Ruth Bancroft Garden 2014 fall plant sale recap

The plant sales at the Ruth Bancroft Garden are personal highlights for me. I go every spring and fall, and I always walk about with interesting plants as well as lots of new photos.

Here’s my recap of the 2014 fall sale, held last Saturday.

After the somewhat chaotic 2014 spring sale, the organizers completely revamped the layout. All the tables were set up right outside the nursery instead of interspersed throughout the garden. This had several advantages: People weren’t bumping into each other as much as they did during previous sales where they had to navigate often narrow garden paths; there was room for more plants, especially larger specimens; the volunteers didn’t have to haul plants quite as far when setting up (according to a volunteer I chatted with); and the garden itself was virtually deserted, which made for a very tranquil experience. In addition, there was an express checkout line for people buying 8 plants or less, which sped up what often is the most frustrating part of a plant sale.

I loved this new setup, and I hope RBG will keep it for future sales. A big thank you to everybody involved in this sale. I think it was a rousing success.


As I always do, I brought my camera along to show you what the sale was like. Let’s check out the goodies!



I love the shade sails over the sales area in front of the nursery


So many cool agaves!


Agave macroacantha


Agave gigantensis, the first time I’ve seen it at RBG. Check out this mature specimen at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.


Agave marmorata, another fairly uncommon species I’ve never seen for sale in Northern California


Agave montana ‘Elodie’


Agave montana ‘Elodie’. I couldn’t find anything about it online. It must be a new named cultivar, probably from tissue culture.


This sale featured an expanded selection of larger agaves. The five-gallon plants provide immediate impact.


Agave ocahui × filifera. I regret not grabbing this beautiful hybrid. I was going to but then ended up talking to somebody and forgot.


Agave titatonta (Rancho Tambor clone)


Agave salmiana ssp. crassispina


Check that Agave shawii in the middle—there’s a pup growing out of one of the drain holes!


BACK: Agave salmiana ssp. crassispina
FRONT: Agave zebra


Agave zebra, a 2 gallon plant for $25. I already have two small ones, otherwise this one would have come home with me. Agave zebra is one of the most xeric species. It loves to bake in the heat all day long without needing much water.


Agave bovicornuta, a truly beautiful specimen for $25


Expensive but one of the best deals at the sale: specimen-sized Agave ovatifolia ‘Vanzie’ for $60. I’d say this is easily a $100 retail value.


Aloes galore at the table manned by Brian Kemble, RBG curator and a world-renowned exert on aloes. I always look forward talking to him. The current issue of the Cactus and Succulent Journal has a very interesting article by Brian on hybridizing Aloe humilis. Some of his Aloe humilis crosses with larger aloes, such as Aloe marlothii and Aloe ferox, are going into tissue culture and will be available in 2-3 years.


Aloe sinkatana × deltoideodonta


More aloes


Aloe elegans, this one came home with me


Aloe distans, underrated and underappreciated and yet so lovely


Aloe peglerae in a 5 gallon can. Easily one of the most beautiful plants I saw at the sale.


Yucca rostrata in 1-gallon size


Hesperoyucca whipplei aka Our Lord’s Candle. I’ve wanted one ever since I saw stunning specimens at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and in the Southern California desert, and here was my chance. This California native has a reputation for being difficult to grow, mostly because it needs to be kept as dry as possible, but I think I will manage.


This sign made me smile


Another great deal: specimen-size golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) for $50. Available now, so call RBG if you want one. I can’t imagine they will last long.


I assume these were the $50 golden barrels


Another area of interest for me were South African and Australian shrubs in the Proteaceae family. This is a row of Leucadendron galpinii.


Phylica pubescens, a very tempting shrub from South Africa. If only I had enough room for all these cool shrubs!


Barrel cone flower (Isopogon triblobus)…


…a banksia relative with similar flowers


Acorn banksia (Banksia prionotes)


Acorn banksia (Banksia prionotes)


Groundcover banksia (Banksia blechnifolia)…


…super cool and hardy to find. One will soon grow in our front yard.


Banksia speciosa, one of my favorite banksias, but much too large for our garden. (Check out the fantastic specimen at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum.)


Feather-leaved banksia (Banksia brownii)


Showy dryandra (Banksia formosa)


Bull banksia (Banksia grandis), another large variety


Banksia grandis


Sandpaper wattle (Acacia denticulosa)…


…weird and exactly my cup of tea. Look for it soon in our front yard.


Nursery manager Troy McGregor took me into the greenhouse to show me some of the goodies from down under that will be available in future plant sales. Among other things, look for cool acacias grown from seed!


I love seeing plants at this stage—so much promise!


Bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii), the Australian version of the monkey-puzzle tree (Aracaucaria araucana)


'Desert Museum' palo verde shortage in Northern California! The RBG sold out of their stock on Saturday, and I heard that Village Nurseries is out as well. It must be because more and more people are beginning to realize what a perfect tree this is for drought-ridden California!


Bags of pure pumice and special soil mix






Seeds of Swainsona formosa for sale at the checkout


If you’re wondering what Swainsona formosa is, it’s an Australian native that can withstand high temperatures and drought. Here is more information about it. The flowers are very striking—bizarre, you might say. To me they look like little alien faces staring at me. If they’d had plants for sale, I would have bought one. But I’m not very good with seeds, so I passed.


