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Walnut Creek Magazine

A LOOK BACK: Ruth Bancroft dedicated her life to cultivating Mediterranean plants

Walnut Creek was mostly orchards and vineyards during the 1920’s —a landscape of pears, grapes, apricots, and walnut groves. Where wheat had replaced cattle in the 1850s, fruit and nut orchards gradually changed the golden complexion of the valley to a vast sea of green.

Hubert Howe Bancroft, a prominent San Francisco-based historian, went searching for property in the Ygnacio Valley in 1885 as a cure for his asthma. He and his brother, publisher A.L. Bancroft, purchased 360-acres, built a family country home, and established what would become one of the most successful fruit ranches in the state. By 1926, Hubert’s grandson Phil Bancroft was running the farm and harvesting thousands of tons of fruit from the family’s orchards. He married Ruth in 1939, who developed a fascination with succulents and Mediterranean plants, while her husband tended to the ranch. Ruth lived to be 109 and was a pioneer in drought-tolerant gardening. Today her legacy lives on at the internationally acclaimed 3.5-acre Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery where a visit will leave you inspired and ready to dig a new collection of plants into the dirt.

COVID-19 UPDATE: When the Garden reopens to the public on May 16, all visitors must wear masks. Access will be limited to facilitate the six feet social distancing guidelines. ruthbancroftgarden.org.

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