San Francisco's Conservatory of Flowers keeps operating 'like a machine' despite closure amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Like many places in the Bay Area, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park is closed to visitors.

But behind the scenes there is an explosion of fragrance and color. And a small but dedicated team is keeping the delicate systems in balance, in one of the oldest greenhouses in the country.

ABC7 News got an exclusive look inside with Chief Nursery Specialist Kristen Natoli.

"Well the great thing about these old Victorian conservatories is they were really well designed to begin with, not just be beautiful but the function like a machine," Natoli said.

There are vents at the top and on the sides that passively move air through.

There is also a fog system that injects tiny droplets of moisture into the air as needed.

All this is orchestrated together by a computerized environmental control system, and it's the conservatory's task to fine tune it and check it throughout the day and make sure it's working properly.

This time of year as the days get longer and the conservatory gets more light and they see more growth.
"While we're sad and we miss our audience, we have more time in the galleries to do the kind of work you can't do with visitors here," Natoli said. "Getting way up on a ladder and pruning. Now, we can spread that out and be more strategic with some of that work."

The favorite part of Natoli's job is seeing the excitement on visitors faces when they connect them with the wonders of the tropics.

"It's hard for us, I mean it's a joy for us to see something new emerge each day. But the frustration is not being able to share that, and pass that joy on," she said.

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