Ruth Bancroft Garden 2014 spring plant sale recap
Yesterday was the spring plant sale at the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek, CA. This is one event I wouldn’t miss for the world. Usually I go by myself, but this time I brought along fellow succulent fanatic Candy Suter, Ms Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents herself.
Due to an accident on the freeway we got to RBG about 30 minutes after the sale had started, and we had to park on a side street because the RBG lot was full. This had never happened to me before. In general, there seemed to be many more people there for the 2 hour members’ only time slot (9 to 11 am). For the first couple of hours the checkout line was insanely long (photo at the bottom of this post). I’m thrilled the sale was such a success; it shows how popular the Ruth Bancroft Garden is and that more and more owners are switching to drought-tolerant plants. The sale featured not just succulents, but also shrubs and even trees, with an emphasis on plants from California, South Africa and Australia. During his brief stint at RBG, now former garden director Troy McGregor really expanded the repertoire of plants from his native Australia—an initiative I really appreciated.
I didn’t take as many photos while plant shopping as I have in the past because the garden was very crowded and handling both a wagon and a camera was challenging at times. But here are some photos of the sale action.
Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’
I couldn’t believe it: two perfect 15-gallon specimens of ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde (Parkinsonia ‘Desert Museum’), the hybrid I chose for our front yard. I had to hunt high and low to find some, and now RBG carries them! These were beautiful specimens, in full bloom.
Dish gardens created by Ruth Bancroft herself. Hard to believe she’s 105 (!) years old. In two weeks, she’s going to teach a class on how to make seashell shadowboxes!
One of the silent auction plants: Opuntia sulphurea
After Candy and I had made our plant choices, we stowed them in the holding area and walked around to enjoy the springtime glory. The weather was perfect—mid 70s, warm sunshine.
Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’
Candy photographing a flowering cactus
Agave parryi var. neomexicana
Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ and Drosanthemum bicolor
Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’ and Aloe plicatilis
Encephalartos horridus and Aloe striata. I noticed several new encephalartos in the garden. I’m glad RBG is adding more cycads; they’re fantastic companion plants to succulents.
Pond in the middle of the garden
Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)
Agave pup in a clump of Mammillaria geminispina
Dasylirion wheeleri near the port-a-potties
Agave parryi var. truncata
Eventually it was time to retrieve our plants and queue up in the checkout line.
My heart beat faster when I saw this wagon full of wonderful agaves! I wish they were mine!
The wait was much shorter now compared to earlier (see next photo).
As much I loved the sale itself, I was very unhappy with the way the checkout was set up. Look at the next photo. After paying for your purchases at the tables with the blue awnings you had to back up against the line of people to make a turn towards the exit (lower right in the photo). This made no sense to me. Some people were unwilling to step aside so we could exit, which put me in a less than celebratory mood (and the people standing in line as well). Why not set up the checkout tables in such a way that after paying, customers can simply continue straight towards the exit without having to deal with the people standing in line behind them?
Candy stayed with our plants at the exit while I retrieved the car from a couple of blocks away. On my way to the car, I passed the plantings along Bancroft Road. Several Echinopsis cactus were in full bloom. What a spectacle! I’m surprised cars don’t slam on their brakes driving by! I’ll have more photos of these flowering cactus in my next post, but here is a teaser.
Echinopsis flowers and Agave montana
Candy’s haul from the sale was quite impressive, with a rare white-flowering Aloe ferox from the clearance table, an Aloe hercules, half a dozen variegated string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) and other succulents.
My haul was more modest: a Leucospermum cuneiforme ‘Goldie’, a variegated string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus), Aloe petricola, Aloe striata ssp. karasbergensis, and an Agave utahensis var. eborispina.