I grew up in Walnut Creek but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I became aware of this national treasure in our town: the Ruth Bancroft Garden
. The garden was once part of a 400-acre fruit and walnut farm, started by Hubert Howe Bancroft, the historian and publisher whose personal book collection became the nucleus of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.
In the early 1970s, his daughter-in-law Ruth Bancroft took three acres that remained of that farm and began her famous experiment in raising succulents and other plants suitable to our Mediterranean climate. Over the years, her garden became a home to an important collection of aloes, agaves, yuccas, and echeverias. As her garden gained notice from horticulturalists from all over North America, it inspired the Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving significant American gardens.
The Ruth Bancroft Garden also became a nonprofit and a model of exceptional garden design using water-conserving plants.
The Ruth Bancroft Garden celebrates its official Opening Day Saturday with its annual Spring Plant Sale
. This will be the first of six plant sales this year, taking place from April through October.
The garden has for sale this year an assortment of natives, succulents and other drought-tolerant plants, including large and small cacti, agave, aloe, dyckia and yucca. The garden will have horticultural specialists on hand to answer questions regarding plant purchases.
The public is also invited to do more than buy plants Saturday. You can join a docent-led tour of the garden, where protective winter covers have come off, the cacti and succulents are glowing, and flowers are budding.
The garden, moreover, is kicking off its 2010 series of workshops
, which coincide with the April-October Saturday plant sales and are designed to give the public tips on sustainable gardening. This Saturday’s workshop, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., will cover composting.
Admission is free to the public during plant sales. Garden member admission is always free and is available at the door.
The members-only sale takes place from 9 to 11 a.m., and the garden is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The garden is located at 1552 Bancroft Road. For more information, call (925) 944-9352 or visit the visit Ruth Bancroft garden website.