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The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden Hardcover – October 5, 2016
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“This book wonderfully reveals Ruth’s enduring lessons in the power of creativity and imagination—and big, bold compositions—to transform even the most unpromising landscape into a work of art.” —Jenny Young du Pont, president and CEO of The Garden Conservancy
“Ruth Bancroft’s garden is a rare combination of an artist’s vision and a meticulous collector’s passion—an invaluable resource that showcases the rich textures, structures, and colors of dry plants.” —Andrea Cochran FASLA, principal of Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture
“The Bold Dry Garden beautifully showcases the glorious garden Ruth Bancroft so courageously created.” —Bernard Trainor, bernard trainor + associates
“For those of you—and your numbers are growing—gardening in drought-stricken parts of the country, Johanna Silver's The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden will quench your thirst for inspiration. This dazzling three-and-a-half-acre succulent garden in Walnut Creek, Calif., was the Garden Conservancy's first preservation project. Marion Brenner's elegant photographs ably capture the architectural drama of its bold forms and eccentric groupings, as well as the strange and intriguing textures of individual agaves, cycads, euphorbias and sedums. Plump or spiny, tiny or looming, succulents have enormous variety and endless appeal. It seems almost criminal to avoid them in favor of lawns.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The American garden, located in Walnut Creek, CA, that inspired the Garden Conservancy is handsomely portrayed precisely when people should follow Bancroft’s lead of using xerophytic plants, challenging convention, and paying attention to climate cues.” —Library Journal starred review
“Combining biography of the dry-garden pioneer with a landscaper's guide, Silver and photographer Brenner tour the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, Calif., and discuss the life and work of its creator and namesake. Replete with brilliant color photography, this hopeful book will win over anyone who doubts that a desolate landscape can support thriving life.” —Publishers Weekly
“A must for any garden-lover’s bookshelf, this book pairs Johanna Silver’s eloquent storytelling and Marion Brenner’s exquisite photography to show how the Ruth Bancroft Garden evolved into the 3.5-acre waterwise garden that it is today.” —Garden Design Magazine
“An inspiring history of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, in Walnut Creek, California, that’s packed with rich photography. You’ll learn about design and plant palettes, as well as practical information on how to maximize a water-wise landscape from the pioneer of dry gardening.” —Martha Stewart Living
“This book serves readers in several ways. If you live in a nearly frost-free, dry climate like that east of San Francisco, you can take it right out to the garden or a local nursery. If you are an avid indoor gardener with grow-lights or south-facing windows, you will be thrilled by the extensive picture-filled encyclopedia of cacti and other succulents. If you love gorgeous books with voluptuous pictures (by Marion Brenner, California's premier landscape photographer), this is a book for your collection. I'm happy to say that another reason to get this book is for the richly illustrated biography of this remarkable plantswoman.” —Better Homes and Country Gardens
“Part coffee table book and part homage, The Bold Dry Garden is a beautiful book.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk
“Today, as the West wakes up with what fills like a collective hangover from the era of overly irrigated landscapes, the Ruth Bancroft Garden is the perfect antidote—dry yet lush, bold yet welcoming, and full of natural curiosities.” —Sunset
“The book provides a history of the garden and its founder as well as practical information about design principles and plant palettes, all beautifully photographed by [the photographer] Brenner.” —Hortus
“Everything about The Bold Dry Garden, from the beautiful cover to the wealth of authoritative information it contains, will appeal to fans of succulents and other arid-region plants. But even if you have never planted a single cactus, you will be inspired by the story of Ruth Bancroft and her exemplary dry garden.” —The American Gardener
“This book is a loving tribute in text and magnificent photographs to the plant collecting passion of one woman—Ruth Bancroft. . . . Bancroft's adventurous plant choices, attention to climate cues, and lack of fear of failure all provide an exquisite lesson to contemporary gardeners.” —Choice
“Lavishly illustrated with full colour photographs—including charming shots from the early years and eye-catching vistas or close-up details of plants taken more recently—all demonstrating Ruth's ability to blend art, horticulture and botany. . . .anyone interested in putting together a garden of succulent plants cannot fail to be inspired to try and replicate some of those vistas using hardier subjects. Otherwise, simply turn the pages and immerse yourself in the story of one of the world’s great gardens.” —The Garden
From the Back Cover
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As described in the book, the garden specializes in plants that are "waterwise." That doesn't mean they are all California native plants, although many are. The garden wasn't so easy to get started, and has changed a bit over the years. In fact, just one year after it was created, a freak frost descended on Walnut Creek and devastated the gardens. The book shows what happened, and explains how Ruth recovered from this diaster.
You might be thinking that a "dry" garden is a boring garden. Not so! The many photos illustrate that you can still have a gorgeous garden--even if you live in a drought-prone area, such as California.
This book is a great resource if you are wondering what kind of plants can be "waterwise," I had a chance to tour the garden recently; the photos in THE BOLD DRY GARDEN fairly capture the actual beauty of the garden.
Finally, if you have a chance to visit, definitely visit the Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek. You will be pleasantly surprised. By the way, you might even see Ruth Bancroft, who recently turned 108! (that is not a typo!)
The photos in this video were taken by participants in a photography class given at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of NetGalley
This book is an appreciation of the gardens and a celebration of the life of the woman who created them, but it isn't written by someone with particular knowledge of dry gardens and the plant communities typical of them. I read it over a couple days, and felt the sections on individual genera were especially thin. There are suggestions for attractive plant groupings, for instance, but not much else. Information about Bancroft herself came mostly from older source material. And the photography that is the book's real selling point makes the gardens look more like the Huntington than the Bancroft -- it's too slick at times and makes the gardens look more polished than they are.
Finally, while there's not a huge amount of text, there is some repetition. If I don't hear the phrase "deep dive" again soon, I'll be ok with that.
the book is dedicated to madam bancroft who turned an amazing 108 years of age in the year this book was published, 2016. the book starts with a biography of ruth's early years as a collector and leads to the creation of her "dry" garden in the early 1970's. finally, the book focuses on the great variety of mostly exotic specimens planted in a relatively limited space. it contains plenty of nice photographs and descriptions.
although this book is fundamentally straightforward and aesthetically pleasing, the layout of the photographs is somewhat postmodernistic and the text sometimes slightly quirky. while not miniscule, the text size could have been larger. this reader noticed one typographical error. also, the final photo of ruth on the left and the author on the right notes the author's name first. nevertheless, it is clear that this volume is a thoughtful labor of love. it is a great gift for madam bancroft and all who appreciate drought tolerant gardening and graceful aging.