Today the Garden Designers Roundtable is celebrating gardens from all over the world. And it just so happens that one of the most beloved public gardens in California is located right down the street from me.
In the 1950’s, Ruth Bancroft paid a visit on Mrs. Glenn Davidson, expecting to purchase some Asian collectibles. Instead, she went home with her first succulent, a hybrid Aeonium. Captivated by its allure, she proceeded to spend the second half of her life creating one of North America’s premier dry gardens. Located at the site of a former walnut orchard in Walnut Creek California, the Ruth Bancroft Garden inspired the founding of the Garden Conservancy and has become a national model for preservation.
Ruth’s accomplishments are particularly notable when you consider that succulents were not at all chic when she started. Her garden aesthetic was completely at odds with the type of English estate-inspired garden design being done at the time.
Although she is not generally mentioned in garden history books or classes, I consider Ruth to be one of the early pioneers of regional design, as she took her inspiration from the beauty of western landscapes rather than importing ideas and plants from another state or continent - a design philosophy many of us are just now catching up to. Ruth began creating her garden while in her sixties. In a few months she will turn 104 and it is only in the past five years that she has stopped working in the garden herself.
Truly, you are never too old to follow your passion and make your mark on this world.
This garden has been an inspiration to me for a long time. Twelve years ago I wrote a paper on Ruth Bancroft for a garden design class. Next month on May 22, I’ll have the honor of giving a vertical gardening presentation there. Who knows? If I'm very lucky, you may find me celebrating my own 100th birthday in the garden.
To find out what gardens have inspired other designers, including special guest Fern Richardson from Life on the Balcony, be sure to check out these roundtable posts: