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Ruth Petersson was born in Berkeley in 1908 and educated. Ruth developed a very early love for the plants. At the University of California, Berkeley, she studied Architecture. The stock market collapsed while she was at college. Uncertain that she would be able to get work as an architect during such a tough period, Ruth changed her major and graduated with a degree in teaching. She met Philip Bancroft, Jr., on a blind date while teaching home economics in Merced, and the two married in 1939 and moved to the family farm in Walnut Creek.


Ruth immediately started gardening, and in 1950 he planted a large garden around the main building. Her interest in different classes of plants grew over time, including bearded irises, roses, herbs, alpine plants, perennials, and more. Ruth bought her first succulent, single potted aeonium, in the 1950s. She soon became intrigued by the water-conserving plants and began to collect them. She accumulated a large collection of potted succulents, grown around her house in lath-houses and greenhouses.


Creating The Ruth Bancroft Garden


The last walnut orchard on the property was cut down in 1971, and Philip offered the three acres to Ruth to start a new garden using her large collection of succulents that had outgrown their estate. Ruth, then, took the opportunity in her 60s. She hired Western Hills Nursery co-owner Lester Hawkins to design the pathways and garden bed layout. Ruth picked the plants herself, all of which had been grown out of one-gallon pots. Philip designed Ruth's Folly in the early 1970s, the wooden structure that marks the typical gateway to the garden.


Ruth learned by trial and error how to use succulents in the garden, and how to protect tender plants from winter rains and occasional hard freezing. By using contrasting textures, shapes, and colors, she developed complex combinations of planting.


Ruth's garden was starting to draw more interest from other gardeners and horticulturalists. Frank and Anne Cabot visited Ruth in 1988 and were saddened to learn that no efforts were being made to maintain the garden.


Both were inspired to create the Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit committed to the preservation of significant American gardens, and The Ruth Bancroft Garden became the newly founded organization's first preservation project. Throughout the early 1990s, The Garden opened to the public.


Today, The Ruth Bancroft Estate, Inc. is a nonprofit that owns the estate and is raising funds to maintain it. A conservation easement preserves the garden, which means the land will still remain a garden and will be maintained in the tradition of its creator, Ruth Bancroft. The Garden has become a prime example of a water-conserving environment, suitable for our Mediterranean climate. The Garden also houses large aloe, agave, yucca, and echeveria collections. The first succulent in Ruth's collection, Aeonium 'Glenn Davidson' is still growing in The Garden.

This amazing attraction is located near the following must-see sights in Concord, California:

  • Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord

  • Mount Diablo State Park

  • Briones Regional Park

  • Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

  • Heather Farm Park

  • Pixieland Amusement Park

  • Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

  • Iron Horse Regional Trail

All of these wonderful attractions are located just a short distance from our location at 1261 Locust Street in Walnut Creek, California!

The Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery
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