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Best Place to Stop and Smell the Lavender San Francisco 2011 - Garden of Fragrance, San Francisco Botanical Garden

Our favorite flora pleases us on two simultaneous levels (visual and aromatic), which is what makes the Botanical Garden's Garden of Fragrance so captivating. Visually, it's one of Golden Gate Park's most attractive little nooks, a sun-dappled hideaway of winding pathways, garden benches, and mossy stone walls forming beds of colorful plant life. (These aren't just any old stones, by the way; they're chunks from a 12th-century Spanish monastery shipped here by the whimsical William Randolph Hearst 70 years ago.) And aromatically it's a sniffer's paradise of bushes, trees, and herbs from Mexico, South Africa, India, Crete, Brazil, China, and the Himalayas, chosen for their olfactory qualities. There are mint, sage, and lavender varieties in abundance; a bank of cascading rosemary, honeysuckle, patchouli, wormwood, and our own Yerba Buena; and curiosities like Joe-Pye weed, Savin Juniper, and Fakir's Delight. Almost everything is within fingertip's reach, and there's a pond for digit-cleansing presided over by a handsome stone of St. Francis of Assisi.

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