Monday, October 12, 2015

Ruth Bancroft Garden 2015 fall plant sale recap

The calendar may say October, but the weather gods don’t seem to have gotten the message: We still hit the low 90s virtually every afternoon. Last Saturday, I was already sweating at 9:45 a.m. as I was standing in line at the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) waiting for the nursery to open for the fall plant sale. I would have loved overcast skies and temperatures in the 60s but that was simply not in the cards.

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The RBG’s fall plant sale was a bit different this year. Instead of opening an hour early for members only, the sale started at 10 a.m. for everybody. However, members were rewarded with a 20% discount on all plants—a very nice bonus indeed.

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In the past, the nursery’s offerings outside of the spring and fall plant sales had been limited, both in terms of physical space and variety. However, this year the RBG nursery has undergone a transformation that is nothing short of astounding.

In February 2015, the nursery doubled its retail space. Along with it came a larger selection of succulents—to be expected from a garden known for its spiky treasures—but also a much wider variety of water-wise companion plants, ranging from California and Southwest natives to shrubs from the southern hemisphere, especially protea relatives from South Africa and Australia. Much of this development has been driven by nursery manager Troy McGregor, plantsman extraordinaire from the Land Down Under, and his immensely dedicated staff.

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Since the nursery now offers a large selection year round, the focus on the biannual plant sales has shifted somewhat. Still, there were eight additional tables for the fall sale this past Saturday, and I found quite a few goodies I had never seen at the nursery before.

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With the timeline of our front lawn removal still up in the air (our contractor is very busy), I didn’t want to buy a lot of new plants just now. However, I had $150 to spend on raffle plants for the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society (SCSS) so I was able to splurge after all. Scroll down to see what I bought.

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In addition to plants bought in from growers in California, Arizona and even Washington, RBG garden staff had pulled out quite a few agaves that were being offered bare root. A great opportunity for people wanting immediate impact in their own garden at a very good price.

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Here’s what I brought home. First the plants for myself: a honeypot dryandra (Banksia nivea), a small Western Australian shrub I’m going to trial for Troy; a picture-perfect Agave ocahui; an Agave potatorum ‘Cameron Blue’ I’ve been wanting for three years; and a Portulaca molokiniensis, a succulent native to the island of Molokini off the coast of Maui. In spite of its tropical origin, the latter is supposed to grow very well in our Mediterranean climate. We shall see.

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And here are the goodies for the SCSS plant raffle. If you’re an SCSS member (or plan on being at the October 26 meeting), this is what you can look forward to:

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Clockwise l-to-r: Dyckia platyphylla, Pelargonium carnosum. Gonolobus cyclophyllus (a rarely offered caudiciform), Aloe melanacantha

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Clockwise l-to-r: Agave victoria-reginae, Fouquieria burragei (a rarely seen ocotillo relative), Echeveria pulidonis × derenbergii, Aloe peglerae, Echeveria cante hybrid

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Clockwise l-to-r: Echeveria chihuahuensis, Echeveria ‘Sagita’. Agave potatorum ‘Cameron Blue’, Echeveria agavoides ‘Ebony’, Dyckia marnier-lapostollei, Portulaca molokinensis, Aloe pictifolia

After I’d paid for my purchases and loaded them into the car, I grabbed my camera and strolled through the garden, like I always do. Check back on Wednesday to see the goodies I found, some of them never featured here before. The RBG garden staff never rests, so every time I visit I come across things that weren’t there before. Or at least it seems that way.

10 comments:

  1. That must have been fun! Perhaps the heat kept the crowds down a bit?

    Nice purchases, too. The Gonobolus is intriguing.

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    1. It did seem less crowded. But the nursery is well-stocked year round now so you don't have to wait for a plant sale to find a great selection.

      In hindsight I wish I'd gotten a Gonobolus for myself...

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  2. You got a lot for your $150 in raffle money! I love that Aloe pictifolia. The RBG sale is much more robust than our local botanic garden's recent fall sale. We were told that it's board is considering phasing out its fall and spring sales. They didn't even advertise this one and, as a result, there were few shoppers. I don't understand the thought process as sales (with proper advertisement) always bring traffic to botanic gardens.

    Re the Portulaca, I picked up one about a year ago. It's developed a long stalk with small bits of green on top. I'm going to try starting it over from cuttings.

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    1. I agree with you: Plant sales generate a lot of traffic (and revenue) for botanic gardens. And since fall is prime planting season in California, now's the best time for a plant sale.

      I have zero expectations for my Portulaca molokinensis. I'd love it if it thrived, of course, but I won't be crushed if it doesn't make it. I look at it as an experiment.

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  3. I was eager to read your report on this -- fabulous! And a great haul as well. I can't wait to visit the RBG in the next year or so, and if I time it right there will be a plant sale [rubs hands in anticipation]. I'm interested that they have a nice selection of cactus -- the big opuntias, for example. Sounds like a wonderful sale -- I'm jealous ;~)

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    1. The RBG announces its plant sales well ahead of time. Keeping my fingers crossed that you'll make it in the spring or fall of 2016.

      Lots of large cacti this time. Some of the opuntias are pads taken from the RBG.

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  4. Great stuff, but the most amazing thing to me is that large agaves can be bare-rooted like that.

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    1. Yeah, they can go quite a while like that. Since the weather is still so warm, they'll have no problem re-rooting before winter. Even at $60, these agave were quite a bargain, considering how large they were.

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  5. Wow! Only $60.00 for a large agave like those is a great price. Can't believe how much you got for $150.00. Looks like a great sale for sure and am glad you had such a good time! The Agave celsii albicans 'UCB' that I got there during the fling is growing nicely & reminds me of RBG and meeting you for the first time.

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    1. Peter, I'm glad you still have that Agave celsii. The ones in the ground at the RBG are growing like weeds!

      I still remember meeting you for the first time in the RBG office trailer. Man, it was HOT in there!

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