Sunday, September 10, 2017

Big plant sale at Ruth Bancroft Garden before the nursery moves

The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA is about to undergo what might be the biggest change since Ruth Brancroft first started it in 1972. In just a few days, construction will begin on the $4.6 million Visitor and Education Center. This will give the Garden much-needed indoor space for events, classes, and offices. And there will finally be indoor restrooms--no more porta potties!

To make room for the construction, the existing nursery will move to the north side of the garden. It will occupy one half of Ruth's Folly and one of the greenhouses next to it. Before the move, the nursery is holding its biggest sale ever. On Friday, plants were 20% off, yesterday 35%, and today (Sunday, September 10) 50%. If you're in Northern California, you still have time to head on over; the sale runs until 4pm today. Click here for more details.

Agave montana at the entrance to the garden. It's pushing a massive flower stalk and will die after flowering.
I went to the sale yesterday (Saturday) and the nursery was well stocked with everything from succulents, shrubs (including many banksias) and perennials. I arrived at 10am when the garden opened and was one of only a handful of customers. But within 30 minutes, the parking lot was full and plants were flying off the shelves. I saw people loading up flat-bed carts with 5-gallon plants. This really was a fantastic opportunity to buy larger specimens at the price you'd normally pay for much smaller plants.


The beautiful metal entrance gate has been replaced with a construction fence

I hope the new nursery will be a nice as the current one

Many large specimens for sale

Eye-catching display in the covered part of the nursery where the smaller plants are (mostly 2-4 inch pots)

At look at the nursery from inside the garden

Ruth's Folly at the north side of the garden. The nursery will occupy the left half.

To make room for the Visitor and Education Center, the iconic Agave franzosinii bed at the garden entrance had to be removed. This is what's there now.


Same view from the parking lot. Fortunately, many if not all, of the Agave franzosinii have been saved and will be replanted elsewhere.


And here are my purchases. A little bit of everything.

Agave parryi var. truncata 'Lime Streak'. I was very excited to finally find one for sale. And with the 35% discount, this 5-gallon specimen was only $22.50.

Agave parrasana 'Globe'. Agave parrasana is one my favorite agave species. I already have three or four, but 'Globe' is more compact with a denser growth habit and great bud imprints. And unlike the species, it's supposed to be solitary.

I haven't been buying a lot of cactus in recent years, but I got three yesterday. This is Acanthocalycium spiniflorum, a relatively small plant (stems top out at a height of 6"), which makes it ideal for planting along the edge of one of the front yard succulent mounds. 

Echinopsis randallii. Brian Kemble, the curator of the RBG, highly recommended it. I love the wine-red flowers here!

Ferocactus rectispinus, now considered Ferocactus emoryi ssp. rectispinus. It has the longest spines of any Ferocactus species. Mature plants can reach 6 ft., not that I expect this one to ever get that big. Well adapted to intense summer heat, it'll go in the hottest spot of the large succulent mound in front of the house.

Lomandra 'Lime Tuff'. I've heard a lot of good things about lomandras lately, and I will try these in the bed inside the front yard fence. Lomandras, or matt rushes, are native to Australia and said to thrive in both sun and shade, with ample or little water. We shall see.

Cycas revoluta × debaoensis, a hybrid I'm particularly excited about. Cycas revoluta, the ubiquitous sago palm, is tough and grews very well in our climate. Cycas debaoensis has multipinnate leaves, i.e. the leaflets branch several times, resulting in a unique look. Check out the photos in this blog post. This hybrid combines the toughness of the sago palm with the graceful look of Cycas debaoensis. And at $13, I couldn't resist. (Kathy Stoner of GardenBook bought one as well.)

Portulaca molokiniensis, a small shrubby succulent from the Hawaiian islet of Molokini off the coast of Maui. We went snorkeling in Molokini during our trip to Maui in 2013 but we weren't able to go on land because the islet is a protected seabird sanctuary. There isn't much that grows there, but this cute little succulent does. Not only that, it grows only on Molokini and two other volcanic islands nearby. It wasn't officially described as a species until 1987. I will do my best to keep it alive here in Davis. It definitely won't tolerate frost and will have to spend winters indoors.

 Coming up: some new photos from the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

20 comments:

  1. I love plants sales and this looked like it was a great one. Thanks for sharing it with us!

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    1. It really was. I always look forward to their plant sales.

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  2. *Sigh* Where is California's high-speed monorail train when I need it? You picked up a great collection of plants. Lomandra has performed well for me - I grow 'Breeze', 'Lime Tuff' and the newest release, 'Platinum Beauty'.

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    1. I'm excited about this lomandra. I've been looking for 'Platinum Beauty' but haven't found it locally yet.

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  3. I would have loved to be able to shop this sale and drive home with my purchases, what fun that would be. Love that Cycad!

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    1. Next time!! I bet there'll be another big sale when the nursery moves back to its old (new) location.

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  4. Not having facilities for meetings and talks resonates -- a few years back I included a talk by Kemble on a northward itinerary but didn't study the details. I arrived just as the RBG was closing, with staff informing me that the talk was being held at a nearby library. It'll be a wonderful addition -- we'll have to all meet there at the unveiling!

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    1. YES!! All indoor talks have to be held elsewhere. It'll be so nice to have a real facility.

      Let's get together when the new Visitor Center opens!

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  5. The Agave montana in the first photo still refuses to flower. It's been like that since last year! All summer and nothing? They put some fertilizer on it to try and get it to do something! Lol.
    I got one of those Cycas too, the forked leaves are unique.

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    1. Wow. I've heard of agaves that start to flower in the fall, then stop for the winter and resume in the spring/summer. This one can't seem to make up its mind. Maybe it went, "oops, I didn't really mean to flower, can I simply stop here?"

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  6. Did you get that Cycad back in the 'secret area' Gerhard ? It looks nicer than the ones that were out on the tables. I've already potted mine up so that makes 3 Cycads in my collection. I was that close to picking up one of those Portulacas too. I really have reverse buyers remorse-I should have bought more !

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    1. Yes, I got the cycad in the off-limits area (Ryan took me back there), but it's the same hybrid you got. I'm excited about it!

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  7. This looks like something from my dreams! I would be broke, so I'll just leave it in the dreams ��

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  8. I had to really resist going to this sale as I am just starting to prep my front yard for plants and have enough pots that still need to go in the ground! It's been too hot for hard work in the outdoors until recently!
    Glad to finally be commenting on your blog Gerhard, long time lurker!

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    1. Hi, long time lurker!

      By the spring, you'll have most of your plants in the ground. Then you can go to the RBG spring sale!

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  9. That Portulaca molokiniensis is darling! Another interesting Hawaiian endemic that is occasionally available in some circles is Brighamia insignis. It has an especially interesting history to read about:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brighamia_insignis

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    1. If you want to read more about the efforts to save Brighamia insignis in habitat, Waking up in Eden is a great book.

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  10. Looks like it was a great sale--the Cycas hybrid looks intriguing. I hope their nursery continues to be as good as it was when we visited. They had great stuff at good prices even without being on sale.

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    1. I also hope the nursery will survive in its current form.

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