Ruth Bancroft Garden in the spring

Last Saturday I went to the spring plant sale at Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA. Click here to read my write up about the sale.

After I had picked out what I wanted, I wandered through this 3-acre succulent wonderland to check up on my favorite plants and to take photos for this blog. I visit three or four times a year and every time I find something new and different—not surprising considering there are thousands upon thousands of plants. One of these days I’ll try to find out how many species of succulents there are in the Garden’s collections.

Ruth Bancroft (104 years old now!)
still lives in the house next to the garden

The first thing you see as you enter the Garden through the north entrance is a fantastic array of agaves, yuccas and dasylirions interspersed with shorter columnar cacti.


The most exciting discovery for me this past Saturday was this blooming Euphorbia caput-medusae. The flowers on most succulent euphorbias are small and plain, but I found these to be simply beautiful.

120414_RBG_Euphorbia-caput-medusae_ Agave-parryi
Agave parryi and Euphorbia caput-medusae
Euphorbia caput-medusae
Euphorbia caput-medusae

Inside the Garden I found a similar euphorbia, Euphorbia inermis var. huttonae, although it wasn’t in bloom yet (apparently it has the regular yellow euphorbia flowers). This specimen formed an almost perfect Medusa’s head.

120414_RBG_Euphorbia-inermis-var-huttonae- -Euphorbia-caput-medusae_04
Euphorbia inermis var. huttonae
Euphorbia inermis var. huttonae
Euphorbia inermis var. huttonae

Right next to it in the euphorbia section is this aggressively clumping species. I love the mats it forms, but I wasn’t able to identify it.

Unidentified cactoid euphorbia
Unidentified cactoid euphorbia
Unidentified cactoid euphorbia
Euphorbia resinifera with an agave pup appearing in the middle of the colony

Needless to say these euphorbias weren’t the only plants of interest. In fact, they were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

120414_RBG_Dyckia Senecio-mandraliscae
Unidentified dyckia species surrounded by trailing Senecio mandraliscae
120414_RBG_Tulipa-saxatilis- -Brunsvigia-josephinae_05
Tulipa saxatilis, a wild tulip native to the Greek island of Crete, and Brunsvigia josephinae, a South African bulb which can become massive over time
Unidentified Gasteria species. I’m not used to gasterias forming such an open rosette (and having such long, pointed leaves).
Bulbinella nutans, a South African succulent whose flowers are a dead ringer for my old friend Bulbine frutescens, aka Cape balsam
Coral aloe (Aloe striata) hybrids. Coral aloe is quite promiscuous and readily makes babies with other aloe species.
Bed of different aloe species
120414_RBG_Aloe-capitata-var-quartziticola- -Echeveria-glauca-2
As nice as the Echeveria glauca in the lower right are, the real stars here are the
Aloe capitata var. quartziticola
Aloe capitata var. quartziticola
My one true aloe love!
120414_RBG_Senicio-kleinia- -Echeveria-glauca
More Echeveria glauca from Mexico and Senecio kleinia from the Canary Islands
Aeonium smithii, one of the less frequently seen aeonium species, probably because it’s not as showy as some of its larger cousins. It’s not always size that matters!
Another rare aeonium, Aeonium leucoblepharum ‘De Cabrillo’. They had some in the spring plant sale, and in hindsight I should have snapped one up.
I love how this small aeonium species has filled the cracks between the rocks
120414_RBG_aeoniums porkandbeans
Aeoniums (green) and pork-and-beans sedum (Sedum rubrotinctum)
120414_RBG_Agave-americana-mediopicta-alba- -aeonium
Peek-a-book aeonium between the leaves of an Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Aurea’
120414_RBG_Aeonium hand
Unidentified variegated aeonium with a giant rosette (that’s my hand for comparison)
120414_RBG_Agave-attenuata-Boutin-Blue- -Aloe-plicatilis_01
Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’ (formerly known as ‘Nova’)
and fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis) on the right
Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’: massive, solitary, and blue. When I saw it, I wanted to weep because mine (which I’ve coddled for four years) is a small runt. Mine is in a container, theirs has free root run. Maybe that’s the difference?
For comparison, a regular green Agave attenuata. Still, this colony is an impressive sight, especially for an inland location where Agave attenuata is notoriously difficult to keep alive, let alone make thrive.
Massive inflorescence on Yucca treculeana
Backlit Opuntia rufida
120414_RBG_opuntia iceplant
Opuntia robusta with orange-flowered ice plants
Opuntia violacea with intensely purple new pads
This corner of the Ruth Bancroft Garden is cactus paradise
Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis
Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis
Ferocactus echidne var. victoriensis (a different specimen with offsets)
Ferocactus pottsii
Ferocactus pillosus
Ferocactus pillosus
Ferocactus latispinus
120414_RBG_echinopsis crassula
Unidentified cactus (Echinopsis?) surrounded by
Crassula pubescens var. radicans
120414_RBG_sedum-adolphii- -echinops
Another creeping cactus with butterscotch yellow Sedum adolphii
120414_RBG_Bulbine-frutescenes- -cactus
Similar cactus with orange-flowered Cape balsam (Bulbine frutescens ‘Hallmark’)
120414_RBG_Agave-americana-mediopicta-alba- -cacti
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ surrounded by an assortment of cactus
120414_RBG_Abromeitiella-lorentziana- -Oreocereus-celsianus_02
Oreocereus celsianus growing in the middle of a mat of Deuterocohnia lorentziana, a terrestrial bromeliad from Argentina
120414_RBG_Abromeitiella-lorentziana- -Cleistocactus-straussii_01
Cleistocactus straussii behind a mound of Deuterocohnia lorentziana
120414_RBG_Cleistocactus-hyalacanthus- -Sempervivum-arachnoideum_02
Cleistocactus hyalacanthus
Sempervivum arachnoideum
120414_RBG_Cleistocactus-hyalacanthus- -Sempervivum-arachnoideum_04
 120414_RBG_Oreocereus-celsianus- -Mammillaria-geminispina_01
LEFT: Cleistocactus hyalacanthus and Sempervivum arachnoideum
RIGHT: Oreocereus celsianus and Mammillaria geminispina
Oreocereus doelzianus

If you’re ever in the Bay Area, Ruth Bancroft Garden is a must-see destination. It’s less than an hour from San Francisco.

They also offer a variety of interesting events, including an Agaves and Aloes Theme Tour this coming Saturday, April 21, at 10am. Check out their online calendar.


  1. Fabulous tour Gerhard! So nice to see it all again so soon.

    1. Thank you, Loree! As you can see, the weather was quite different from when you were there. Spring sunshine may be welcome, but it's not so good for photography :-(.


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