Sunday, September 11, 2016

Meeting Ruth Bancroft just days before her 108th birthday

A couple of weeks ago I attended a media preview party held by Timber Press, the Portland-based publishing company, at the Ruth Bancroft Garden to celebrate the upcoming release of The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Written by Johanna Silver, the garden editor of Sunset Magazine, and featuring photographs by Marion Brenner, this is the first book dedicated to the RBG.

While the book won’t be available in stores until early October, everybody who attended the event received an advance copy signed not only by Johanna Silver and Marion Brenner but also by Ruth Bancroft herself! I will have a separate book review soon.

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Ruth Bancroft and curator Brian Kemble who has been working alongside Ruth since 1980. With his encyclopedic knowledge, Brian has been instrumental in making the RBG what it is now. (Photo © 2016 by Stephen Lysaght. Used with permission.)

During the event, Ruth was sitting in the front row with her two daughters and friends. After visiting her garden for all these years, I was finally able to thank her in person for what she created and how much it meant to me. To celebrate Ruth’s 108th (!) birthday a few days later. RBG’s executive director Gretchen Bartzen had a small birthday cake for Ruth—chocolate, her favorite flavor, with yellow frosting, her favorite color. It was very touching to witness in person how much Ruth meant to so many people.

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The Bold Dry Garden will be released on October 5, 2016

After short presentations by RBG Executive Director Gretchen Bartzen, Timber Press publisher Andrew Beckman and author Johanna Silver, RBG curator Brian Kemble led a tour of the garden. The photos below were taken both during the tour and after when Loree “Danger Garden” Bohl, who had flown down from Portland for this event, and I did some more exploring. Check out this post on Loree’s blog to see what caught her eye.

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Agave ‘Mr Ripple’

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Agave xylonacantha poking out front under ‘Mr Ripple’

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Lilly pond

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Aloidendron ‘Hercules’

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Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris)

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Agave montana and Leucophyta brownii

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Agave ovatifolia and Leucophyta brownii

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Seeing an Aloe polyphylla this pristine was a big surprise. They’re not fond of our summer heat (Walnut Creek is almost as hot as Davis). I wonder what the secret is for keeping it happy?

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Serpentine columbine (Aquilegia eximia); it occurs naturally in the upper Mojave Desert and the White Mountains and tolerates alkaline soils better than other columbine species

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Flowering Eucalyptus polyanthemos and the RBG’s special manzanita hybrid (Arctostaphylos ‘Ruth Bancroft’)

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Agave colorata × bovicornuta and dwarf Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea nana)

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Agaveland

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Agave durangensis

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Agave ocahui ‘Wavy Gravy’

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Palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)

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Agave shawii

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Aloe tomentosa with its unique hairy white flowers

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Aloe tomentosa

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Aloe tomentosa

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Agave ovatifolia

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Brian Kemble lecturing in front of the RBG’s iconic clump of Agave franzosinii

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Yuccaland

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Agave filifera

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According to Brian Kemble, this agave was received as Agave parryi though it does look different than other known forms of that species. The cactus just behind it is Neobuxbaumia polylopha.

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Emerging flower stalk on Agave isthmensis

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Agave americana ‘Variegata’ and friends

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Agave gypsophila

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Agave americana (planted as Agave rasconensis) although it looks more like Agave franzosinii

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Remains of this year’s Puya berteroniana inflorescences

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Puya berteroniana (back), Euphorbia tetragona (front)

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Euphorbia tetragona

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Palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)

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Dyckia flowers

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Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) in front of NOID Agave

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Leucadendron ‘Ebony’

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Leucadendron ‘Ebony’

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Palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana), still a plant crush of mine

I didn’t take any photos of the nursery (see these posts if you’re interested: 1 | 2 | 3) but Loree and I spent a a goodly amount of time poking around. While I didn’t buy any succulents, I grabbed another Leucadendron ‘Jester’ and a Verbena lilacina ‘De la Mina’.

A big thank you to Brian Kemble for helping with plant IDs. I’m so happy I can always count on him.

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Instead of waiting until The Bold Dry Garden becomes available on Amazon, etc., you can get a copy now directly from the Ruth Bancroft Garden (more details here). All pre-purchased books will be be signed by Ruth Bancroft herself. As that MasterCard commercial says, that’s priceless!

20 comments:

  1. You have a photo of Agave shawii and in the back is a red bush. What is it? Another picture I like because of the colors and textures is agave gypsophila. I don't think I've seen such nice pictures of the garden before especially at this season. 108 years! Isn't that amazing?

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    1. Jane, it's a buckwheat (Eriogonum). Unfortunately, I don't know which species.

      Yes, there are so many colors and textures wherever you look. The fearless garden crew keeps adding more and more special plants.

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  2. How wonderful for Ruth Bancroft to see her work recognized within her own lifetime. I hope my Agave 'Mr Ripple' gets as big as the one in your photograph someday but I pray that my Leucophyta brownii does NOT. I appreciate seeing the mature Agave montana among your photos too - I have a very tiny specimen (purchased bare root by mail order), currently tucked snugly into a small pot.

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    1. My Leucophyta brownii has grown a lot this summer. I thought it would stay a small sphere. Not! I may have to move it.

      'Mr Ripple' will be huge before you know it! But it has such a special presence.

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  3. How lucky we are that this garden is being preserved. One can only imagine the development pressure over the years. Such a treasure.

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    1. So true!! It warms my heart every time I see people opting to preserve a special place that may not have as much monetary value over giving into the lure of easy development money.

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  4. Oh, Kris, Mr. Ripple will indeed reach that size, and beyond! Unlike me, site him well! I have one of his pups to remember him by. Gerhard, what a pleasure it is for us that you and Loree made this event, and in the midst of you flying daughters off to college, no less. Happy 108th to Ruth!

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    1. That week two weeks ago was crazy! The day after the RBG event we flew up to Victoria. But I love whirlwind activities so I embraced the craziness wholeheartedly.

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  5. We (of course) took a lot of the same photos that day BUT your photo of Ruth and Brian is my favorite, you seem to have caught them in a private moment of shared conversation between friends, that is truly priceless.

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    1. I wish this were my photo because it captures the connection Ruth and Brian have. The photo was taken by Garden Host Stephen Lysaght. I saw the photo on his FB page and asked him if I could use it for my post.

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  6. You guys are so lucky to have met her (and with Loree too!). Such a legendary and inspiring lady who have made a spectacular garden!

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    1. I'm very glad I live reasonably close to the RBG - just under an hour's drive. With the RBG for inspiration, I don't know where my own garden would be today.

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  7. I love seeing this garden -- well, photos of it at least. Yours really are great, and what a special event!

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    1. I hope you'll get to visit the RBG yourself someday soon!

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  8. I am so happy you got to celebrate with Ruth Bancroft! What a rare privilege. You and Loree have captured the garden well. I look forward to the book even though a dry garden is not possible in my mud pit! I do still miss the dry arid climate of California.

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    1. Laurin, even if you can't have a dry garden in Houston, you'll probably still find Ruth's story inspirational. The lessons are applicable to any garden: be fearless; be patient.

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  9. Superb photos as per your usual Gerhard, thanks for sharing them

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    1. Thank you, David. The RBG is a neverending source of inspiration.

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  10. Great post. What a fun event that must have been.

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    1. Fun, and emotional, and empowering. It was yet another reminder how wonderful plant people are.

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