About The Garden

The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization, EIN 68-0310041.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a nonprofit public dry garden that was planted by Mrs. Ruth Bancroft in 1972. The Garden was opened to the public in the early '90s.

Here is an interview with Ruth from the 1990s:

Ruth on Martha Stewart Living



Learn more about Ruth Bancroft, the Mt. Diablo Fruit Farm, and the history of the garden by visiting our History page. 

Read about The Garden's History.

Staff Biographies

Gretchen Bartzen, Executive Director

Gretchen recently retired from her position as Director of Development and Parent Relations at The Seven Hills School. She directed a successful 5 million dollar capital campaign for them in 2003 and increased volunteer involvement, annual giving, and the school’s endowment. Her teaching background and participation in various organizations are skills that she brings to achieve the Board’s goal of raising visibility in the community, as well as increasing financial support.

email Gretchen


Anna Halverson, Tour Coordinator

Anna joined the Garden staff after having volunteered for two years with the Children’s Education Program at the Garden, helping to develop and run new summer programs for kids and families. Anna is perfectly suited to this new position at the Garden!  Her topic for her Masters thesis in Public Garden Management was:  “The emergence of Children’s Gardens within public gardens.”  And thereafter, almost all of her professional experience has been in designing garden and nature education for children, teenagers, and families, with staff positions at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, and at the New York Botanical Garden. She has also handled children’s programming as a volunteer at Cornell in New York and at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Anna is a certified professional Landscape Designer and worked for GreenFeet, Inc. in Annandale, Virginia before pursuing her Masters in Public Garden Management at Cornell University. 

email Anna


Billie Hopper, Special Projects

Billie is a California native who has resided in the Bay Area most of her life. She has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in Public School Administration from Ohio University. She has also completed numerous courses in Ornamental Horticulture at Diablo Valley College.

After a ten-year career in elementary education, Billie worked in a variety of supervisory and managerial rolls for Bechtel, a large engineering and construction company, for 25 years. She has also been a long-term supporter of the Nature Conservancy and was a docent at their Jepson Prairie Preserve for several years.

email Billie


Brian Kemble, Curator

Brian Kemble has been at The Ruth Bancroft Garden since 1980. He is highly regarded in the horticultural world and is a prolific writer and lecturer on botanical topics, especially relating to succulent plants. Kemble has a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College, and he began concentrating on succulents soon after moving to San Francisco in 1971. Brian's work for The Garden has included hybridizing aloes, agaves, gasterias and some South American cacti. Brian has traveled extensively in Mexico, Madagascar and southern Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats. His gardening column “On the Dry Side” appears in several newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his photos have been published in numerous books on succulents.


email Brian

Brian Kemble

Alice Kitajima, Volunteer and Program Coordinator

Alice joined the Garden staff in February 2016 from the volunteer ranks of the Garden, where she had been assisting Curator Brian Kemble and Horticulturist Ryan Penn in plant records management and care since 2015. She will help the Garden continue to develop the Adult Education and Volunteer and Intern Programs at the Garden. Alice’s roots in the horticulture world are long and strong!

After graduating from UC Berkeley in Forestry and Music, she worked first as an intern at the New England Wildflower Society’s “Garden in the Woods” and then at the Arnold Arboretum as an apprentice in Boston. Next she spent time in Southern California working at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada, followed by several years as a botanic gardener at Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawai’i. There she helped maintain the plant collections and wrote grants and edited articles for the Arboretum newsletter.

email Alice


June Krueger, Visitor Host

June is a Bay Area California native and within the last 12 months retired from Wells Fargo Bank. A majority of her professional career was working in the commercial and residential mortgage servicing industry. However, gardening has always been her passion. In 2001, she received a Certificate of Achievement in Horticultural from Diablo Valley College. She was introduced to the Ruth Bancroft Garden in the mid-90s and for several years volunteered at events and attended the docent training program. After retiring, she began volunteering at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in the propagation area and worked several events at the Garden. She is delighted to be a member of the Garden team and enthusiastic to share her experience regarding this unique and beautiful Garden.


Carol LePage, Communication and Event Coordinator

Carol first discovered the Garden when she and her husband moved to Concord from Philadelphia in  April, 2013.  At that time she was on hiatus from her career as a research biologist, enjoying the California sunshine and getting to know the world of succulent and drought tolerant plants as a volunteer in the Garden Nursery.

When a job (this time in Communications and Events) opened up in the Garden office, Carol was urged to apply by an observant board member. So in June 2014 Carol joined the office staff in helping to get the word out to the public about the Garden, and coordinating the many events which help members enjoy the Garden and support its upkeep and development.

email Carol


Linnea Lion, Nursery Assistant

Linnea has been at The Ruth Bancroft Garden since 2015 where she started as an intern, and now continues her creative influence. She has a unique and extensive background in both design and horticulture, and she has combined these two passions in her work at The Ruth Bancroft Garden. She has an Associate degree in Biology from Los Medanos College, she attended the San Francisco Academy of Arts, and she studied textiles and surface pattern design at the California School of Professional Fabric Design in Berkeley. She also has two Certificates of Achievement  (in horticulture and arboriculture) from Diablo Valley College and is a Contra Costa county Master Gardener. 


Stephen Lysaght, Garden Host and Membership Sales

A native of Sacramento, Stephen moved to the East Bay when he was 12.  He attended San Francisco State University earning a BA in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences.   While raising a family of 4 daughters Stephen worked for the US Postal Service for 20 years.  The last 25 years of his career Stephen served as President of American Postal Workers Union Local, based in Walnut Creek.  He first visited the Ruth Bancroft Garden soon after moving to Orinda from San Francisco 21 years ago, and was inspired to become a docent and begin creating a small “dry garden” at home. Following his retirement, and having volunteered as a Garden docent for 13 years, Stephen was hired as a regular Garden Host and Tour Guide in June of 2015. 

