This dry garden is nationally recognized as one of the finest American gardens and features a variety of rare and extraordinary succulents and cacti. Born from Mrs. Bancroft’s deep curiosity, the garden has a year-round presence, coming in and out of bloom and coloration almost as if the plants were absorbed in a fascinating conversation with each other. The Ruth Bancroft Garden was the first preservation project of the Garden Conservancy and is now a fully functioning public garden. www.ruthbancroftgarden.org
Read a profile of Ruth Bancroft in the Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2011.
Read a case study of the preservation of the Ruth Bancroft Garden: From Private to Public: The Experience of the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Written by Richard G. Turner, Jr., 1993, and updated by Elizabeth Byers, 2005
See photographs of the garden party for Ruth Bancroft's centennial celebration, as published in the New York Times on September 4, 2008.
1880: The historian and publisher, Hubert Howe Bancroft, begins farming a 400-acre property in the Ygnacio Valley East of San Francisco growing walnuts and Bartlett pears. The farm, which remains in operation until the late 1960s, is passed down to Phillip Bancroft, Sr. and then to his son Phillip Bancroft, Jr.
1930: The farm becomes world famous for its pears, winning first place in state competitions and continuing to win that honor in 8 out of the next 9 years
1939: Ruth Petersson marries Phillip Bancroft, Jr. and they move to the family farm
1952: Ruth Bancroft buys her first succulent, an Aeonium "Glenn Davidson,' kindling a lifetime passion for plant collecting. This first plant is still growing in the garden
1971: Almost all of the original orchards are cut down and lost to sub-division, but 3 acres are saved for the creation of the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Mrs. Bancroft retains Lester Hawkins, co-owner of Western Hills Nursery, to design the layout of the garden, the paths and the mounds, and she begins to plant a great number of small succulents, even palm trees bought in one gallon containers
1972: The "Big Freeze" of December '72 kills most of the plants in the garden. Undaunted, Ruth Bancroft starts over and ever since spends six weeks every year covering hundreds of plants for over-wintering
1988: At the suggestion of acclaimed garden writer, Penelope Hobhouse, Frank and Anne Cabot visit the Bancroft Garden. The visit inspires the formation of the Garden Conservancy
1989: The Ruth Bancroft Garden becomes the first project of the Garden Conservancy. The Conservancy is granted a conservation easement, the first used to protect a private garden. The easement prohibits the development of the land for any purpose inconsistent with the preservation of the garden and documents the appearance of the established garden through text and photographs.
1991: The Garden Conservancy and the Bancroft Garden launch a Friends organization to raise money for the space's preservation and maintenance
1992: Limited garden tours open to the public. In a few short years over 6,000 people visit the garden annually
1994: Ownership of the garden is transferred to the newly-organized non-profit, Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc.
2002: Marco Polo Stufano Fellow Becky Rice learns through first hand observation Ruth Bancroft's approach to gardening and design. Ms. Rice becomes the garden's first executive director in 2005
2008: Ruth Bancroft turns 100 years old and publications from The New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle acknowledge her accomplishments and her garden with major feature stories
2009: The Ruth Bancroft Garden celebrates this centennial milestone with special events throughout the year
2010: Ruth Bancroft receives "Women Preserving the Environment" award from the Contra Costa Commission for Women
Open in 2013 for visitors seven days a week except on holidays.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting
Admission and Tours
$10 adults; $7 seniors and students; children under 12, Ruth Bancroft Garden members, Garden Conservancy members, and AHS members free.
Saturdays at 10 a.m. through March 2013
Groups of 10 or more should schedule a Group Tour.
Available every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Group and Special Interest tours:
Groups of 10 or more may be scheduled by appointment.
For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 925.210.9663 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parking is limited; please carpool whenever possible. Parking for mid-week self-guided tours or for meetings with garden staff is located at the office entrance at 1552 Bancroft Road.
Parking for docent-led tours, weekend tours, and special events is located at the North Entrance at 1500 Bancroft Road. Parking is available on the gravel area adjacent to Ruth’s Folly. If that lot is full, please continue up the driveway and parallel park along the left side of the driveway near the red barn. All tours begin at Ruth’s Folly.
The garden is located at 1552 Bancroft Road in Walnut Creek, CA 94598.
For directions and additional information, visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden website.