Sunday, February 22, 2015

Expanded retail nursery at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

I never need an excuse to visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek, but it’s even better when I have a real reason for going. Yesterday (February 21, 2015) was the grand opening of the new section of the RBG’s retail nursery. Needless to say I had to check it out for myself.

Over the past number of weeks, nursery manager Troy McGregor, garden staff and a bunch of handy volunteers had been busy enlarging the nursery to twice its size. Now there’s room for many more plants and for larger specimens that are ready to go in the landscape. The new selection rivals what’s available during the twice-yearly plant sales—but every day of the year.

Aside from Succulent Gardens in Castroville, there’s no other succulent nursery in Northern California that can hold a candle to the RBG. But there’s more than just succulents. Troy, a native of Australia, has brought in a large variety of southern hemisphere shrubs, including grevilleas, banksias, hakea, proteas, leucadendrons and leucospermums. The RBG is now the go-to nursery for Proteaceae in the Bay Area and beyond.

Let’s take a look at the expanded nursery.

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As you can see, we had absolutely perfect spring weather. There was a steady stream of visitors while I was there so clearly I wasn’t the only one who felt the urge to buy plants and play in the garden.

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I love being greeted by rows of plants just begging to be explored

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The nursery also sells their own soil mix, arranged here in a rather—ahem—interesting way around a multi-stemmed Cleistocactus

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Volunteer weeding sale plants

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Paddles from a large Opuntia ellisiana that used to grow outside the garden along Bancroft Road but fell over during a recent wind storm

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$3.00 for all this is certainly a fair price!

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Lots of shrubby goodness

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Grevillea ‘Ned Kelly’ or similar hybrid (forgot to check the label because the plant was already sold)

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Leucadendron argenteum, beautiful large specimens in 5-gallon cans for $40

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Leucadendron argenteum is hard to photograph, but the silver sheen on the leaves is breathtaking

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Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’, one of several leucospermums ready to bloom

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Another Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’. I walked by it several times…

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…before I decided I just had to have it

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I’d been looking for Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ ever since I read this post on one of my favorite blogs, A Growing Obsession

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Yes, one of these Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ came home with me, too

The photos above were taken in the “old” nursery, i.e. the area under the shade sails. The photos below are of the new area.

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Lots of goodies in the Sold area…

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…including these multi-trunked Aloidendron ‘Hercules’

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Cute little cacti

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Assorted agaves

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Agave schidigera ’Shira ito no Ohi’

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Agave sebastiana ‘Silver Lining’

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Agave parrasana ‘Fireball’

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Agave parrasana ‘Fireball’

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Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’

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Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’—so tempting, but it’s not very hardy, and after my recent Agave guiengola ‘Crème Brûlée’ fiasco I need a break from fussy agaves

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Dyckia ‘Arizona’ × ‘Brittlestar’

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Sempervivum ‘Forest Frost’

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Take a look at what’s planted in the ground…

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×Mangave ‘Espresso’ and a spectacular restio (Cannomois grandis)

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Cannomois grandis and ×Mangave ‘Rio Verde’

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Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’

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Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’  from the other side. Could this be the one to replace the flowering Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ next to the front door?

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Planting strip/demonstration garden

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Check out this massive Echeveria agavoides!

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Aeonium undulatum

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Echeveria lilacena

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Echeveria lilacena

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Echeveria agavoides ‘Ebony’

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More echeverias and Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo Glow’ in the back

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Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo Glow’, Aeonium ‘Sunburst’, Sansevieria cylindrica

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Aloe tongaensis

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Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Zwartkop’

Troy is working hard to bring even more plants in so the selection will be changing regularly. Time to stop by periodically to see what’s new. Seriously, if I lived in the East Bay, I’d be there once a week!

So what I did buy? Just three plants, but they’re oh so fine!

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Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Butterfingers’. Not sure where it will go, frankly, since it has the potential to become quite large. For now it’ll live in a pot.

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Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’. I bought it to replace the flowering Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ by the front door, but if I do get an Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ for THAT spot, ‘Stained Glass’ will go in the desert bed.

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Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’

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Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’. Most likely it will go in the front yard outside the fence, replacing a Salvia ‘Hot Lips’.

