In the Garden

What's in Bloom?

There's always something to see at The Ruth Bancroft Garden! Pick up a "What's in Bloom" guide when you check in for your tour. You can click the thumbnail below to see what's blooming this month.

Click here to view pdf.

Check out our Flickr Photostream as well! With photos organized by the month they were taken in, you can see what the Garden looks like throughout the year.

February 2017 Plant Highlight: Encephalartos horridus

by Brian Kemble

Encephalartos is a large genus in the Zamiaceae, one of the three families of cycads. Though they look somewhat like small palms, the cycads are actually an ancient group of cone-bearing plants whose lineage extends back many millions of years, to a time when flowering plants had not yet made their appearance on the world stage. Though cycads can be found in various parts of the world, the genus Encephalartos is African in origin. Some of the species with the most strikingly blue foliage come from the southern part of South Africa, and one such plant is Encephalartos horridus, from near the city of Port Elizabeth.
Encephalartos horridus is notable not only for its powder-blue leaves, but also for its stiff, sharp leaflets, whose ability to stab the unwary gave the species its name. This species is not as large as some others, never getting more than a few feet tall, but it can put out offsets and become a large clump in time. Like all cycads, E. horridus has separate male and female plants, but the appearance of the two sexes is identical up until they reach maturity and form cones. When this happens, the females can be readily distinguished by their wider and heavier cones with larger scales. Though the outside of the cone is blue-green to brown in color, the seeds within the female cone are bright red, a trait which can only be observed when the cones mature and break apart.

The leaves of Encephalartos horridus are several feet long and arch outward from the growing point. Each one has a cylindrical mid-rib, with spiky leaflets jutting out to either side. In addition to the sharp point at the tip of each leaflet, there are one or two lobes lower down which end in equally sharp points. The tips of the leaves usually curl downward, though this is more pronounced in some forms than in others.

E. horridus is a slow-growing plant which can live for centuries, and it is much prized in horticulture for its stunning blue leaves and its dramatic prickly appearance.

Plant Donations to The Garden

Many people express interest in donating plants to the Ruth Bancroft Garden. These include plants that have grown too large for their space, may no longer be desirable for the owner, mature landscape plants that are being removed to make way for new plantings, or were owned by friends or loved ones. Plant donations to the garden are most appreciated but must be approved by staff prior to drop-offs. Many donations are repotted in our nursery and sold at our plant sales to raise money to support the garden, while a choice few plants will be accessioned into our collection, depending on the species and whether it is represented in our collection.

If you are interested in donating plants, we request that you email digital images of the plants along with any identifying information you may have to our Garden Curator, Brian Kemble or Nursery Mananger, Steven Wexler.  They will be happy to determine which plants are appropriate for donation.

Garden Plant Information

The Ruth Bancroft Garden Tree Map

What's New in The Garden? Look here for interesting garden updates from the RBG gardeners' perspectives

Ruth's Tips
The Ruth Bancroft Garden Staff has been contributing "Ruth's Tips" articles to the Home & Garden section of Bay Area newspapers since 2005. We are currently in the process of scanning the printed articles to make them available online. Scanned articles are available here.
Plant Highlight Archives
View list in order of publication.
View list in alphabetical order.

To Plants in the Nursery

What's in Bloom?

Plant Highlight

Plant Donations

Garden Plant Information

Ruth's Tips Article

Plant Highlight Archives


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Mission Statement
The mission of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Inc. is to preserve this exceptional example of garden design and to continue to develop its collection of water-conserving plants for the education and enjoyment of the public.  
Grant Funders

The Ruth Bancroft Garden would like to recognize the following grant funders:

The Quest Foundation for funding our Education Coordinator’s position

The Mervyn L. Brenner Foundation and The Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust for funding our directional signs

The California Horticultural Society for funding towards our restoration projects

The Bonita Garden Clubfor funding restoration and education projects


The Ruth Bancroft Garden GardenConservancy