The stunning blossoms of the Dahlia Garden next to the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park peak in their beauty from mid-July to mid-September. This area was dedicated in 1920 to the dahlia, the official San Francisco Flower. The diverse hybrids with their multitude of colors swaying in the foggy breezes look like a sea of Technicolor dreams.
These dahlias were probably dancing to a different tune when the ground moved early Sunday morning as the result of a 6.1 earthquake epicentered near Napa. Damaged buildings and several injuries occurred in old town Napa and a nearby mobile home park, with four homes burned and nearly 300 others now in need of repair. The tower at the Napa County Airport had its windows shattered, a church in Napa and one in Vallejo had extensive damage, an apartment-building car-port collapsed on vehicles, homes shifted off foundations, and broken bottles of wine littered several market floors.
I think the dahlias with their beautiful displays are offering their own prayers for hope and healing for those who face transitions and obstacles from the damage. Such beauty leads me to believe that there are perhaps more incantations for global healing coming from the plants than from the peoples of the land.
The California Dahlia Society website helps us get acquainted with the garden and the growing process as well as informing us of a variety of programs and shows. Volunteers help plant, disbud, de-leaf, water, deadhead, and, later in the Fall, dig out and store approximately 500 clumps of dahlias. Most mornings you can meet the overseers who donate all of the tubers for their particular area. They are deservedly proud of their award-winning garden.
The dahlia originated in Mexico and was used by the Aztecs for medicine, religious ornamentation, and food for their animals (the tubers). The genetic make-up of the Dahlia gives it an uncanny ability to cross-breed into many varieties. Some dahlias are as small as a quarter and some as large as a beach ball. There is even a dahlia that looks like my morning hairdo.
You can use every technique and piece of camera equipment available to you when capturing the essence and emotion of the dahlias. I love working with individual blooms, so most often I choose to photograph with a 400 mm lens, adding an extension tube between my lens and camera so I can focus at a closer distance.
But if you can’t get to the SF Golden Gate Dahlia Garden today, you have several weeks left, when there will still be many blooms. When admiring their colors and shapes you might easily be caught up in their visual meditations — not a bad way to begin a day!
Addendum: After hearing more reports it is obvious that the injuries and structural damage in Napa and Vallejo are quite extensive. Some small aftershocks are still rumbling in that area. Healing and reconstruction will be needed for sometime to come. But more than 80% of the wineries are open. So stop by and support those local communities!