The dahlia has long been a favorite among San Francisco gardeners, and for good reason: it's the city's official flower.
For those looking to catch a glimpse of the dahlia's spectacular array of varieties—many of which were created by local hybridizers—there's no better place than the Dahlia Dell in Golden Gate Park.
According to Golden Gate Park’s website, “the dahlias at Golden Gate Park start to bloom in June and reach their peak level of beauty in late August and September. However, you can still enjoy the radiance of the blooms all the way into October.”
First planted in the 1920s, the Dahlia Dell (also called the Dahlia Garden) is located just east of the Conservatory of Flowers. Although its unassuming location makes it one of the park's lesser-known attractions, the teardrop-shaped plot contains the densest concentration of dahlias in town.
In 1926, the Board of Supervisors designated the dahlia San Francisco’s official flower for "its versatility, its beauty, its infinite variety of color and form." The resolution, passed unanimously under Mayor James Rolph, hailed the vibrant flower as "the very symbol of San Francisco life and of the spirit of her people."
Today, the small, fenced-in island of color continues to attract flower enthusiasts and casual visitors alike every summer, as it has for the past 90 years.
The Dahlia Dell is maintained by volunteers from the Dahlia Society of California (DSC) in conjunction with San Francisco Rec & Park. The DSC, which has its headquarters in San Francisco, is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
"The Dahlia Dell is a little-known jewel in Golden Gate Park where people can come and admire the beauty of this City’s official flower," said Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg in a statement earlier this year. "Our partnership with the Dahlia Society of California has ensured that dahlias continue to thrive in our park."
Members of the DSC have not only kept Golden Gate Park's dahlias in bloom for decades, they’ve also bred countless varieties of the flower in their own gardens, many of which have gone on to receive national fame.
These hybridized dahlias come in a multitude of shapes and colors, and often boast delightful names like Luminescence, Sunstorm, and Glenbank Twinkle. Carefully planted and labeled by volunteers in the spring, many are showcased in the Dahlia Dell.
For the ultimate dahlia experience, check out the DSC's annual Dahlia Sale and Show on August 12-13 at the San Francisco County Fair Building (also known as the Hall of Flowers).
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