Bancroft

Ruth Bancroft Garden Honors Curator’s 40 Years Of Service

WALNUT CREEK, CA — Forty years into his dream job, Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery curator Brian Kemble is never entirely alone in his head as he goes about planting, hybridizing, photographing, documenting and building databases. He is still channeling, on a daily basis, the lovely, cactus-crazed lady who inspired, then hired him, back in 1980.

Kemble, 75, is the designated keeper of the flame lit by the late Ruth Bancroft, who over the course of decades turned her 3.5-acre plot of land in Walnut Creek into a world-renowned showcase for the variety, hardiness and beauty of ornamental, drought-tolerant plants.

A couple of weeks ago, Kemble’s colleagues at the garden surprised him by drilling a plaque in his honor into a large boulder on the premises. He can’t tell you what it says, exactly, because he hasn’t actually read it yet. But he was both thrilled and, yet again, a bit flummoxed by the reminder.

“It made me feel very glad that my efforts in the garden were appreciated,” he said. “And it also brought back to me the great burden that I feel, having had Ruth turn over the planting of the garden to me and my responsibility for making sure that her vision is adhered to, and the garden is in a good direction for the future.”

Gretchen Bartzen, executive director of the garden, notes that it became a nonprofit open to the public in 1992 as the first project of The Garden Conservancy, a national organization to preserve private gardens for public use that was inspired by Bancroft herself, who died in 2017 at the age of 109.

Photo courtesy of Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery, via Bay City News

Bartzen cites two factors that render the garden unique: “It was, as far as we

Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nusery Honors Curator’s 40 Years Of Service

Forty years into his dream job, Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery curator Brian Kemble is never entirely alone in his head as he goes about planting, hybridizing, photographing, documenting and building databases. He is still channeling, on a daily basis, the lovely, cactus-crazed lady who inspired, then hired him, back in 1980.

Kemble, 75, is the designated keeper of the flame lit by the late Ruth Bancroft, who over the course of decades turned her 3.5-acre plot of land in Walnut Creek into a world-renowned showcase for the variety, hardiness and beauty of ornamental, drought-tolerant plants.

A couple of weeks ago, Kemble’s colleagues at the garden surprised him by drilling a plaque in his honor into a large boulder on the premises. He can’t tell you what it says, exactly, because he hasn’t actually read it yet. But he was both thrilled and, yet again, a bit flummoxed by the reminder.

“It made me feel very glad that my efforts in the garden were appreciated,” he said. “And it also brought back to me the great burden that I feel, having had Ruth turn over the planting of the garden to me and my responsibility for making sure that her vision is adhered to, and the garden is in a good direction for the future.”

Gretchen Bartzen, executive director of the garden, notes that it became a nonprofit open to the public in 1992 as the first project of The Garden Conservancy, a national organization to preserve private gardens for public use that was inspired by Bancroft herself, who died in 2017 at the age of 109.

Bartzen cites two factors that render the garden unique: “It was, as far as we know, one of the very first examples of an entirely drought-tolerant garden in the United States,” she said.