I got a tour of the park that is the roof of the new Transbay Transit Center last week - Adam Greenspan, the landscape architect who led the design of the park, was kind enough to give me a guided peek at what is about to open to the public this weekend. It's hard to decide which superlative to use to describe the new park (many would apply), so I'm just going to say that it's *spectacular*. I had known for some time that the designers of this park were curating interesting species from around the world, but you have to see this place to appreciate what a special amenity is about to be bestowed on San Francisco.
I will leave it to others to comment on the landscape design of the park - I'll just describe the imagination and deep botanical knowledge that went into the collecting of the trees and plants you'll find here. Greenspan has largely used trees and plants from Mediterranean regions of the world, taking advantage of plants that will do well in San Francisco's climate. There are trees from California, of course - California buckeyes, Monterey cypress, and other trees commonly seen in San Francisco, but also a dozen or more California sycamores (Platanus racemosa), a coastal California tree which is almost never seen in San Francisco streets.
As you walk around the perimeter of the park, you come to a Chilean garden (with several monkey puzzles), a South African garden, an Australian garden (with some amazing Brachychitons - both B. acerifolia but also B. rupestris (Queensland bottle tree - with a huge, bulbous trunk), and two separate desert gardens on the west end of the park, with three striking dragon trees (Dracaena draco).
My personal favorite in the garden is a still small wollemi pine (Wollemi nobilis) - the tree that had been thought to have been extinct for hundreds of millions of years - known only from fossil records - until a few dozen of the species were discovered in a ravine near Sydney, Australia. (Hello, Rec Park Department - we need a lot more of these in San Francisco parks!) The wollemi pine is located in the roof's "ancient garden", with ginkgos, cycads and other plants that have graced the earth for millions of years.
But I think the most spectacular trees in the park are the palms - Greenspan loves palms, and it shows, especially with the majestic Chilean wine palm that is set in a central lawn of the park, not far from pindo palms, some nikau palms (native to New Zealand), various Trachycarpus species (not just our common windmill palm, T. fortunei), a few Brahea species, and on and on and on.... There are probably a dozen palm species here that are rarely or never seen in San Francisco.
So run, don't walk, to see this park when it opens! I just hope that we can keep the Transbay Roof Park in the shape it's in now - it's going to take a lot of work to keep this garden looking as good in 10 years as it does now. I volunteer to be a maintenance docent!