The San Francisco Botanical Garden has long been a respite-within-a-respite, an urban idyll in Golden Golden Park that enchants visitors with its Moon Viewing Garden and the magnolias that bloom every February. Through next Monday, July 16, it’s also once again home to 12 musical instruments, all part of Flower Piano.
For the fourth summer in a row, you can take 15 minutes to dazzle crowds with your version of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” or everyone’s favorite piece of Mozart juvenalia, the C Major classic “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” both of which SF Weekly heard while strolling through the Ancient Plant Garden and the Great Meadow. Several pianos have been placed under umbrellas, to give pianists a bit of protection from the sun, while others have been stationed in naturally shady spots — under a spreading totara pine in the South Africa section, for instance. You can walk through the entire grounds, drawn by the sound of one piano as the one you just visited slowly fades out of earshot. It’s truly lovely.
They’re available to play from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and SFBG has also invited professional musicians to give short concerts to crowds of picnickers throughout the park’s 55 acres. For example, at Piano No. 4 in the Rhododendron Garden, Caroline Dahl will play some boogie-woogie and American roots piano next Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Everything is free during normal SFBG hours — especially for members and San Francisco residents, for whom entry is free entirely — but the evening performances known as NightGarden have not only returned but expanded to three days (Thursday, July 12 – Saturday, July 14).
The $45 ticket to NightGarden reveals a side of the arboretum that diurnal visitors may never have seen. Illuminated walks, food and drink like Mozzeria and Andytown Coffee for purchase, and more than a little night music will fill the air, including Jill Tracy’s “Sonic Séance” at the Redwood Garden (Friday, July 13) and Daniel Sullivan’s “Night Fever: A Bacharach Bacchanal” (Saturday, July 14). Keats once wrote of the beauty of the nightfall this time of year, with its “murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves” — but this is coastal California so we don’t even have to worry about bugs that much.
And hey, the fried egg trees are in bloom!