Inside the rebuilt Ruth Bancroft Garden shade structure

Last year, the iconic shade structure smack dab in the middle of the Ruth Bancroft Garden was completely rebuilt. After 48 years, it had reached the end of its useful life, and the soil in the bed below it was compacted and had less than ideal drainage. Here is a look at the construction progress from May 2020.

The structure does double duty: In the summer, it provides shade to plants that don't want full sun all day. In the winter, it gets wrapped in plastic and becomes a shelter against the rain and the cold. Here it is on February 13, 2021:

Inside is a wonderland of succulents, nestled in among thousands of pounds of newly placed rocks:

The larger signature plants are the same as before, but it looks like many new plants were added as well

Kumara plicatilis and a pretty gasteria in the lower right

Bulbinella nutans, Aloe suzannae, and variegated Agave attenuata

Aloe suzannae, arguably one of the most challenging aloe species in cultivation. It wants what it wants and if it doesn't get it, it sulks and dies. I've never had one and am not even tempted, considering it's also one of the most expensive aloes on the market.

Aloe suzannae

Echeveria 'Lace'

Echeveria sp.

Aloe parvula

Aloe parvula

I have no idea what the name of this aloe is, but I like its multi-hued bumpy leaves

Variegated Agave isthmensis

Top left: Agave bracteata 'Monterrey Frost' with an Echeveria pullidonis hybrid and aloes

Plants large and small tucked into nooks and crannies between the rocks. This is what I dream of doing in our garden.

Aloe zubb × squarrosa, a cross made by Brian Kemble in the 1990s

Aloe humilis × pictifolia

Echeveria cante and Agave nickelsiae

Agave nickelsiae

Agave pelona and Agave guiengola

Agave guiengola

Aloe aculeata and Agave titanota

Agave 'Blue Glow Mediopicta'

Aloe pluridens

View from the other end of the Shade Structure

It won't be long now before the plastic comes down. I think they leave it up until after the average last frost date, which should be any day now.


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  1. Thanks for the tour! I am wondering what the plant above the words "Plants large and small tucked into nooks and crannies between the rocks" photo #_DSC0346 is, do you know?

    1. It's dangerous venturing guesses, but if I had to, I'd say it's Aloe pulcherrima from northern Ethiopia. I'm only saying that because it looks very much like my specimen of A. pulcherrima. The species name translates as "very pretty;" generic but true!

  2. I love the long view. I'm of the opinion that, when it comes to succulent gardens, one can never have too many rocks. They did a masterful job of planting all those nooks and crannies.

    1. All that extra height from the mound yields quite a bit of additional planting area.

  3. Once again great pics Gerhard! And love the way you described Aloe suzannae, sounds like a proper diva of an aloe...

  4. They did a great job redoing the plantings. It looks wonderful and will only get better and better as the plants grow. Many very choice plants as well. Their aculeata sure pinked up--I guess due to relatively cold nights?

    A. suzanne is a challenge. There were several at the LA Arb in terrible, miserable shape last I was there. I cut back a Leucophyllum so mine could get some direct sun and cut away the Leucospermum that was ready to swallow it. It's still doing okay, fingers and toes crossed.

    1. I bet your Aloe suzannae will do well because you're not hovering over it :-)

  5. What I really love is that you can walk all the way around the bed in winter. More photo ops ! I took a bunch in there but never got around to posting, so I'm glad you did.

    1. Yes! I love being able to walk around so easily when the plant is up. So different from the crammed space of the old days.

  6. That area is masterfully done! How expertly all those tiny succulents tucked into small spaces... absolutely gorgeous. The horizontal wide stripes on Agave guiengola are very striking and unusual.


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