Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sale recap

For Northern California succulent lovers, one of the biggest events in the spring is the April plant sale at Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek, CA. I’ve been to quite a few of them over the years and they’re always high-octane events but this sale seemed to draw even more people than usual. It’s a clear sign that a wider segment of the gardening public is taking an interest in succulents. Water is becoming ever more scarce and expensive in our part of the country and replacing at least some thirsty annuals and perennials with drought-tolerant succulents is a great way to conserve water.

I arrived a few minutes early and took the opportunity to photograph the plantings along the entrance road. As you can see, they are stunning in their own right.

North entrance. The road leads to the garden entrance on the right and to a parking area.
View in the other direction toward Bancroft Road, a busy four-lane street


Then 9am rolled around and it was off to the races. I had to balance my desire to check out all the plants for sale with my duty to take as many photos as possible so you can experience the sale vicariously. Enjoy!

Silent auction table
This Agave ‘Royal Spine’ in a 7-gallon container was in the silent auction with a retail value of $95. I bid on it but didn’t win.
Several plants of interest here:
LEFT: Echeveria ‘Dark Knight’, one of the darkest echeveria cultivars
MIDDLE: Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ (these were small but beautiful specimens, but I already have two)
2ND FROM RIGHT: Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’ (I’d been wanting one for years and picked the largest)
RIGHT: Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’ (already have one)
More agaves, including the ever impressive Agave franzosinii,
one of the largest agave species (to 8ft tall x 10ft wide)
Smaller agaves, including ever popular and beautiful ‘Blue Glow’ on the right
One of my favorite agaves, Agave bovicornuta. Check out the cinnamon-colored spines!
Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’
120414_RBG_sale_table_Aloe-pratensis Sedum-dendroideum
Aloe pratensis and Sedum dendroideum
Sedums and echeverias against the backdrop of what might be Agave franzosinii
Coreopsis gigantea, a Southern California native. They had at least a half a dozen 2-gallon plants when I got there, and within 30 minutes they’d all been snatched up. I grabbed one, too—hard to resist at $12 for such a rare plant (I paid more than that for a plant half that size at Cactus Jungle recently).
I can’t remember what the theme of this table was but I was fascinated by the alien-looking fuzzy things…
…which turned out to be Salvia argentea, a Mediterranean native
I like unexpected touches of beauty, like this bouquet sitting on a chair for no real reason
Aeniums, irises and Senecio mandraliscae (the blue plants on the ground)
Aeonium balsamiferum
Aeonium undulatum and Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’
One of several cactus tables
Agave cactus (Leuchtenbergia principis) for $10, a very good deal (but I already have one)
In previous sales, the tables were set up in a small section of the garden near the Folly, the entrance structure. This time, the tables were spread out through most of the garden, which created a sense of discovery as you walked along the meandering paths.
View towards the garden entrance (next to the twin palm trees)
Panorama of the shade structure in the center of the garden that protects plants like echeverias, aeoniums, Agave attentuata, etc. which prefer some shade in the hot summer. In the winter, this structure is enclosed to provide protection from frost and rain.
View of the shade structure from a different angle
Cactus garden, with mature specimens of ferocactus in the foreground
Small pond near the garden entrance
120414_RBG_bottle_tree sale_table
Large Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris)
Aeonium arrangement in a hypertufa container
Fancy echeverias and a variety of container gardens in the lath house at the garden entrance
I really like these small dish gardens and bought one as a gift
Container garden in a bonsai dish
Succulent picture frames in various sizes…
…and orientations
These weren’t cheap but there are quite a few plants packed in there
Main entrance at the Folly. People could leave their purchases here and bring their cars around for loading. At the left is the membership table, the tables on the right (barely visible) are the cashiers where you pay for your plant purchases.

So what did I buy? In addition to the three plants below, I also bought a couple of small dish gardens as gifts, a white-flowered catkin grevillea (Grevillea synapheae), and nice-sized Ferocactus latispinus already planted in a nice terracotta pot.

Coreopsis gigantea
Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’
Aloe capitata var. quartziticola
This rare aloe was not part of the sale but I asked one of the docents and he found one (the last one!) in the nursery. He said that it wasn’t an offset of their own plants but that it came from UC Botanical Garden. Loree, if mine ever has babies, you can have one.

If these photos piqued your interest, RBG will have another plant sale on Saturday, July 21, from 9am (members only) / 10am (public) to 3pm.

During my visit yesterday, I also took a lot of plant photos not related to the sale. Click here to view them.


  1. Soo many goodies! I would have probably dashed around first if I went on that fair, then take photos later on after I've finished shopping. Agave 'Royal Spine' is a stunner, and well done on getting a Monterrey Frost :)

    1. I didn't see any 'Royal Spine' for sale, just that one stunning specimen in the silent auction. But I'm happy I found a 'Monterrey Frost'. It's a beaut for sure.

  2. Wonderful sale and report, thanks Gerhard! And you have no idea how happy I am to read that you scored a Aloe capitata var. quartzicola as the kind Denise of A Growing Obsession managed to grab me one recently at a nursery down in L.A...funny within days of each other we both acquired a much desired plant.

    1. Loree, this is too much of a coincidence to be random. The plant gods are smiling on us for sure!

      My quartzicola is kind of small as you can see, and it isn't as glaucous as the ones at RBG, but I'm hoping that will come as it matures. Have you received yours yet?

      I'll pamper it until it's a little bigger, then I'll find a great spot for it in our big succulent bed.

    2. No haven't got mine yet, she just picked it over the weekend. No doubt in your climate yours will grow fast! Thank you for the eventual pup offer, you are very kind. BTW try Flora Grubb for the Royal Spine.

  3. P.S. Am I the only one who thinks these giant coreopsis are über cool?

  4. Um, I've loved them and killed them here in Davis. Don't know what i did wrong. Annie's Annuals has them.

    1. Robin, I went to Annie's on Saturday as well and saw trays of Coreopsis gigantea there, but they were quite small. Being native to the coastal ranges of Southern California and Baja, they probably don't like our heat too much. I'm going to keep mine protected from the hot afternoon sun. Knock on wood...

  5. Congratulations on your loot and with the coreopsis at a bargain price to boot.

    1. I love a good plant sale, especially when the proceeds go to a great organization!

  6. Looks like you had such a great day and came home with lots of great loot! Those plants are going to look awesome in your garden!

    1. Candy, you would have loved it! There's always the July 21 sale, and another one in October.


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