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The Dry Garden Design Certificate program lets both homeowners and professionals explore landscape design through the lens of dry gardening — the utilization of plants specifically adapted to low water use.  In this virtual-based program, students will build a strong foundation of knowledge about horticultural practices, basic design principles, and plant selection in dry garden landscapes.  With each course, students will acquire skills to empower them to design, care for and maintain dry gardens as they explore topics ranging from fundamentals of botany and ecology, site selection, and a focus on various plant groups appropriate for dry garden landscapes.  Students will participate in a Final Design Project where they will demonstrate their ability to create and present a lawn-to-garden design.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden began in the 1970s as a pioneering experiment in using exclusively dry-adapted plants — including cacti, succulents, and California natives — in garden landscape design.  The result was a garden full of dramatic composition  — of form, texture and color — renowned worldwide, that continues to serve as a quintessential model for dry garden design.  The Dry Garden Design Certificate program utilizes the lessons and unique history of Ruth’s Garden to educate and train today’s homeowners and professional landscapers how to create beautiful, healthy and long lasting gardens in this climate-appropriate, sustainable manner that is dry garden design.

CERTIFICATE PROGRAM requirements

To earn a Dry Garden Design Certificate from the Ruth Bancroft Garden, students must take Required Courses, Elective Courses and successfully complete a Final Design Project that is undertaken with the guidance of our instructors.  Download a pdf of the 2022 Required & Elective Courses.

  • Required Courses (7): Dry Garden Botany 101, Basic Garden Designs, Site Analysis (three parts), Environmental Synergy and Dry Garden Installation.  Students are automatically registered in all Required Courses.
  • Elective Courses (minimum of 3): Register for three additional classes designated as Elective Courses.  Students must separately register and pay for >3 Elective Courses.
  • Final Design Project: In this five-part project, students learn to create a lawn-to-garden conversion design and then present for evaluation and feedback.  This includes a Plant Master tutorial, overview of the project, Q&A session, 1:1 check-in and presentation.  Final projects are to be completed and presented before October 31st, 2022 to earn the certificate.  Students are automatically registered for the Final Design Project.

Registration steps: 

  1.  (Note: 7 January 2022 – Registration is at full capacity.  Please contact alice@ruthbancroftgarden.org to be added to the waitlist.)  Registration for the 2022 program will open on January 3rd, 2022; go here$595 (RBG member)/$750 (general public).  Registration fees will include: Required Courses, Final Design Project, a landscape design kit, 8-month subscription to Plant Master, and five check-in sessions.
  2. Register and pay for three (minimum) Elective Courses according to your schedule and interest.

Program SCHEDULE

March – October, 2022
Classes begin March 19th, 2022 and are offered several times a month throughout Spring-Fall on Wednesdays or Saturdays at 10am.  Schedule conflict? No problem; registrants will have access to a recorded version of the virtual lecture for one week following the live lecture.

Class Format:
All classes are approximately one hour, presented in a virtual format.  (Be prepared to spend additional time to do research on your own with the resources that you’ll receive for each class.)  Participation in these online courses require that you are able to utilize Zoom and YouTube. Registered attendees will receive a Zoom link from the Program Director one day prior to the lecture.  All webinars will be recorded and registrants will receive the recording link within a business day.  Once the recording link is sent, you will have seven days to watch before it expires.

À la carte Options

All classes (except Final Design Project) are also offered individually; go here for individual class registration.  Register for as many or as few classes as you like according to your interests and schedule.  Certificate Program students may sign up for additional classes beyond the minimum number of Elective Courses on an à la carte basis and pay for them individually at the Member or Non-Member rate.

Fees:  $15 /Member or $25/Non-Member per class.

Questions about the Dry Garden Design Certificate Program? Contact the Program Director at alice@ruthbancroftgarden.org

 

Course Details

Click on the plus sign “+” to open each section containing the course details.

Download a pdf of the 2022 List of Required & Elective Courses here

Dry Garden Botany 101 | 3/19/22

Date: Saturday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: With a focus on dry garden plants, this class will give you the basics for understanding how plants are scientifically classified into different families and an overview of the plant parts.

Register here.

Basic Garden Designs - how to select the visual theme | 3/23/22

Date: Wednesday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: The first thing to decide when planning (or planting!) a new garden is what you want it to look like when it’s finished. This garden style can be inspired by the architecture of house, the existing trees or shrubs, or one of your favorite places (like the Ruth Bancroft Garden). We’ll look at some of the common dry garden styles and highlight the basic elements you can use to achieve the look you want.

