Ruth Bancroft Garden

Our very first preservation garden, located in Walnut Creek, in California’s Ygnacio Valley, the Ruth Bancroft Garden is nationally recognized as one of America's finest examples of a dry garden. It features a variety of rare and extraordinary succulents and cacti and has a year-round presence, coming in and out of bloom and coloration as if the plants were absorbed in a fascinating conversation with each other.

TIMELINE

2017
The garden broke ground for a new Visitor and Education Center on August 19.

The January 2017 edition of the UK Royal Horticultural Society's monthly magazine, The Garden, includes a nice book review of The Bold Dry Garden. Earlier in January, the book was also reviewed in Pacific Horticulture magazine and the East Bay Times reported that the "Bancroft Garden preps for major upgrade."

2016
Ruth Bancroft Garden receives challenge grant from the Garden Conservancy and groundbreaking for Visitor and Education Center is scheduled for 2017.

In September, Timber Press publishes The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

2015

Visitor and Education Center designed. Capital campaign launches, raising money for construction.

2010
Ruth Bancroft receives a "Women Preserving the Environment" award from the Contra Costa Commission for Women.

2008
Ruth Bancroft turns 100 years old, and the Ruth Bancroft Garden celebrates this milestone with a year of special events.

2002
Our Marco Polo Stufano Fellow, Becky Rice, studies with Bancroft. She becomes the garden's first executive director in 2005.

1994
Ownership of the garden is transferred to the new nonprofit, Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc.

1992
Tours are open to the public on a limited basis. More than 6,000 people visit the garden annually in the next few years.

1991
The Garden Conservancy and the Bancroft Garden launch a "friends" organization to raise money for preservation and maintenance.

1988
At the suggestion of acclaimed garden writer, Penelope Hobhouse, Frank and Anne Cabot visit the Bancroft Garden, which inspires the formation of the Garden Conservancy. The following year, the Conservancy is granted a conservation easement, the first used to protect a private garden.

1971

All but 3 acres of the original orchards are cut down and lost to sub-division, the remainder of which becomes the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Lester Hawkins, co-owner of Western Hills Nursery, is retained to design the layout of the garden, the paths, and the mounds. Bancroft begins to plant a great number of small succulents and even some palm trees.

1972
The "Big Freeze" of December 1972 kills most of Bancroft's garden. Undaunted, she starts over.

1952
Ruth Bancroft buys and plants her first succulent, an Aeonium "Glenn Davidson," which still grows.

1939
Ruth Petersson marries Phillip Bancroft, Jr. and moves to the family farm.

1880
Historian and publisher, Hubert Howe Bancroft, begins farming walnuts and prize-winning pears on the 400-acre property. Passed down through three generations, the farm remains in operation until the late 1960s.

For more information, see ruthbancroftgarden.org

 

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Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Released by Timber Press in September 2016

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Frank Cabot and Ruth Bancroft in her garden, 1989

Photo by Fred Mertz, NYT Pictures

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Then & Now

Ruth Bancroft was a pioneer in dry gardening. Today dry gardening is more important than ever in California -- just one example of change over time and the importance of preservation.