If there’s a home for nature and nature lovers in Walnut Creek, California, Ruth Bancroft Garden might just be it. Located at 1552 Bancroft Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, the garden is a resort for cactus, succulents, trees, and shrubs from all over. Any avid ecology enthusiast will have a grand time observing and identifying the wide variety of plants there.
The massive 2.5-acre dry garden was started in the 1950s by Ruth Bancroft. Its history goes back longer than that, however, all the way back to a walnut and pear farm owned by her husband’s grandfather, Hubert Howe Bancroft, at the end of the 1800s. Hubert’s farm property was at one time 400 acres, but around the middle of the 20th century, the area was rezoned for residential buildings and was sold to developers to build them.
Ruth’s husband Phillip Bancroft inherited 3 acres of land from his grandfather’s farm. Now barren and devoid of crops or plants, he chose to give the land to his wife for use as part of her garden. He made one condition upon her for the land, and that was that it must use plants that require little water.
With that, Ruth would go on to build what can only be described as a masterpiece of xeriscaping. Desert plants flourished in the barren and arid soil. She would have the garden decorated and designed by names like Lester Hawkins, who would be responsible for the pond built there. An Art Nouveau style gazebo would be erected as a major focal point, where she transplanted her best plants from her cactus and succulent collection.
With the growth of the garden, the private area would become quite famous with many people in the Walnut Creek area becoming very curious in what plants would survive in the local climate. Local designers, horticulturalists, and classes from the nearby Diablo Valley College would take great interest in visiting the sprawling garden and seeing all that it had to offer to the community.
While entertaining Frank Cabot as a guest, Ruth, and Frank discussed what to do with the garden in the case that she passes away. This meeting led to the establishment of the Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with the goal of helping to support plans to protect and preserve gardens across America. The Ruth Bancroft garden would be the first garden opened to the public as part of the project, beginning tours in 1992 and achieving nonprofit status in 1994.
The garden and Nursery are open Tuesday through Thursday 10 AM to 4 PM, and Friday through Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM. They are closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Admission fees are $10 for adults, and $8 for seniors, students, and active military personal (a valid ID is required). Children under 12, and members of the Garden Conservancy, Ruth Bancroft Garden Members, and AHS recipients are allowed in for free. For arranged group tours, admission for children is $7.
Getting to Silva & Associates from Ruth Bancroft Garden, Walnut Creek
via CA-24 W
- Get on I-680 S from Bancroft Rd and Treat Blvd
- Head northwest on Bancroft Rd toward La Corso Cir
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Treat Blvd
- Turn right onto N Main St
- Turn right onto the Interstate 680 S ramp to Oakland/San Jose
- Take CA-24 W to Brush St in Oakland. Take exit 1C from I980 W
- Merge onto I-680 S
- Use the right 3 lanes to take exit 46 for CA-24 toward Lafayette/Oakland
- Continue onto CA-24 W
- Keep left at the fork to stay on CA-24 W
- Continue onto I-980 W
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 1C for 12th St
- Continue on Brush St to your destination in Alameda
- Merge onto Brush St
- Continue straight to stay on Brush St
- Turn left onto 7th St
- Use the right 2 lanes to turn right onto Webster St
- Slight right to stay on Webster St
- Continue onto Webster Street Tube
- Use the left lane to turn slightly left onto Constitution Way (signs for Marina Village Pkwy)
- Use the left 2 lanes to turn left onto Marina Village Pkwy
- Turn left
- Turn right
- Sharp left