Garden of D’Lights at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Last night, I accompanied a friend to the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek for Garden of D’Lights. This holiday light show, now in its fifth year, transforms three acres of succulents into a dazzling wonderland of light, color, and sound. This year, there are more lights and lasers than ever before, plus four large light-up sculptures by Richmond-based artist Paige Tashner.

I know not everybody is thrilled when their favorite botanical garden – a place that’s all about plants – becomes a spectacle of fantasy and whimsy, but events like Garden of D’Lights draw folks who might not be all that interested in plants. In my book, that’s a good thing because some of these plant-agnostic visitors may well become converts. Plus, increased attendance means more revenue, and that’s always a positive for perennially cash-strapped non-profit organizations.

When we arrived at the RBG last night, my initial thought was, "it’s so dark, you can’t make out any details." But of course the event is not about looking at plants up close and marveling at their intricacies – that’s what a daytime visit is for. Garden of D’Lights is about the big picture, about light and dark, about silhouettes. And there’s no shortage of striking silhouettes, as you’ll see in these photos.

After reframing my mindset to embrace the drama before me, I actually enjoyed myself immensely. Even with the fine details obscured, there was plenty to see. And hear.

Another nice surprise: The RBG nursery was open late so Garden of D’Lights visitors could shop before or after their time slot. Simple but brilliant idea!

Glow Cat sculpture by Paige Tashner

Central shade structure in winter mode to protect tender plants

About these photos

Even though I’d brought my “good” camera (a Sony DSLR) and my tripod, I ended up leaving them in the car and using my phone instead (Google Pixel 8 Pro). The current crop of smartphones takes such good photos that DSLRs really aren’t needed anymore for casual photography. This is especially true for nighttime shots; advanced image processing software installed right on the phone uses sophisticated techniques like frame stacking to produce results with great detail and dynamic range – without the need to schlepp along a tripod.

About Garden of D’Lights

Garden of D’Lights runs until January 6, 2024 (daily except Mondays, December 24 and 25, December 31, and January 1). Three time slots are available: 5:30pm, 6:30pm, and 7:30pm. To buy tickets, go to this page on the RBG website. Tickets are $29 per adult ($25 for garden members) and $16 for children 5-17 ($12 for members). Children 4 and under are free.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden is at 1552 Bancroft Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598.

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. What a beautiful light show of plants! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Fun photos! I's much rather see a light show like this (which really is still all about the plants) than a show with a ton of "art" shoved in with the plants...

  3. This is definitely a different style of light show than the traditional lights on trees. Kind of otherworldly, more reminiescent of an underwater garden. Beautiful. Just got back from seeing the Butchart garden's light show. Some amazing effects done with lasers.

  4. As botanic garden light shows go, I think this rates at the top of the list as the focus is still on showing off the plants, even if in an "unreal" light. A lot of the lights shows locally have more to do with gigantic props that hide or completely eclipse the plants.

  5. I'm with the previous commenters--this light show is about THE PLANTS, not giant plastic candy or giant plastic whatever. Much more appealing. Your photos came out great--but even if the phone camera is super, the photographer still makes the difference.


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