Register here.

Low-water Container Gardening | 3/30/22

Date:  Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Container gardens are a great way to bring the beauty of plants to areas that have little or no planting beds like balconies, decks or patios.  They can also serve as living ‘flower’ arrangements or miniature gardens.  Re-imagine your outdoor space with container gardening with a dry garden plant palette.

Register here.

Focal Point Plants in Dry Garden | 4/13/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: When planning or planting a garden the first thing to consider are focal point plants as well as trees, palms and other large-scale plants.  Focal point plants sets the tone for the entire design and helps determine all the other plantings.  In this workshop, we will look at how to select a large scale plant for both aesthetics and conditions.  We will also look at a wide range of drought tolerant trees, palms and other focal point plants that are commonly available.

Register here.

Site Analysis & Design Development- Overview (part 1/3) | 4/16/22

Date: Saturday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: When starting a new design there are many things to consider. What is the exposure of the site, how big is it, and how do you want to utilize the space? We will look at the how to evaluate and record the conditions of the site and the desires of the clients. This is a 3-part series class.

Register here.

Site Analysis & Design Development- Layout (part 2/3) | 4/20/22

Date: Wednesday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description:  What shape should your garden take? Learn about different garden layouts, flow and access as well as other factors to consider when creating or redesigning the overall structure of your new garden.  This is part of a 3-part series class.

Register here.

Site Analysis & Design Development- Choosing a Plant Palette (part 3/3) | 4/27/22

Date: Wednesday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: There are many factors to consider when selecting your plant palette. We will look at color theory, texture and how specific plants can clearly communicate specific garden styles.  This is part of a 3-part series class.

Register here.

Environmental Synergy in the Dry Garden | 5/4/22

Date: Wednesday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description:  In addition to saving water, your dry garden can also reap many other environmental benefits. Join us for an overview of several relationships that are impacted by our decisions & actions when we garden and how we can think through our options to make better decisions going forward. While you tend your garden, being able to understand what you’re doing holistically and how it impacts the environment is a huge step towards having a positive impact beyond the property line.

Register here.

Essential Aloe & Friends in Dry Gardens | 5/7/22

Date: Saturday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Aloes and other plants in the Asphodelaceae family (including Gasteria, Haworthia and Bulbine) can be a wonderful addition in dry garden designs, whether as an accent or companion plant.  In this presentation, the first portion will be presented by Brian Kemble, Curator, who will talk about successful aloes (and friends) in the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  The second portion will feature Cricket Riley, in-house Landscape Designer, who will talk about how to incorporate a variety of aloes (and friends) into a successful garden design.

Register here.

Essential Shrubs in Dry Gardens | 5/11/22

Date: Wednesday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Learn how to incorporate mid-size shrubs (herbaceous and woody plants) into a dry garden landscape.  Whether as a border or a focal point plant, you’ll learn the key elements on how to determine the variety of low-maintenance, high-impact specimens that will be ideal for your dry garden setting.  Ensure year-round interest by making a smart choice with your shrubs in your garden.

Register here.

Dry Shade Plants | 5/14/2022

Date: Saturday at 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  When thinking of a garden with low water requirements, people tend to think of sun-loving plants, including succulents such as cacti and aloes, or dry-growing shrubs such as manzanitas and lavender. When it comes to dry shade, the choices are not as obvious, but there are plenty of fine plants that do well in lower-light spots and still need very little irrigation.

Register here.

Soft Succulents in Dry Gardens | 5/18/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: When thinking of a garden with low water requirements, people tend to think of sun-loving plants, including succulents such as echeverias and aeoniums.  In this presentation, the first portion will be presented by Brian Kemble, Curator, who will talk about successful succulents in the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  The second portion will feature Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, who will guide you on how to incorporate succulents into a successful garden design.

Register here.

Groundcovers & Vines in Dry Gardens | 5/25/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Layering a garden with groundcovers and vines can help highlight hardscapes and focal plants as well as providing a practical element of weed and erosion control.  Learn how to incorporate a variety of groundcovers and vines into a dry garden landscape.

Register here.

Essential Cacti in Dry Gardens | 6/1/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: When thinking of a drought-tolerant garden, people tend to think of sun-loving plants, such as cacti.  In this presentation, the first portion will be presented by Brian Kemble, Curator, who will talk about successful cacti in the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant collection.  The second portion will feature Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, who will talk about how to incorporate cacti into a successful garden design.

Register here.

