Spring at the Ruth Bancroft Garden
The last time I had visited the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, east of San Francisco, was back in early February. Nothing was in bloom at that time, and many succulents – especially cacti – were enclosed in rain shelters. How different everything was today!
|Beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) surrounded by a feathery cassia (Cassia artemisioides) in full bloom. This Arizona native produces pea-like flowers from late winter to May.|
|Same shrub, but a different yucca: Yucca schottii, native to southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua.|
|Coming from the southern hemisphere, this is a fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis) native to the Western Cape of South Africa. It’s one of my favorite aloes because it looks so unusual. Ours will flower for the first time this spring (post to follow).|
|Another plant I’d never seen before. This is a giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea), native to California and Baja California. The trunk can be up to 6 ft. tall; this one was about 4 ft. It would look stunning underplanted with California poppies!|
|Speaking of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), here is one in front of a century plant (Agave americana)|
|Prickly pear (Opuntia sp.) producing flowers. I don’t know what species this is, but it looks like the flowers will be yellow.|
|Stenocactus crispatus, native to Mexico. It blooms at a young age as long as it gets plenty of sun|
|Ferocactus echidne, commonly called Sonora barrel or Coville’s barrel. To me one of the most beautiful barrel cacti.|
|As much as I loved all the succulents, my favorite plant on today’s visit was this shrubby eucalyptus from Western Australia. Its common name is “bell-fruited mallee” (Eucalyptus preissiana). Unlike most eucalyptus that grow to an impressive size, this species is a shrub that generally doesn’t get taller than 7-8 ft. The leaves are a bluish gray with a pink margin and yellowish-pink veins. The flowers are pale yellow and absolutely stunning. My mission now is to fine one of these for our front yard.|
|Closeup of two flowers. The buds have reddish “hats” that pop off as the flower develops.|
|Closeup of two flowers.|
The Ruth Bancroft Garden is located in a residential neighborhood in Walnut Creek, albeit on a busy street, and the contrast between the xeric wonderland that hides behind the cinder block walls along Bancroft Street and the staid and—yes—boring landscaping of the adjacent properties is quite stark. How much water people could save in California if only they gave up a quarter or half of their lawn and replaced it with low-water landscaping!