San Francisco Botanical GardenSan Francisco Botanical Garden Library of Horticulture
Special Reception

Thursday, Sept. 11

In addition to the original watercolors, giclée prints are for sale with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Library.

Art Exhibit

Cloud Forest Plants of Mesoamerica – final month

New Watercolors by Master Artists of the
Mary L. Harden School of Botanical Illustration
September 3 – December 29

Come celebrate the beauty and rarity of cloud forest plants from Mexico's highlands with our new exhibition of original watercolors by Master Artists of the Mary L. Harden School of Botanical Illustration. All of the watercolors have been painted from plants in the San Francisco Botanical Garden.


Mary L. Harden has been teaching Botanical Illustration for many years, often using the plants in the Botanical Garden as the primary subjects. Many of her advanced students have studied with her for years and their group has had three previous successful shows at the Helen Crocker Russell Library. Harden and her students have exhibited widely and frequently in the Bay Area including exhibits at the Conservatory of Flowers and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

With over twenty different artists exhibiting, there will be a variety of styles on display with Harden's characteristic emphasis on color. The artists began their artistic journey in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest of San Francisco Botanical Garden. Each painting was crafted directly from life, using plant specimens collected within the year preceding the exhibit.

"A taxonomically correct watercolor painting requires repeated close study of a plant in its habitat as well as under a magnifying glass," says Mary, describing the artistic process. "The artist must observe the plant's gesture or its seasonal growth motion. Does it droop, reach upwards, curve downwards? How does the structure support the flowers and the fruits? A careful study of all the plant parts is required before and during the painting process."

A botanical painting, Mary explains:

"is more than a scientific illustration as it requires the hand of the painter to be revealed in the composition, as well as the choice of focus, the life cycle elements, and the use of space and color. It is a personal statement about a particular plant, at a particular time, in a particular habitat. We hope to create that moment of joy when a plant is discovered along the trail. It is seen and felt with all of one's senses."

Because of our mild climate, San Francisco Botanical Garden is one of the only locations in the world where these high elevation cloud forest plants thrive outdoors. Fall is the best time to see the Garden's captivating cloud forest bloom.


About the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Collection

In the 1960's to early 1970's, Dr. Dennis Breedlove, botanist and curator at the California Academy of Sciences, began work on the flora of Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state. In addition to collecting voucher specimens of leaves, flowers and other identifying parts of various plants, he also brought back cuttings and seeds, recognizing the similarities in climate, and the possibility of preserving some in cultivation. SFBG began planting the Mesoamerican collection in 1984 with seed collected by Dr. Breedlove and with propagules from the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden. The vast majority of these plantings were experimental, as almost all of these species had never been attempted in cultivation before. Nearly 30 years later, SFBG's collection has matured into a dense, jungle-like cloud forest habitat, and Dr. Breedlove's experiment has matured into a collection of botanical rarities.

Learn more about the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Collection


General Exhibit Information

The Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture is recognized as one of the finest horticultural resources in the nation. Its 27,000-volume collection ranges from new gardening titles to antique herbals. The Library is open, free of charge, from 10am–4pm, every day except Tuesdays and major holidays.

Exhibitions of plant- and garden-related drawings, paintings, photographs and educational displays run for four-month periods. The artwork in our exhibitions are available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Library. For more information, call (415) 661-1316 ext. 403.

Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries

Member of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries
An international organization whose purpose is to initiate and improve communications among persons and institutions concerned with the development, maintenance and use of libraries of botanical and horticultural literature.
ADMISSION  FREE for all SF City & County Residents, Members & School Groups     /     $7 Non-residents     /     Discounted fee: Seniors & Children

LOCATION Entrances at the corner of 9th Ave at Lincoln Way & at MLK Jr. Dr. off the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park

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