Stephen is an officer of the board for the San Francisco Succulent & Cactus Society, a former librarian for the California Cactus & Succulent Society, and a member of the San Francisco Bromeliad Society and East Bay Bonsai Society.  Besides gardening, he also enjoys travel with his husband, and spending time with their 5 daughters and 6 grandchildren. 

William McDaid, Nursery Assistant

William McDaid is studying at Los Medanos College with the hopes of becoming a police officer in the bay area. He spent nine years of kajukenbo at Pallens martial arts/Delta One martial arts, both earning his first degree black belt and teaching younger classes. He graduated from Dozier-Libbey Medical high school in spring 2015. He came to the nursery for a summer job as a Nursery Assistant and expert professional potting soil packager. He is eager to learn more about horticulture from his experienced peers. William enjoys participating in local fun runs and community events, and hopes to eventually earn a bachelor degree in Administration of Justice from San Francisco State.


Troy McGregor, Nursery Manager

Troy McGregor, a native of Australia and specialist in Proteaceae -the tough, big-blooming plant family from the Southern hemisphere, which thrives so well in our hot dry inland Bay Area climate, comes to the Nursery Manager position this fall after a year and a half stint of managing the entire Garden and Nursery for Ruth Bancroft Garden. Prior to his work at RBG, Troy spent three years as board member and then Nursery Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at Markham Arboretum in Concord, CA.  At Markham, Troy helped grow plant sales dramatically with improved volunteer organization, signage and marketing strategies.


Troy’s educational background is in graphic design and landscape design and he has over 15 years of experience initiating and troubleshooting programs during periods of transition. His past projects include an online nursery, Gondwana Flora, specializing in Mediterranean climate plants, Propagation and Education Coordinator for Carquinez Regional Environmental Education Center, and almost 10 years in the Australian Defense Force.

email Troy


Ryan Penn, Horticulturist

A Diablo Valley native, Ryan has been working in horticulture for 10 years, having specialized in California natives, plants of the Proteacea family, alpines, and generally anything bizarre. Ryan has been at the Ruth Bancroft Garden for over 2 years. His horticultural experience includes irrigation, aesthetic pruning, boulder and flagstone rockeries, and the care of a wide variety of plants groups.

Ryan received a B.A. in English literature from UCLA and attended graduate school in Theology and Philosophy. He has also served on the board of Markham Nature Park and Arboretum in Concord, and is presently the Nursery Manager at Markham.


Martin Viveros, Gardener

Martin Viveros is the senior gardener, having worked at the Garden since 1990. He moved to Bakersfield, California from Mexico in 1984, where he began to work in vineyards there.  His cousin first introduced him to the Bancrofts in the late 1980s and he soon moved to the Walnut Creek area to begin work in Ruth’s garden.  He did not know much about cactus and succulents at the time and Martin said at first he did not enjoy working with the especially spikey cacti. He wondered how Mrs. Bancroft could handle them without wearing any gloves. After six months though he began to really enjoy the job, though he does wear gloves when working with cacti. He currently divides his time between Mrs. Bancroft’s private gardens and the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Martin also has his own landscaping business, and enjoys cooking for a special event catering business he created called “Tacos Michoacanos” providing signature dishes for weddings and other private gatherings.

Walker Young, Assistant Curator

Walker is a former nursery volunteer whose horticultural passion carried him to a staff position. Walker helps Brian maintain the Garden’s private collections and propagates accessioned plant material for use in the Garden. Prior to his involvement with the Garden, Walker received his B.A. in History at UCLA and worked as an English teacher in Chile.

email Walker

walker young

Brianne Zorn, Office and Membership Program Manager

Brianne joined the Garden Staff in March 2016, shortly after becoming a member of the Ruth Bancroft Garden. A recent transplant to the East Bay, Brianne previously served as the Executive Director of the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation near Seattle, where she oversaw daily management of the Garden, as well as the events, membership and fundraising programs.


With educational degrees in Botany, Anthropology, and Japanese from the University of Washington, Brianne also worked as an environmental scientist for environmental consulting firms working on remediation and restoration projects. Brianne has volunteered for the Washington Native Plant Society, and the Seattle Public Utilities Community Advisory Committee, and is currently a parent volunteer for the Las Juntas Elementary School Site Council in Martinez.


Brianne lives with her husband, 3 kids, and 2 cats. The Zorn family loves their new home of Martinez.

email Brianne


To read the moving words of farewell spoken by our former Garden Manager, Charlotte Blome,

click here.

Read the Biographies of our Board Members.
Ruth's Recipe Archive

Those familiar with the Garden's history know that Ruth chose not to finish her architecture studies when the Great Depression hit, getting her teaching credential instead. She taught home economics for a few years before marrying Philip in 1939.

Just as she did with plants, Ruth collected and organized thousands of recipes, which means that we have easy access to them now! As part of the ongoing process of archiving Ruth's notes, we will be uploading recipes from her collection on a regular basis.

Recipe Collection

Ruth said she enjoyed cooking more than baking, but her husband would come into the house several times a day to raid the cookie jar, and that section of her recipe collection is appropriately large. Some of the recipes were passed down to her by her mother, others were cut out of newspapers and magazines.

She has a system for everything: a check mark remided her to cut it out of the publication it was in, an 'x' means a recipe is good, 'xx' means very good.

Click here to access the archive. We hope you enjoy Ruth's recipes as much as her garden!


Staff Biographies

Board Biographies

Ruth's Recipes

Garden Press

Web Resources


Become a member of the Garden or renew your membership.

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






























































































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