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Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’

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Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’

Updated on 2/26/15 with input from Troy McGregor

26 comments:

  1. I really look forward to visiting the expanded nursery, Thanks for the preview ! What a beautiful specimen of A. Arizona Star..mine almost met it's end from too much exposure to rain the year after I bought it. It gets moved under cover for winter now..

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    1. I looked at photos online, and 'Arizona Star' looks to be a beautiful plant in general, so it wasn't just the specimen at the RBG. The only thing I'm hesitant about is the potential size. Some sites give a width of up to 7 ft., others say 3 or 4 ft. That's quite a difference!

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    2. Mine lives in a pot, and grows very slow. When it gets too big it will be gifted or composted.

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  2. Do they do what some places do- let you in for free if your just interested in shopping at the nursery? While their stuff is nice, it's very expensive, and having to pay the entrance fee on top of that would be a deal breaker for me. Sue

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    1. Sue, I'm sure you can shop at the nursery without paying the entrance fee.

      I'm actually surprised you think they're expensive. I think their prices are very reasonable for what you're getting. Of course the plants I'm interested in tend be rare and/or unavailable elsewhere in Northern California; I don't usually check prices on the more common species.

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    2. The prices may be a bit higher but it is good quality stock and unlike big box crap, you get the expertise of the fantastic staff...Troy, Brian, Ryan and Walker. Priceless. If you're not already a member, become one and receive 10% off each and every plant purchase

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  3. Beautiful plants, and the ones you chose are perfect! That Leucospermum is on my [always growing] want list now. I hear you about wanting to visit every week...

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    1. I love it when I see new plants in a nursery, not just the same stuff over and over.

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  4. Oh my! It's too bad we don't have that bullet train to the Bay Area yet!

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  5. Wonderful report! I wonder when I'll be back to visit the RBG?

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    1. Hopefully sooner than you think! You've always welcome to stay at our place :-).

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  6. Oh! Forgot to add: I have a generic green weberi, and it seems to have handled our 25F temps and snow over New Year's with no signs of trouble. Mine definitely prefers sun to shade. Seems like a nice, hardy, non-fussy plant. Did I mention that 'Arizona Star' is beautiful...?

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    1. I think A. weberi 'Arizona Star' would make a good choice next to our front door. Full sun 8 hours a day in the summer.

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  7. I would have had palpitations if I went with you Gerhard with all those goodies they have there!

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  8. I'm gonna come down to visit RBG among other places at the end of April. Can't wait! I hope you leave something behind for the rest of us Gerhard. I have an 'Arizona Star' and it is really beautiful.... good choice!

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  9. You got a really great copy of 'Stained Glass' there, also the Leucospermum. Good shopping trip.

    I'm with Kris, bullet train (with large luggage compartment) and station adjacent to RBG needed!

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    1. The 'Stained Glass' are from San Marcos, as are many of the other agaves. All beautiful specimens, just as I would expect.

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  10. Forgot--'Ivory Curls' is a little fragile even here--mine got a sunburn. :(

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    1. As nice as it looked, it gave off a high-maintenance vibe, and right now high-maintenance plants are not what I need.

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  11. The nursery looks great! I'd think that sempervivum would not do well there because of the heat. Not true?

    Strange that I have an 'Arizona Star' and you do not... but mine isn't going to get even 4' wide in a pot -- unless I put it in a really big one!

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    1. Walnut Creek has pretty much the same climate as Davis and sempervivums struggle in the summer. But closer to the Bay (Berkeley and Oakland are less than 30 minutes west of Walnut Creek) they thrive so it makes sense that the nursery carries them.

      I'd forgotten you have an 'Arizona Star'. How is it doing indoors?

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  12. Your 'Stained Glass' is a beauty! That is indeed one of the best succulent selections I've seen. I thought I had to wait til the plant sale in April, but now maybe I can tag-team a visit if/when I go to the SF show in March. A very timely report, Gerhard, thanks!

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    1. I was hoping to find a 'Stained Glass' as beautiful as yours.

      If you make it to the Bay Area in March, please let me know. Would like to meet up with you.

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