A bloomin' bountiful harvest -- from the gardens of Golden Gate Park, out on coastal trails winding along the mighty Pacific and at home in sinks where the faithful re-create floral magic of designers whose charm and expertise might lead one to believe that it is possible, and simple, to successfully integrate artichokes and pomegranates into a home-grown still- life. Don't want to get your hands dirty? That's OK, too. Dig into some Whitman-esque flora-iffic flights of fancy: "I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars."
A rose by any other name: When Nancy Conner moved here, her father said the only thing he knew for sure about San Francisco was that it had a wonderful botanical garden. It took Nancy almost two weeks to locate Strybing Arboretum, the 55-acre horticultural heaven in Golden Gate Park, but she's been a fan ever since.
Some 500 other fans also tiptoed through the deppea splendens at the Garden Feast luncheon and renaming ceremony: Rebecca Green, director Scot Medbury, keynote speaker Will Rogers (former beekeeper, now Trust for Public Land president), event chairwoman Sandra Swanson, Linda and Lynn Bergeron (Trader Vic's catered lunch), chocolatier John Scharffenberger, Susan Grau, Molly Gamble, Edith Tobin, Theo Schwabacher, Sarah Sutro, Julie Newhall, Diana Dalton and Margot de Wildt.
Emcee Wilkes Bashford tossed out zingers like rose petals. To the Bergerons on their Trader Vic's opening: "I can't even imagine the number of people who've stayed alive waiting to see if they'll finally be seated in the Captain's Cabin.'' Complimenting "Garden Feast" event architect Robert Fountain on his floral centerpieces (assembled by City College's horticulture students): "I'd like to squelch the rumor that Stanlee Gatti is outside, crouched in the azaleas."
This wondrous garden, filled with 7,000 species of plants and three distinct climates, opened in 1940 with a 1926 bequest from Helene Strybing in memory of her husband, silk merchant Christian Strybing. But it seems some folks -- including a focus group the garden trustees polled when seeking a "new identity'' -- had no idea what "arboretum'' even meant. "A little boy was overheard asking to see the flowers again at 'our burrito,' and we told him, 'Hey, come on, it's everybody's burrito,' " Medbury said. "That's when we started looking into the name change."
As we all must abide by the Darwinian laws of the jungle, the seeds of Helene's generous and very good idea have blossomed, multiplied and morphed. And henceforth, our burrito shall be known as the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum.
La-dee-dahlia: Floral designer Shane Connolly, who works for "a member of the royal family not yet residing in Buckingham Palace,'' (but his name rhymes with "nails") was the star attraction at the San Francisco Garden Club's "Autumn Elegance'' luncheon. Founded in 1926, the club supports civic park projects and funds the Alice Eastwood Scholarships for students at City College's School of Horticulture and UC Berkeley's School of Landscape Architecture.
But we were there for some dirt, and Connolly shared his secrets (the botanical ones, anyway), with almost 450 green gardeners, including club President Martha Woollomes, event co-chairs Diane Sugahara and Lisa Harris, Ann Arnold and silent auction chairs Tillie McCullough and George Lucas. Connolly's latest book, "The Secret Language of Flowers" (Rizzoli), revives 'florigraphy' -- a more sophisticated, and complex, aesthetic than just yelling at your African violets.
Leafing through, my interest sprouted at Chapter 5: "Anger, Bitterness and Passion." Remember that old saying, "Say it with flowers''? Herewith, some fun florific statements and definitions: Hydrangeas: "Undesirable character --
vanity, boastfulness, heartlessness and, even, frigidity." Nymphaea lily: "Great beauty and coldness of heart. The glacial goddess of the flower world." And for a real knockout bouquet, combine nettles ("allegation of cruelty"), brambles ("hints of suffering") and tuberose ("suggestion of dangerous pleasures").
Still, we needed to know: does the Prince of Wales, for whom Connolly arranges numerous displays at Clarence House, have a favorite posy? "The Prince's mind is on higher matters. My goal with his arrangements is to make them look as if they grew in his garden." We dug deeper in regards to Queen Elizabeth, and it almost felt like pay dirt: "The Queen likes anything scented. "
Happy Trails: It seems as if the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's "Trails Forever'' celebration has been around since the first trickle of water edged its way through the Grand Canyon. Yet the down-home but elegant soiree just turned 2. And it's the one sort-of-swanky benefit that the men enjoy, too, because no matter how much you paid for your ticket, flannel shirts and jeans are welcome at this outdoor fund-raising dinner.
