Tag Archives: Ruth Bancroft Garden

3 Delightful Bay Area Gardens

If you have a bit of extra time over the holidays or on a weekend, here are 3 of the most delightful Bay Area Gardens that I’ve discovered this past year. They range in age from older than a century to practically new and in purpose from garden design and plant sales to a museum quality collection of species.

Flora Grub Gardens (started in 2004) in San Francisco is my most recent find. As a testament to the power of social media, I discovered this one through the Instagram feed of a work colleague (Thank you @kmctighe24!). A delightful sense of whimsy permeates the garden. If you happen to have a wreck on your lot, you can turn it into a planter!

Flora Grubb Edsel by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb Edsel by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Not only is this sense of whimsy on the ground, it is also in the air. The flying bicycles below have air plants or tillandsias tacked to the fenders and handlebars.

Flying Bicycle and Tillandsias by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flying Bicycle and Tillandsias by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

There are also areas of calming order like this patio set outside the coffee shop:

Flora Grubb Patio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb Patio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And things you might put in your garden all attractively displayed as if they belonged there.

Flora Grubb Doors by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb Doors by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

This table looks like fun:

Flora Grubb Planter Table by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb Planter Table by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb carries a great range of succulents in many sizes and other types of plants as well.

Flora Grubb Succelents by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Flora Grubb Succelents by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

More than the other gardens, Flora Grubb Gardens helps you see, “This is what a garden can look like in your home.” Check out her website for exquisite photographs of the site.

In contrast, Ruth Bancroft Gardens (started in 1972), focuses solely on a deep catalogue of succulents planted in a permanent garden punctuated by sculptures. Docents lead tours and if you have questions, volunteers are on hand to answer. There are volunteer plant sales so if you fall in love you can take one home if it’s available. I was so impressed with this garden when I visited that I wrote 3 entries:

Lastly, I had heard about the Arizona Cactus Garden (started in the early 1880s) at Stanford for ages before actually finding it earlier this year and writing about it. It too has a museum quality collection of succulents, many of which are very old and all are permanently planted. This place is definitely DIY. There is no help in engaging with the garden. There’s no gift store, there are no docents, there are no plant sales, there’s no call to action and nothing you can do with the passion the garden may invoke in you. Talk about a Marketing opportunity!

Whether you want help designing a garden or just want to wander in someone else’s, these 3 gardens will give you joy.

Arizona Cactus Garden at Stanford

Arizona Cactus Garden at Stanford by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Arizona Cactus Garden at Stanford by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

When I sang praises of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, friends suggested that I check out the cactus garden at Stanford. Two attempts to find it and 3 different maps later, I can say it is fantastic!

Originally planted in the 1880’s this garden has some pre-historic looking specimens.

Moonrise over Prehistoric Looking Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013 using LoMob

Moonrise over Prehistoric Looking Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

As you can tell from the angle of view this thing is over 12 feet tall. If Ansel Adams was here or someone who uses 1930s contact printers, it would look like this:

Moonrise over Prehistoric Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Moonrise over Prehistoric Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

The garden has fantastical specimens I’ve never seen before:

Purple Spined Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Purple Spined Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

And some I have but which are both much bigger and surrounded by others:

Barrel Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Barrel Cactus by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

The garden is easily doable in 30 minutes and would reward a longer visit, one which I hope to make soon.

Apps used: PerfectlyClear, TitleFX, PhotoToaster, Shockmypic, Lomob, Impressions, Snapseed

And More Ruth Bancroft Gardens

The Ruth Bancroft Gardens were so fun to visit. I keep coming back to my photos from the trip. I will miss their sale this weekend but I do have even more pictures to enjoy.

Cactus Flower by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Cactus Flower by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Sculpture ran throughout the Ruth Bancroft Gardens. Some whimsical:

Bronze Handed Woman by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Bronze Handed Woman by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

And some seriously playful:

Primary Cat by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Primary Cat by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Unfortunately, I did not write down the names of the artists involved but there is a list at the Garden if you go.

Sculpture is a great fit for a succulent garden because of the sculptural quality of the plants, both large:

Living Sculpture by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Living Sculpture by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

And small:

Cactus Shark Teeth by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Cactus Shark Teeth by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Inspired by my visit, I assessed  the few succulents that I have.

The spines of my trichocereus grandiflorus (I only knew that because it still had the tag) were full of leaves and dead oak flowers so I combed the long spines of my cactus (I kid you not). The spines not only radiated toward you but also horizontally toward each other. The only way to “comb” was to run straight down the middle of each row. The spines did not break at all and the plant  looks much cleaner now but is definitely not photogenic. Nor is another unknown with red blossoms on a tall stem.

I made up for not being able to go to the plant sale by buying an aloe nobilis, an echeveria harmsii and a barrel cactus (more spines!) at my local Lowe’s.

Amazing how that brief one hour visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden has given me hours of fun through photos and gardening! Thank you to Ruth and all the folks who run and manage the garden!

More Ruth Bancroft Gardens

Last weekend I visited the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek, CA. Last post I shared a few of the photos I took of this amazing place, and there are more to edit. I found myself passing over the meta photos. Though they showed the beauty of the place accurately, I was more excited by others.

While a photo of one cactus flower is breathtaking, one way to add diversity and variety into the mix is by combining 4 different photos of cactus flowers together, placing the images so that they refer to one another:

20130714-205349.jpg

I used the app ShockMyPic to add contrast and a feeling of drawing to this image. While the subtle pinks, greens and yellows are a delight, converting the image to black and white is another way to add interpret this series.

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Snapseed made the switch easy to do.

Doing this experimentation made me think. Ansel Adams said you should judge a print by the negative. Make a good neg and you can make a good print. Now, the image capture is really just a jumping off point. From there you can take the image in so many directions, and many good versions. Not only that but if you make a good capture or a lousy one with today’s apps you can still create something amazing. The tools of photography have really changed what it can be about and changed operationally where you can invest time – while taking the photo and / or while editing it.

Ruth Bancroft Garden Visit

The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA is the land of giant succulents. Planted 40 years ago after the walnut trees died in a working orchard, today’s specimens span many varieties and ages. Handy tables underneath expansive shade, winding paths around islands of cacti and human-scale sculptures hidden everywhere make this garden far more private and intimate than other similar undertakings.

If I was a good tour guide I would show you photos of the grounds for a sense of scale and the variety of the cacti. Garden Bloggers Fling and Far Out Flora have done a great job of the first. Master Gardner Betty Holmer and Danger Garden show you the second.

What I’m really excited about is how incredible these plants look in variety of pattern and elements of form:

Cacti from the Ruth Bancroft Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Cacti from the Ruth Bancroft Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

And what I love even more is how amazingly tender and delicate these ferociously spiny and tenacious plants look:

Agave Regina by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

Agave Regina by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2013

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