My brand new wagon came in very handy. Here it is, filled with the goodies I bought.


Here’s a list of my plant purchases (for you as much as for myself, because I’ll be sure to refer to this post down the list):

  • Agave colorata (with pronounced cross-banding)
  • Agave parrasana 'Meat Claw'
  • Agave 'Blue Emperor' (another hybrid between Agave victoria-reginae and Agave macroacantha)
  • Echeveria cante 'White Shadow'
  • Aloe elegans
  • Aloe glauca (with pronounced pink teeth)
  • Aloe betsileensis (I’d never heard of this species before, but it looks like it could be stunning)
  • Hesperoyucca whipplei (pronounced blue cast to the leaves)
  • Acacia denticulosa
  • Banksia blechnifolia

In my next post I’ll take you on a walk of the garden. As always, lots of wonderful things to see!


  1. I'll probably have palpitations if ever I get to visit RBG, let alone it's plant sales which has so many goodies! Great haul, some of which has reminded me to put them in my wishlist.

    1. Now's the time to plan a trip to California to coincide with their spring plant sale :-).

      I asked about Aloe 'Hercules'. They were completely out, but tissue-cultured plants should become available in the spring. This means smaller sizes, too, not just 5 or 15 gallons as before.

  2. Gerhard, you're KILLING me with these posts. Oh, that Agave ovatifolia would have come home with me. Husband, are you listening? Christmas is only a sneeze away....I think they have them at Cistus nursery :)

    1. LOL, these posts aren't good for me either because I almost always second-guess what I bought, wishing I'd gotten more or different plants, etc.

      Yes, Cistus has Agave ovatifolia. In fact, they have a very nice blue clone called 'Frosty Blue'. I have one, and it's a stunner.

    2. Oooh, thanks for the tip. I will seek it out! Don't second guess...your haul is one to be proud of, but I know what you mean about getting distracted and forgetting to buy something.

  3. What a fantastic sale, and with plants from Oz and So Africa too. That Cow Horn agave would have rode shotgun with me on the return trip.

    1. In hindsight (there's that word again), it should have come home with me. $25 was a good price for such a beautiful specimen.

  4. Look at all those incredible plants you got! I sure missed a great sale!

    1. You would have loved it. But the nursery has great plants for sale ALL THE TIME so the next time you're in Walnut Creek, or driving through on 680, just stop by!

  5. You lucky man! How wonderful it would be to attend this sale! You got some beautiful plants and I hope they bring you pleasure for years to come!

    1. That's how I always feel when I read your posts about plant sales, LOL.

  6. I've grown Hesperoyucca whipplei right in my regular flower garden, where it lived for several years before I got sick of being poked by it all the time. So it should do perfectly well for you, Gerard, since I'm sure your site will be better drained than mine was. They're not fast growers though.

    1. Good to know it does well in Davis. I put mine in a shallow bowl with soil mix that's 50% pumice. I just need to make sure to water it regularly because it dries out so quickly.

      I know what you mean about it being pokey. Definitely not one to get up close and personal with.

  7. I can't even imagine how crazy I'd be at this sale. I'd be so overwhelmed I wouldn't know where to start and probably loose out on everything cool. Either that or I'd just start grabbing everything and accumulate a haul so big I wouldn't be able to fit it in my car. Your choices are fabulous. Well, except for that bovicornuda, what were you thinking? (haha, sorry...couldn't resist)

    1. I drive through Walnut Creek fairly regular on my way to client meetings so I will simply stop the next time and pick up that bovicornuta. Or something else if it's gone :-).

  8. Terrific post! Wish I'd have made it, though without owning a house, I'd be wise to slooooow down my agave collecting. For those interested in picking up a bovicornuda, I saw a few last week at Half Moon Bay Nursery--same price, a little smaller, though with several pups...

    1. Are you in a rental house, or in an apartment? Would love to find out more about your agave collection. I think plant lovers/collectors who don't own their own home should receive more attention. EVERYBODY can have a plant collection, no matter where you live.

  9. Really good sale, eh? No wonder you go. What fun. I would have grabbed the peglarae, the bovicornuta, the Aloe betsileensis,the Phylica, the Grevillea, the Banksia blechnifolia...

    1. I'm pining for the Phylica now. Will need to go back soon and get one. I have the right place for it.

  10. So, so jealous of all of the beautiful agaves you have access to. Isopogon trilobus is one of the plants I missed out on at a plant sale here recently, it's so funny to see it (and others) on the other side of the world. Acacia denticulosa is one of my favourites. Great haul!

    1. Thanks! Isopogon trilobus looked very interesting. I will do more research to see how it would do in my garden. Glad to hear you like Acacia denticulosa. I had never heard of it before.

  11. I was about to type "I wouldn't have grabbed any of these" but then I realized that I probably would have grabbed a couple of Yucca rostratas.

    "...but then ended up talking to somebody and forgot" -- lesson: ignore people until the wagon is full. :)

    1. I'm sure you would have grabbed a whole bunch of things if you lived in our climate :-)

      I would have gotten more Yucca rostratas but I already have four.


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