Meeting Ruth Bancroft just days before her 108th birthday
A couple of weeks ago I attended a media preview party held by Timber Press, the Portland-based publishing company, at the Ruth Bancroft Garden to celebrate the upcoming release of The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Written by Johanna Silver, the garden editor of Sunset Magazine, and featuring photographs by Marion Brenner, this is the first book dedicated to the RBG.
While the book won’t be available in stores until early October, everybody who attended the event received an advance copy signed not only by Johanna Silver and Marion Brenner but also by Ruth Bancroft herself! I will have a separate book review soon.
Ruth Bancroft and curator Brian Kemble who has been working alongside Ruth since 1980. With his encyclopedic knowledge, Brian has been instrumental in making the RBG what it is now. (Photo © 2016 by Stephen Lysaght. Used with permission.)
During the event, Ruth was sitting in the front row with her two daughters and friends. After visiting her garden for all these years, I was finally able to thank her in person for what she created and how much it meant to me. To celebrate Ruth’s 108th (!) birthday a few days later. RBG’s executive director Gretchen Bartzen had a small birthday cake for Ruth—chocolate, her favorite flavor, with yellow frosting, her favorite color. It was very touching to witness in person how much Ruth meant to so many people.
The Bold Dry Garden will be released on October 5, 2016
After short presentations by RBG Executive Director Gretchen Bartzen, Timber Press publisher Andrew Beckman and author Johanna Silver, RBG curator Brian Kemble led a tour of the garden. The photos below were taken both during the tour and after when Loree “Danger Garden” Bohl, who had flown down from Portland for this event, and I did some more exploring. Check out this post on Loree’s blog to see what caught her eye.
Agave ‘Mr Ripple’
Agave xylonacantha poking out front under ‘Mr Ripple’
Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris)
Agave montana and Leucophyta brownii
Agave ovatifolia and Leucophyta brownii
Seeing an Aloe polyphylla this pristine was a big surprise. They’re not fond of our summer heat (Walnut Creek is almost as hot as Davis). I wonder what the secret is for keeping it happy?
Serpentine columbine (Aquilegia eximia); it occurs naturally in the upper Mojave Desert and the White Mountains and tolerates alkaline soils better than other columbine species
Flowering Eucalyptus polyanthemos and the RBG’s special manzanita hybrid (Arctostaphylos ‘Ruth Bancroft’)
Agave colorata × bovicornuta and dwarf Australian grass tree (Xanthorrhoea nana)
Agave ocahui ‘Wavy Gravy’
Palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
Aloe tomentosa with its unique hairy white flowers
Brian Kemble lecturing in front of the RBG’s iconic clump of Agave franzosinii
According to Brian Kemble, this agave was received as Agave parryi though it does look different than other known forms of that species. The cactus just behind it is Neobuxbaumia polylopha.
Emerging flower stalk on Agave isthmensis
Agave americana ‘Variegata’ and friends
Agave americana (planted as Agave rasconensis) although it looks more like Agave franzosinii
Remains of this year’s Puya berteroniana inflorescences
Puya berteroniana (back), Euphorbia tetragona (front)
Palo verde (Parkinsonia aculeata)
Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) in front of NOID Agave
Palo blanco (Mariosousa willardiana), still a plant crush of mine
I didn’t take any photos of the nursery (see these posts if you’re interested: 1 | 2 | 3) but Loree and I spent a a goodly amount of time poking around. While I didn’t buy any succulents, I grabbed another Leucadendron ‘Jester’ and a Verbena lilacina ‘De la Mina’.
A big thank you to Brian Kemble for helping with plant IDs. I’m so happy I can always count on him.
Instead of waiting until The Bold Dry Garden becomes available on Amazon, etc., you can get a copy now directly from the Ruth Bancroft Garden (more details here). All pre-purchased books will be be signed by Ruth Bancroft herself. As that MasterCard commercial says, that’s priceless!