OAKLAND -- Splashes of yellow, pink and red against the manicured green lawns of Mountain View Cemetery on Piedmont Avenue -- if the month is March, it must be time for the local landmark's annual tulip blossoming and exhibition.
For more than 40 years, tulips have been planted to create an oasis of color inside the more than 200-acre grounds of Oakland's famously beautiful cemetery, and for the past eight years floral masters have been invited to take the bounty inside with an exhibit of floral design.
"Flowers bring out happiness in people," said Doreen Herbruger, customer service manager at Mountain View Cemetery.
The thousands of bulbs are imported from Holland and planted in January, later than usual, in order for them to bloom at the end of March, although weather also plays a major part.
"If it's rainy, they're not going to bloom," Herbruger said.
The tulips alone have always been popular. But eight years ago, Herbruger was inspired to add a new element after paying a visit to the "Bouquets to Art" showcase at the de Young museum in San Francisco, where designers create arrangements inspired by art in the museum's permanent collection. She realized that the annual tulip blossoming could be matched by a display of flower arrangements from master floral designers around the area.
"That way we can help the local florists," she said.
Now, the event brings close to 5,000 people over the three days from all around the Bay Area, including field trips from schools, group trips from garden clubs and bus tours from senior centers. They all come to see the arrangements that will fill the cemetery's Tower Chapel for three days.
Herbruger said the floral designers can do whatever they wish, as long as the display includes 30 percent tulips -- and that has meant some pretty dramatic arrangements.
"I said, 'Let's go to town, do whatever you want within this space,'" Herbruger said.
One of those designers is Kay Wolff, a master floral designer and currently the chair of the California Certified Florist Committee of the California State Floral Association. Wolff, who also teaches floral design at Merritt College, looks forward to participating.
"I think it's a great way to share the love of flowers that I have, and give back to the community," she said.
Besides the chapel being open to the public for three days, Friday to Sunday, Wolff will hold two demonstration sessions. At 2 p.m. Saturday, she will demonstrate designs inspired by a fusion of the Japanese floral art of Sogetsu Ikebana and contemporary European design. And at 2 p.m. Sunday, she will bring students from her Merritt College class to show off their work.
"I want to encourage their own preferences in design, their own perspectives in design, to come through," she said.
Mountain View Cemetery was established in 1863 by the Mountain View Cemetery Association and was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City. It is a popular place for visitors, who come for everything from concerts to jogging to historical tours.
The tulip exhibition is one of the most popular celebrations held throughout the year at the cemetery, and 15,000 postcards and 14,000 newsletters were sent out to promote it. Like other events at the cemetery, there is no fee for admission.
"All our events here are basically free to the community," Herbruger said.
For the cemetery, it's a way to connect to locals and let people know about the beauties of the secluded spot. And for Wolff, the response she's seen to the flowers makes sense.
"It's a happy thing -- it reminds us of life," she said.
What: 9th annual Tower Chapel Tulip Exhibition
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday to Sunday
Where: Mountain View Cemetery, Tower Chapel, 5000 Piedmont Ave., Oakland