Go Outside – The Ruth Bancroft Garden

Our newest Home Improvement project is the front yard – but you’d never know by looking at it.

The abundance or rain this winter brought the grass in the backyard back to life (woo hoo) but it also brought more weeds than we have ever experienced. We can pull 1 but 2 come back overnight. I’ve been referring to them as “Gremlin weeds” – they sprout-up like crazy, reek havoc on the landscaping and the rain only multiplies them.

But the weeds aside, we are planning an entire facelift on the front of the house (more to come on that project). And a big part of a new yard is NEW PLANTS!

So I found the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA which is 3+ acres of “dry” plants and landscaping. We really want a low maintenance yard that is full of plants but is also drought resistant (CA has a ton of rain right now – but that isn’t always the case).

We spent a good hour or so exploring the gardens and loved the different succulents, cacti and various plants and flowers throughout the carved out trails and walkways in the garden.

While this garden put my succulent garden in the garage to shame – it was also really inspiring to see what plants can do when they are well cared for and given the opportunity to grow, bloom and thrive. Not to mention, we got a ton of ideas for our future front yard – and possible back yard projects (but let’s get the front yard done first).

I really enjoyed the field trip and wanted to share some of the pictures with you all here on my blog!

For $10 (for adults) you get access to the gardens and get a small booklet to self-guide yourself through the clearly marked off and labeled garden.

You also get a handout of what is currently in bloom – sounds obvious (is it blooming or not?!?!?) but it was really helpful in identifying the plants that we saw as we explored the garden.

The entrance is very humble, but it’s the plants inside that are the WOW factor. And the new vistors center can be seen to the left in the above picture, I will totally make a trip back to see the new center when it opens later this year.

Near the entrance is a really nice titled wall depicting a lot of the plants that you will see inside. I appreciated the detail in the title wall so much I had to take a few pictures on our way out.

I have seen a lot of the same species of succulents that were on display in the garden – but never ones as big as I saw there! Some of them were literally 6 feet tall.

Reading along in the booklet, it was awesome to read about the different species in the garden that were brought in from around the world – like the fan-looking plant (below) that was brought over all the way from Australia.

Some of the plants were 6+ feet tall – while others were only centimeters big, like these baby succulents (below) that lined the trails near the cactus farm.

I was in constant awe of the different species but also impressed with the variety of colors on display. The brightest oranges and yellows and so many different variations of pink and green.

The flowers shown above had the coolest “watercolor / tie dye” coloring to them. No two flowers were the same and the bleeding of the colors looked almost hand painted.

The symmetry of the plants also impressed me. The way that the plants were shaped gave them so much personality and structure. I can see how their shapes and distinct lines could easily inspire architecture and design.

I want to create a similar feeling in our front yard (or back yard) like we saw at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Ideally an effortless blending of varieties of plants, colors and sizes to create a beautiful venue to enjoy the outdoors – a task that sounds simple but clearly takes a great deal of planning and knowledge of the plants and their needs.

Another cool part about the garden, is that they sell a ton of different plants on site! The different species of plants in bloom also have picture indicators in the handouts to let you know if they shop carries similar species to purchase and take home with you.

And even after spending an hour+ roaming the garden, we still found wonder in looking at the different plants for sale.

I hope that we take some of the inspiration from the Ruth Bancroft Garden into our design and plant choices. It was a great trip and I highly recommend it to anyone in the Bay Area looking for something fun to do outside – especially if you have an appreciation for plants (succulents, especially)!

You can learn more about the garden at their website, here:


There is a lot of history behind the garden and how Ruth Bancroft started her fascination and appreciation of plants. Definitely worth reading up on!

If you know of any great places or ways to get inspired when designing a new yard, please share it with me! I’d love to hear what you have learned – especially if you have before and after photos to share!

Thanks for reading and I’m excited to share more on our projects as it gets moving forward!