Ruth Bancroft Garden

If you have an Internet connection and a love of plants, you probably also have many unmet friends with those same two attributes.
Finally meeting up with them is thrilling. When they arrange to take you to marvelous gardens you’ve never visited before, life doesn’t get any better.

Just such a friend arranged for a group of gardeners to visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden, located in Walnut Creek, California, one I’ve long wanted to explore. The garden didn’t disappoint.

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I’m guessing Agave lophantha.

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This guy in the center looks a lot like my Mr. Ripple, which is an A. salmiana hybrid.

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Thrilling enough, no? But what I didn’t expect to find was garden scenes like this.

Our visit luckily coincided with the RBG’s 16th annual Sculpture in the Garden fundraiser. Nothing loosens up a group of gardeners more than provocative garden sculpture.

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You should have seen the caboose on this lizard lady. I don’t know how she kept her balance in those heels.

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But it would take a lot more than a lizard in heels to upstage plants like the spiral aloe, Aloe polyphylla.

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There were swathes of succulents of every stripe, spike, and rosette, including this Aloe distans.

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And the occasional bull-human ceramic hybrid.

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These sauteed gentlemen utterly charmed me.

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We were wondering if this regal fellow is the Sharkskin Agave, aka the Ruth Bancroft Agave. Can you tell we toured without a docent?
I doubt a docent could have corralled us. We peeled off in twelve different directions, crossing paths periodically to compare notes and point out possible missed gems.

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Barrel cactus and a gorgeous, diaphanous, broom-like shrub but apparently not a cytisus. No one knew its name.

When curiosity grew to unmanageable proportions, we flagged down docents to fire questions at them. (What a nice bunch docents are.)

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This plant seemed to attract the most attention.
The flowers were similar in shape to our native calochortus and also to an Australian shrub that’s grown in So. Calif. that we call the “Blue Hibiscus,’ Alyogyne huegelii.
The Blue Hibiscus has sandpapery-textured, maple-shaped leaves, and this shrub’s leaves were threadlike.
Input from a couple docents pieced together an ID. Alyogyne hakaeifolia.

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More garden denizens.

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These ceramic sculptures were built in components and slipped over pvc pipe. The combinations arising from this simple technique are seemingly endless.

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Meeting a group of gardeners, of course, never disappoints. Their erudition in matters horticultural and otherwise can be astounding.

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And whether fluent in botanical Latin or not, we all speak the same language and come from the same tribe.

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The sculpture exhibit and sale runs through July 18, 2010.

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10 thoughts on “Ruth Bancroft Garden

  1. Loree, it is a small garden, much smaller than the Huntington cactus garden, but very worth seeing. And they sell plants too!
    Delphine, it is a good pairing to showcase sculpture in a cactus garden. I hope the fundraiser does well this year.

  2. Hi Denise. I’m so glad you commented on my blog today, leading me here. Wow I love your blog, can’t wait to dig in and see some more. I’ve always wanted to visit this garden, I’m glad to get a peek. What great plants, and they sell some of them? It’s too good to be true. BTW-I’m positively envious of your blog name, it’s genius.

  3. Great to see the Ruth Bancroft with all that sculpture. Makes sense with all the sculptural succulents. Very cool garden.

  4. this is one of my favorite gardens in the bay area. hey, I think these are doing a huge succulent show thing on July 16. Lots of big names in the field will be there. Matti

  5. Hi Megan, glad you followed me back here. It’s almost getting to a point of so many blogs, so little time, but I love checking in on yours.
    Ryan, I thought so too. Plus it’s all for a good cause.
    Matti, I saw that on the 16th. I’d love to go back but not sure if I could stand another drive back up Interstate 5 so soon. I’d probably go to the Berkeley Bot Garden too and The Dry Garden nursery — kept hearing a lot about that one.

  6. You got some great shots Denise, the overcast was a plus for all of us. And I will cast my vote for ‘Sharkskin’ too..So sorry you were not able to join us in Mendo, but please consider me a permanent tour guide–you really need to see Digging Dog..really, really..

    Kathy

  7. Love the plants, and the garden denizens! I have some small sharkskin, I don’t know how many years before they look anything like that, its by far my slowest growing agave.

  8. That is one garden that is high on my list of garden to visit. Top of the list, in fact. However, I will not get to see the unusual sculpture but will get to see the spiral aloe- what an intriguing growth structure. I have a sharkskin agave but it is miniscule compared with that one. Thanks for allowing us to join you on the visit.

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