A guest plays a piano in the rhododendron garden. Michelle Wiley/KQED
A guest plays a piano in the rhododendron garden. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

Flower Piano at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Goes Into Full Bloom

Flower Piano at the San Francisco Botanical Garden Goes Into Full Bloom

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This weekend marks the fourth annual Flower Piano festival in San Francisco. The Flower Piano festival is a partnership between the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and Sunset Piano.

For 12 days, a dozen pianos are scattered around the park. There are baby grand pianos tucked underneath willow trees, stand-up pianos out in the meadow. And throughout the garden, tendrils of music seem to waft through the air.

A baby grand piano sits in the Zellerbach garden.
A baby grand piano sits in the Zellerbach garden. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

Brendan Lange is the Director of Visitor Experience and Marketing at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. He says that Flower Piano can be a kind of “side door” into the garden.

“Maybe not everyone is so into plants,” says Lange, “but when you add a different element, you add music, it adds a different way for people to visit the garden.

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Guests are encouraged to play the pianos as they enjoy the scenery of the gardens.

One of those guests is Dale Hadley. He’s sitting under a large tree in a wooded area and playing ragtime.

Don Hadley plays one of the pianos underneath a totara tree.
Don Hadley plays one of the pianos underneath a totara tree. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

He’s been playing the piano since he was five-years-old. He says if it weren’t for Flower Piano, he wouldn’t have the same opportunity to play instruments like these.

“Some cities have street pianos, but they’re limited and pianos aren’t very good,” says Hadley. “The pianos here this year are excellent, and they’re even better than last year’s pianos.”

Pianos in the garden are tuned at least twice a week to ensure the instruments are in top shape, especially with the Bay Area’s temperamental climate.

Guests at the Great Meadow Flower Piano patiently wait their turn to play.
Guests at the Great Meadow Flower Piano patiently wait their turn to play. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

After playing in the garden last year, Hadley was invited to perform in the Piano Extravaganza. That’s when musicians from all over the Bay Area, including those from the San Francisco Symphony, will come to play for a few hours.

Hadley will be there Sunday afternoon, playing “the softer side of ragtime.”