Ruth Bancroft Garden
Walnut Creek, California
September 2007

Their website says it is internationally recognized as one of the finest dry gardens in the world. It was also the first garden in the U.S. to be sponsored by The Garden Conservancy. With those credentials, who wouldn’t be anxious to see it?

Our first impression on driving up to “Ruth’s Folly” was that this was someone’s backyard, not a public garden.

The two greenhouses at the entrance are of the wooden lath structure that backyard gardeners everywhere erect, and there is really no entrance-just an opening between the greenhouses. When we actually entered the garden, we were pleasantly surprised to find it attractively laid out with a very interesting collection of plants. At the same time, we were a bit disappointed at how small it seemed. However, the diversity of plant material on display is astonishing for such a small area.
bancroft view5

Numerous species of palms and eucalyptus provide shade for beds of cacti and succulents. At a time when almost nothing was in flower, the array of shapes and colors was still almost overwhelming. Where else would one see an alpine plant like Bristlecone Pine growing amidst cacti and palms?

Bancroft plant mix

The diversity of plant material is amazing and exciting but there are no plant labels to tell you what anything is, and there is almost no interpretive material to anything about the garden. I’m sure this is a conscious decision so as not to clutter the garden, but it left us very dissatisfied. Why is this such an eclectic collection of plants? Was it just serendipity? Did they just plant everything they came across and keep everything that survived? Or is there some unifying theme that wasn’t obvious to us? Without some interpretation, the garden is nice, but I have friends in Arizona with desert gardens about as nice. I certainly enjoyed the visit, but left slightly disappointed.

here for more pictures of the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

To visit the official website of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, click