Ruth Bancroft Garden 2016 fall plant sale recap

After an unseasonal heat wave a week ago it’s finally beginning to feel like fall. And fall means plant sale time. Last weekend it was Ruth Bancroft Garden’s turn. Their spring and fall sales are always a personal highlight, especially since I use the opportunity to check out what’s new in the garden.

Last Saturday I took a photography workshop at the RBG that allowed us early access (8 a.m.). I’ll show you my best photos later in the week. Today’s post is about the plant sale, which started at 10 a.m..


New banner in the nursery

In the “old” days, the plant sales at the RBG were a big deal. The retail nursery was small and only offered a limited selection year round. For the sales, the garden staff brought in a large amount of plants that were not available otherwise.

The expansion of the retail nursery in February 2015 has taken the pressure off the twice-a-year plant sales because the nursery has such a large permanent inventory now. Fortunately, they still bring in special plants specifically for the sales so the thrill of discovering something new is still very much alive. In addition, RBG members receive a generous discount of 20% during the sale, which sweetens the deal even more.


Inside the covered nursery area

The 2016 fall sale is over now, but I have it on good authority that there will be a Black Friday sale right after Thanksgiving (probably Saturday, November 26 and possibly Sunday, November 27). Make a note in your calendar and keep an eye on the RBG’s event page.


Agave ‘Sun Glow’, a much sought-after variegated form of Agave ‘Blue Glow’


This is the first time I’ve seen Agave ‘Sun Glow’ in a nursery. It’s pricey, but so beautiful!


Good selection of larger aloes…


…and trees, including acacias


Puya alpestris, usually quite hard to find


Among the demonstration plantings inside the nursery tent was this striking combination of Yucca ‘Bright Star’ and Tradescantia pallida


A combination I want to duplicate: Leucophyta brownii and Banksia pellaeifolia (previously Dryandra blechnifolia)


Ruth Bancroft’s biggest fan


He could be in the Zoolander movies!


Gopher ceramicus, the only gopher species welcome in gardens and nurseries




Nursery assistant Linnea Lion made this arrangement from palm bark and leucadendron cuttings



Sizziling succulents on the barbie



The plant selection at the nursery goes far beyond succulents




My red wagon came in handy again



It was very happy to see ‘Desert Museum’ palo verdes in 5-gallon size. Much easier to transport in a car than 15-gallon plants (they had a few of those too).


Nursery assistant Linnea Lion (right) and horticulturist Ryan Penn (left) helping a customer



Two special plants: Dioon edule ‘Querétaro form’ (left) and Agave utahensis var. eborispina (right)


Tables with smaller soft-leaved succulents

To my surprise I didn’t take a photo of my purchases. I didn’t buy a lot, but I’m excited nonetheless. After all, it’s not the quantity that matters.

  • Arctostaphylos ‘Ruth Bancroft’ (5-gallon pot, the only size available). I finally got a cutting of Ruth Bancroft’s special manzanita hybrid. Its exact parentage is unknown since it began life as a volunteer seedling many years ago. It’s renowned for thriving in the garden’s native clay soil (many manzanitas can’t tolerate heavy soils) and for its beautiful peeling bark. I’m thrilled to have an offspring of one of Ruth’s signature plants.
  • Calliandra × ‘Sierra Starr’ (5-gallon pot, the only size available). This is a hybrid between Calliandra eriophylla (pink fairy duster) and Calliandra californica (Baja fairy duster). It’s quite similar to Calliandra california, but is noticeably hardier and more compact. I already planted it in the front yard, in the strip inside the fence, where it will get lots of sun and heat: just what it needs to flower on and off year round.
  • Chilopsis linearis (dark purple flowers) (6-inch pot). Desert willow is a small patio tree with beautiful flowers. I don’t have room for another tree; I bought it only because it looked so forlorn on the “Lonely Plants” table. It was only $6, which, after applying the 20% member discount, came out to $4.80. How could I resist! If I can't find a good home for it now, I will grow it in a container for a few years until it gets too large.
  • Brian Kemble aloe hybrid (6-inch pot). There was no tag, but I’m hoping Brian will be able to tell me what it is after I send him a photo.


  1. You did well with both your photos and your purchases. How I wish my local botanic garden had half as good a nursery on-site. The powers-that-be there recently decided to eliminate their fall plant sale on the theory that people generally buy only what's in bloom, which is nothing much in the fall. As fall is absolutely the best time to plant here, I think that's a very short-sighted strategy from an organization with the purpose, in part, of educating the public. They're offering a more limited "shop local" event this coming weekend so I suppose that's meeting the issue part way but one of the volunteers told me very clearly that it won't be equivalent to the former fall sale. I'm sorry if I'm ranting...

    1. I think people who go to plant sales at botanical gardens or similar institutions know a thing or two and will buy plants even when they're not in flower. We're not talking about a run-of-the-mill commercial nursery...

  2. I believe Mr Mannequin should be introduced to the Flower Floozie at Annies. You were so diligent about documenting the plant sale !I look forward to seeing your photos from our morning workshop.

    1. OMG, wouldn't that be fun! Bring this guy to Annie's Annuals, or vice versa, and take photos!

      Workshop photos coming soon.

  3. Yay for finally acquiring a Arctostaphylos ‘Ruth Bancroft’! So where will you plant it?

    (on a personal note I loved seeing many of the same things I saw just a month (or so) was almost like I was there with you)

    1. The original idea was to plant the manzanita in the "desert" strip along the street, next to the Aloe ferox. I just took out a Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens 'Compactum') that didn't look great there.

      But now we're thinking of removing the clump of Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr' in the backyard because it's gotten too big for the spot and plant the manzanita there. It *is* time to shift my focus to the backyard a bit more...

  4. RBG has really developed their retail shop, which is fantastic. It supports the garden and educates people on climate appropriate plants.

    I have had 'Sun Glow' for a long time, got it as a tiny plant--though I like it, I think 'Snow Glow' is better. Gets bleached out more than 'Snow Glow' in full sun.


Post a Comment