A Visit To Ruth Bancroft Garden

New wall and sign since my last visit in 2013

On our recent road trip we visited the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California.  We met up with ace blogger/photographer Gerhard from SucculentsAndMore.  While I wandered the garden and did some plant-talking with Gerhard, Beloved took photos--all of the photos in this post are his. 

A pond acts as a striking contrast to a garden of dry climate plants
RBG's distinctive shade structure.  In winter, draped with plastic sheeting, it becomes a shelter protecting the plants beneath from excess cold and moisture:
Aloes were in bloom
My previous and only visit was in 2013 on the San Francisco Garden Blogger's Fling.  I recall that it was really hot and that I was really tired.  The reactions of garden bloggers from non-Mediterranean/non-arid climates was interesting--some were fascinated by xeric plants, others baffled.  Since 2013, the RBG has added a plant sales facility to raise money for the garden, as well as adding many new plants and improvements to the garden itself.  
Agave gypsophila with its undulating leaves
Many beds have had mounded soil added to create excellent drainage.  The scale of the RBG is much different from the scale of the Huntington Desert Garden.  The RBG is more personal and intimate.

Two different Euphorbias
Puya mass

This is a beautiful area.  The Garden received many specimen-sized Agave ovatifolias as gift; they were scattered throughout the garden, including that grand one near the lower center of the photo.
Hesperaloe and Cholla
Columnar cacti
Acacia, with pink-flowering Ceiba in the background. 
A very old Opuntia, its once succulent pads turning into woody trunk.  Mrs. Bancroft's original plantings were of the tiny potted succulents she'd collected.  As so many of us have collections of tiny potted succulents--it shows that not many collections become something like this!
Beautiful Oak---Quercus lobata?
The Ceiba:
The individual flowers are quite beautiful
 Mammilaria geminispina.

Bloggers in habitat
Acacia pendula is the silvery drape on the left of a very interesting Agave clump. 
The only drawback of the visit--on a weekday morning we basically had the place to ourselves--was the drilling of a new water well for the garden.  The drilling equipment took up little room, but the noise it made may have explained the total lack of other visitors.  The drilling was almost complete, so don't worry about racket should you visit.  We had great sympathy for the staff, as the drilling was a two-week-long project.  I'm surprised they could all still hear. 

The sales area made up for the drill.  Plant Shangri-La indeed!

Great plants unavailable elsewhere, at great prices! 
Blogger in shopping mode moves fast.  The blonde shirtless surfer-gardener-bro in the background is the mannequin boyfriend of the Annie's Annuals mannequin lady.  Or so we joked. 

Though the search was on for a Banksia, we ended up with Leucospermum 'Spider' and Aloe hereroensis, both for bargain prices.
Fun visit!   Thanks to Gerhard for the plant-talking, and Beloved for the great photos and vast patience.


  1. Yes, I remember the heat of that day as well. I also remember a third reaction of a handful of bloggers -- resentment that they were "wasting their time." Some did not even bother to tour, they just stood around by the buses and waited for it to be over. Despite the cacophony of the drilling, it seems like this was a pleasant experience. I would love to go back there to shop and explore in cooler temps.

    1. It was just nicely warm that morning--beautiful autumn weather. Hard to focus on plants when you are just about to faint.

      Kind of an odd reaction--I like investigating the very different climates. Seeing lichen on trees and moss on roofs in the PNW was fascinating, for example. Seeing the result of a familiar plant given a little more water and a cooler summer--engrossing!

  2. It's too bad that the visit was marred some by the noise but your beloved got some great shots. I loved all the backlit shots.

    1. It sounded the kitchen garbage disposal was running for 3 hours! I felt bad for the staff, but the garden needs a water source.

      The light was very pretty that morning. It is different than the light of Southern California--not as pink.

    2. It was about 10 AM or so and the light was really nice, so I took advantage of it to get some back-light shots. I was pretty happy in the light and composition of the shots with the oak tress. Of course with the abundance of subject matter in the garden, I had a great time taking pictures :-)

  3. Great garden, I love that Ceiba tree with the wonderful flowers, so unusual.

    1. Here it is the tree that says "Autumn has arrived!" with its flowers.

  4. What a fun morning it was. I'm so glad you got to see the "new" RBG--and that I got to hang out with the two of you.

    1. Ditto, and by now, hopefully, the well-drilling is complete!

  5. The Acacia pendula is mis-captioned as Agave pendula. Thanks for sharing the trip and for your site which is consistently great reading and viewing. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the error--now fixed. I have Agaves on my mind a lot.

      Happy you enjoyed the posts, thank you!

  6. I so need a road trip like this! Alan did a great job handling photos while you chatted and shopped.

    1. Yes, you do! :)

      It was a lot of fun. Alan is the bestest! I wish I'd made that Pac Hort thing, after seeing some of the gardens on blog posts...woweee!

    2. I had a good time taking pictures, the light that morning was sharp and gave the shots good contrast and shadow.

      What I liked about the garden itself was the mix of succulents in the same beds. The Huntington garden is great, but those beds tend often to be mostly about one succulent variety or geographical area. In the Ruth Bancroft, most beds were a wonderful mixture of aloes, agaves, cacti, etc. from all over the world mixed in with the native oaks. It was a wonderful garden.

  7. This garden has been on my must-see list for ages but it just got boosted to the top. That shot of the Agave gypsophila will haunt my dreams.

  8. Such fond memories of visiting this garden during the fling. It was hot but was also my first time seeing some amazing sights like those HUGE agaves that were taller than people. I'd so love to go back and especially to shop there someday!


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