Love succulents? So Did Ruth Bancroft!

The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a nonprofit public dry garden that was planted by Mrs. Ruth Bancroft in the 1970's. The Garden, located in Walnut Creek, has become an outstanding example of a water-conserving garden, appropriate for our Mediterranean climate.

History

Ruth Bancroft, who had a background in landscape architecture, moved with her husband Philip Bancroft to the family farm in 1939. Ruth planted an extensive garden around their home, and her interest in different plant groups evolved over time to include bearded irises, roses, herbs, alpine plants, perennials, and more. In the 1950s Ruth purchased her first succulent, a single potted aeonium. She quickly became fascinated with water-conserving plants and began collecting them. She amassed a huge collection of potted succulents, which were grown in lath-houses and greenhouses.

When the farm closed in 1971, Philip offered Ruth the three acres to begin a new garden using her large collection of succulents, which had outgrown the space available to house them. Ruth, then in her 60s, seized this opportunity. With help from Lester Hawkins, co-owner of Western Hills Nursery, Ruth planned and planted the garden. By trial and error, Ruth discovered how to use succulents in the landscape and how to protect tender plants from winter rains and the occasional hard freeze. She created dynamic planting combinations by using contrasting textures, forms, and colors.

Ruth’s garden began to attract a great deal of attention from other gardeners and horticulturists. In 1988, Frank and Anne Cabot visited Ruth and were troubled to hear that there were no plans to preserve the garden. They were inspired to form the Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving significant American gardens, and The Ruth Bancroft Garden became the first preservation project of the newly formed organization. The Garden opened to the public in the early 1990s.

Today

The Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which owns the garden and raises funds for its preservation. The garden is a beautiful, living example of low-water use plantings, and is a great educational resource. They offer classes and workshops and have a huge selection of plants for sale.

The first succulent in Ruth’s collection, Aeonium ‘Glenn Davidson’, is still growing in the garden.

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