The Ruth Bancroft Garden. Photo: Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic.com
True Story: Back in the 90s I had a small nursery in Seattle (tiny really, about the size of The Dry Garden in Berkeley). My partners and I were besotted plant geeks with a laser focus on specialty perennials. Passion gardens and the gardeners who tended them were our stock in trade. Once a year we’d fly to the Bay Area, visit as many nurseries as we could cram into a couple of days, then load up our suitcases with plants to bring back to Seattle to propagate for our like-minded customers. This was long before plants had patents and PR firms behind them.
After reading about a remarkable garden in Walnut Creek in the pages of Pacific Horticulture (in literature that’s called foreshadowing) we set off in our rental car to investigate the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Sadly, the day we showed up the garden was closed; but this was before the garden was staffed—or gated. Quietly, the three of us snuck through a break in the wall for a quick look around. I’d seen photos of the Bancroft landscape in The Collector’s Garden, a 1996 book by Ken Druse, but nothin...
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