Ruth Bancroft Garden spectacular, part 1 of 3

I had the opportunity to visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) twice in the last couple of weeks. I ran into curator Brian Kemble both times, and he shared a wealth of plant information with me, some of which I'm in turn sharing with you in the captions.

The RBG is looking fantastic this spring thanks to the hard work of the Garden crew and assistant curator Walker Young, the "custodian of the Garden's aesthetic." I took a few hundred photos. Even after whittling them down, I still had far too many for one post so I'm going to split them up into three. I hope you don't mind such a heavy dose of succulent beauty!

Let's start at the entrance. In the first photo below, you can spot the new Visitor and Education Center behind the majestic Agave franzosinii, the Garden's sentinels:

Agave franzosinii

Agave franzosinii; on the right, a closer view of the "lost wax" effect where the blue wax that covers the leaves is rubbed off as the plant grows

Agave franzosinii, with Yucca rostrata and Washingtonia filifera Phoenix canariensis towering above them

Agave franzosinii as social distancing measure

Agave palmeri 'Blue Meanie' planted in a crack between two rocks

Agave utahensis var. eborispina

Variegated Agave filifera, one of several offsets from a variegated plant in Brian Kemble's garden

Visitor and Education Center

Dudleya brittonii

Eucalyptus macrocarpa


Agave sp. between two Mexican grass trees (Dasylirion longissimum)

Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris) protected by one of Ruth Bancroft's winter rain covers (February 13; on February 27, the cover was gone). The arching arm above is from a Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia).

Backlit clump of Opuntia sp. in front of Ephedra equisetina

Different clump of Opuntia

Dudleya and Ferocactus sp.

Hesperoyucca whipplei on February 13

Two weeks later, on February 27, the flower stalk had shot up to its full height, and the flowers were starting to open up

The flowers on this plant are particularly attractive because of the purple picotee effect. Typically, Hesperoyucca whipplei flowers are creamy white, with no contrasting color.

Hesperoyucca whipplei, or Our Lord's Candle, is native to Southern and Baja California

Agave 'Blue Glow' & co.

Agave dasylirioides with its comically drooping inflorescence. This is a rare sight since this agave species is not often seen in cultivation.

Agave dasylirioides

Two special shrubs from Down Under: Grevillea petrophiloides 'Big Bird' (left) and Templetonia retusa

Templetonia retusa or cockies tongue, as it's called in Australia

Cantua volcanica, an airy perennial from Peru

Aloe microstigma with bicolored flowers

Aloe microstigma with yellow flowers. The Ruth Bancroft Garden may be the only botanical garden in the world that has specimens from all 7 localities of Aloe microstigma. This is one of curator Brian Kemble's favorite aloe species.

Aloidendron dichotomum

Aeoniums thriving in the bright shade cast by trees

Aloe polyphylla still under its protective winter cover on February 13. On February 27, the cover was gone. The cover protects Aloe polyphylla from winter rains. A native of the Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, it is used to summer rain and dry winters.

Agave weberi, with Templetonia retusa in the background

Leucadendron sp. with yellow bracts in full "bloom"

I often overlook the very small details, but they can take your breath away, like this vignette of moss and a small Aeonium that sprouted on this rock

And it pays to look up—you might just see an agave flower stalk against the blue sky!

Below are links to parts 2 and 3.


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  1. Your photos are spectacular as always Gerhard, you capture the beauty of the plants and the place so well! Looking forward to part 2...

  2. Had a giggle with the agave and social distancing sign. If ever there was a plant that typifies social distancing it's a large agave. Everything at the garden is looking great. What is the tall plant to the left of the visitor center? It really makes a statement. Looking forward to the next parts.

    1. Stay one Agave franzosinii apart - the best COVID advice, right?

  3. That was just wonderful. First I visited the UC Santa Cruz arboretum with Kathy and then I came over to this tab and visited the RBG with you... the day is off to a very good start! Now to visit them both in person...

  4. I loved the photo of the Aeonium snuggled into moss. That Templetonia is a gorgeous thing too. I look forward to posts 2 and 3.

    1. I planted a tiny Templetonia years ago and it's still tiny because it's getting shaded by a Cuphea. Need to move it!

  5. So many gems in this post. Templetonia, wow, picotee Hesperaloe, wow, lovely Dudleyas. Aloe microstigma is a favorite for me, also. Too bad I keep killing it.

    "Agave franzosinii, with Yucca rostrata and Washingtonia filifera towering above them"

    I think that's Phoenix canariensis, actually.

    1. YES, you're right about Phoenix canariensis. It's not the first time I've made that mistake. Palms are my Kryptonite :-)

      Does Aloe microstigma rot for you? I find it an easy one to grow, but I have problems with other aloes that I think do better in Southern California like A. alooides.


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