructure and ongoing maintenance needs are not easily funded through private donations, although we have had some success with that. Most botanical gardens rely on admissions to help sustain these most basic needs. That is why the Society has supported the Recreation and Park Department's proposed admission fee for non-San Francisco residents. Such a fee would make a huge difference to the Garden's future.

When you next visit the Garden, as always, enjoy its beauty. But also think of how much effort that beauty has required and continues to require. I believe you will appreciate and love it all the more.

Warm regards,


Michael McKechnie
Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society


Back to June 2009 newsletter >>