the flower pianos

The botanical gardens bloomed with bright staccatos, sweet allegros, and long crescendos. Today, the park was filled with the fragrance of music; you could smell the notes as they intertwined with the flowers.

Spread out before us was Flower Piano, a twelve day 75th anniversary celebration for the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Flower Piano was the brainchild of “piano ninjas Mauro ffortissimo and Dean Mermell, who together launched Sunset Piano an impromptu musical and social experiment, temporarily placing pianos in a wide variety of unexpected nature and urban settings.”  

The botanical gardens provided a natural amphitheater where anyone was welcome play. Professional. Amateur. Non player.

Play whatever music you like, as long as you limit your concert to 15 minutes if someone is waiting.

My girls were in the last category of non-players. However, it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. Both Ava and Mia took turns at the keyboards and played whatever sounded good to their ears. Other visitors around them didn’t seem to mind and encouraged the girls to play for as long as they liked.

Plunk. Plunk. Plink. Plink. Mostly dissonant chords with an occasional chord made pretty by happy accident.

I held a map in my hand which identified each piano by number and section of the park. I wasn’t really familiar with the layout of the gardens, so we spent most of our time just listening while we walked down trails. We’d pause from time to time until one of us heard music and then let the notes guide us to the next piano. A musical treasure hunt. One of the first pianos we came across, an Elvis vibe filled their very being as they played.

Both standup and grand pianos graced the park. The music choices were mostly classical in nature, except for the last piano we visited.  There, a quartet was headlining with bongos, vocals, in addition to the piano. A large crowd had gathered and we danced to the latin rhythms under canopy of the old growth trees.

Of course, there were many other discoveries amongst the botanical gardens. Mia claimed an old broken bamboo piece, which she promptly named her walking stick. She stuck flowers in the top and used it to hike around the park, poke the dirt, and bother her sister.

Ava loved the Fountain Plaza. She waved her arms gracefully and with feeling as the fountain water swirled up then down. It was as if she was conducting her own private water orchestra.

As we walked on, the afternoon sun was relentlessly hot and heavy with humidity, so we took a rest out on a grassy field under a large grove of trees. Mia found a piece of bark and decorated with small flowers from the meadow. Ava made daisy crowns. I laid back and looked up at the tree tops.

And of course, the flowers. Endless fields of beautiful flowers, butterflies, exotic trees and shrubs. Noisy Canadian geese circled the pond. Despite my warning, Ava gave them a good chase until one hissed at her and she came running back. Not to be outdone,  she returned quickly just so she could hiss back at him. He was not pleased.

For what had been just our usual trip up to the city for a visit to the Academy of Sciences museum, Flower Piano was an unexpected and joyful surprise.

P.S. As a follow-up to my fairy door piece from last year, we paid a visit to the tree today and noticed the door had been upgraded to a true fairy door. What is a true fairy door? A door carved from a beautiful piece of wood with fairy trinkets (even a set of google eyes) adorning it. As usual, it was filled with letters and tiny gifts. In my opinion, the door was much more fairy like and magical.

On the inside of the door a web address,, was carved. Perhaps it is a requirement of fairies these days to have a website.

Later than evening, when I typed the address in my browser, the headline read….

We are Faery; we are magic and we are real.” 

Next time, I really must remember to have the girls write a note.

One thought on “the flower pianos

  1. What a lovely event! Piano lessons, next? Dad still not where he should be in my opinion. Hoping for the best. Love, Mom

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