Sisal mats and hurricane lamps led "campers" around the grounds of Sutro Heights Park, where guests, including GGNPC Executive Director Greg Moore, board chairwoman Charlene Harvey, superintendent Brian O'Neill, author Rebecca Solnit, Rich Silverstein and Carla Emil, Julie and Will Parish, Kelly and Michael Halper, and Ann and Mark Weinstock sipped cocktails as the sun slipped below the horizon of Ocean Beach.
Auctioneer extraordinaire Mark Buell led the live auction of park adventure packages, raising some 200K, which will enhance the quality of GGNPC's trails, as well as restore the park's historic gardens, founded by turn-of-the-century entrepreneur Adolph Sutro, a former San Francisco mayor whose name still graces these Heights, the (old) baths and the mountain.
"I promise, Alice Waters can whip up anything from roast pig to sandwiches,'' he said to Kathryn Kimball, winner of an alfresco lunch, lagoon- side, at his and Susie Buell's Bolinas place. Cissie Swig was just relieved to learn that her two-day Inn-to-Inn coast hike includes massages.
"My family was privileged that we could preserve land," said David Rockefeller Jr., a trustee of the National Park Foundation and descendant of the family that created Acadia National Park and expanded the Great Smokies and Grand Tetons. "To participate in park making is a rare occurrence. But what greater gift can we leave our grandchildren?"
Whaam: "It took a lot of hard work,'' said SFMOMA director Neal Ben-ezra of the "Roy Lichtenstein: All About Art'' exhibition. "It took a little bit of money, too.'' Doesn't it always? But it's worth it -- SFMOMA gets bragging rights as the sole U.S. venue for a major retrospective of the late pop artist. At the Donor Circle viewing and dinner: the artist's widow, Dorothy Lichtenstein; his son, Mitchell Lichtenstein, with his nephew, Henry, who lives in the East Bay with Mitchell's brother, David Lichtenstein; Elaine McKeon, board of trustees chairman Steve Oliver, Mimi Haas, Carl and Yurie Pascarella, Harry and Margaret Anderson, John and Gretchen Berggruen, and Leslie and Alex Meyerovich.
It was a double "Whaam!" for the Meyeroviches as "Roy Lichtenstein: Cultural Icon" (in conjunction with SFMOMA) opened the night before at their gallery. In the crowd: Jack Cowart, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation director; Lucy Mitchell and David Nash (owners of New York's hot, hot, hot Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery); Barbara Castelli (widow of famed art dealer Leo Castelli); Norma Schlesinger and her son, Paul; and local gallerists Ruth Braunstein, George Krevsky and Jeremy Stone. "In 1997, during a big Lichtenstein show we'd just mounted, Roy died, which was personally very difficult,'' Alex said. "He had a long, productive life. But he never forgot the difficulties of his early career. And it made him humble."
Mourning in America: Outside Tosca Cafe on election night, P.J. Johnston cell-gabbed with former Mayor Willie Brown, in New York for live TV commentary. Brown said the math wasn't working when Johnston handed the phone to Sean Penn. The Oscar winner and anti-Prop. L proponent, just back from stumping for Sen. John Kerry in Nevada and New Mexico, declared, "I haven't given up on Ohio yet, Willie.''
Also keeping the faith (down to the last cold slice of Tommaso pizza): hostess Jeannette Etheredge, director Phil Kaufmann and his wife, Rose Kaufmann; Film Arts Foundation's Gail Silva, Tina Keker and her husband, super- lawyer John Keker, (who arrived at the bar, suitcase in hand, in case he'd be deputized to oversee any voting irregularities); Richard and Eleanor Johns; Gatti, Deb and Will Durst, Tom Kelley, Maggie Lynch, Karen Johnston and the Mayor's Office of Protocol's Matthew Goudeau and Emma Green.
Winging in from far-off and far-out corners of the world: German artist Gottfried Helnwein (here for the opening of "Modern Sleep'' at Modernism Gallery); actress Winona Ryder, who'd just landed at SFO from La-La land; and from the Gold Coast, Ann Getty and Jo Schuman Silver, popping by after a trunk show Ann hosted for Alyssa Boothby's Cracquer Jacque jewelry. Joining the gang glued to Jeannette's new TV screen, the glam duo sipped water and Tosca hot chocolate: "We're trying to keep up our tab here," Ann quipped. Leave it to Willie -- he was not only one of the first commentators to call the race; earlier, when asked to make a prediction, our prescient sage was, again, right on target: "Nader loses.''