Essential Trees & Palms in Dry Gardens | 6/11/22

Date: Saturday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  When planning or planting a garden the first thing to consider are the large-scale plants such as trees and palms.  Tree and palm selection sets the tone for the entire design and helps determine all the other plantings.  In this lecture, we will look at how to select a tree/palm for both aesthetics and conditions.  We will also look at a wide range of drought tolerant trees and palms that are commonly available.

Register here.

Materiality in Gardens: Design & Environmental Stewardship | 6/15/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Join us for a lecture on selecting and using recycled materials in your garden. Focusing on the non-plant elements in garden design, we will discuss how the selections we make for our outdoor spaces have farther-reaching implications we should be aware of. We will also discuss a few considerations for what to consider when removing or changing the older stuff (paths, furnishings, etc.) we already have. We will talk through an example thought path for these decisions and how to choose a material that is right for your application. The goal is to be aware of the lifecycle of a product or material, its environmental relationships, and durability and taking into consideration the ways a recycled material may or may not provide the aesthetic desired. With thoughtful attention to the design and construction of garden elements, recycled materials can go from looking haphazard to intentional.

Register here.

Proteaceae & Pals (2 part series) | 6/18 & 6/25

Date: Two Saturdays @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Join Troy McGregor, owner of Gondwana Flora  and Waltzing Matilija, for two lectures about plants in the Proteaceae family (such as Protea, Leucadendron, Leucospermum and Grevillea). For the first lecture “Proteaceae & Pals- Overview” (on 18 June 2022), Troy will focus on the tried and true performers, a few new releases and some rarities that have excelled at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

For the second lecture, “Proteaceae & Pals- Care & Maintenance“, Troy will guide you on best planting practices, pruning recommendations, fertilizer amendments and soil/water requirements for these Australian and South African plants.

Registration fees will automatically enroll you in two lectures:

  1. “Proteaceae & Pals- Overview (part 1/2)”- 18 June 2022 (Sat) @ 10am
  2. “Proteaceae & Pals- Care & Maintenance (part 2/2)”- 25 June 2022 (Sat) @ 10am

Register here for the two lectures.

Essential Agaves & Friends in Dry Gardens | 7/6/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  With bold, eye-catching features, agaves can be a wonderful addition in dry garden designs, whether as an accent or companion plant.  In this presentation, the first portion will be presented by Brian Kemble, Curator, who will talk about successful agaves and similar plants like Bromeliaceae (bromeliad family) and yucca specimens in the Ruth Bancroft Garden.  The second portion will feature Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, who will talk about how to incorporate a variety of agaves and friends into a successful garden design.

Register here.

Dry Gardening in Small Spaces | 7/16/22

Date: Saturday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Have a small front, side or back garden and don’t know what to do?  There are many factors that go into designing a beautiful, useful garden. Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, will cover many of the different factors you need to consider and help you navigate the process of refurbishing a bed or designing a whole new garden.  Learn how to create that perfect ‘jewel box’ and how to create big impact in small spaces.

Register here.

Power Plants in Dry Gardens | 7/20/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Learn about exceptional plants that can withstand the challenging elements of sun and shade in a dry garden setting.  In this presentation, the first portion will be presented by Brian Kemble, Curator, who will showcase selections from the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant collection that thrive despite extreme heat and occasional freezing winter temperatures. The second portion will feature Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, who will talk about how to incorporate these power plants into a successful garden design.

Register here.

Dry Garden Installation | 7/27/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: A garden’s success is highly dependent on certain foundational elements. In this lecture with Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, learn how to properly prepare the soil, irrigation and successful planting practices in a dry garden landscape. All participants will receive the Ruth Bancroft Garden Dry Garden Planting Guide.

Register here.

Basic Irrigation in Dry Gardens | 7/30/22

Date: Saturday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Irrigation systems in gardens may seem daunting for some, whether it’s a completely new install or converting a spray system to drip.  An irrigation system appropriate for a dry garden is critical for long-term success with your water-wise plant palette.  In this introductory course with Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, learn how to assess your landscape and install a drip irrigation system that is suitable for dry gardens.

Register here.

Dry Garden Care & Maintenance | 8/3/22

Date:  Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: A well-maintained  garden will only become more beautiful with time.  Join Cricket Riley,  Landscape Designer, for a lecture on how to properly care for your dry garden landscape.  She will cover basic pruning, fertilization, and common pest control techniques. We will also look at important annual and semi annual tasks in the garden.

Register here.

Final Design Project (1 of 5)- Plant Master Tutorial | 8/10/22

Date: Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: Dry Garden Design Certificate Program (DGDCP) students will receive an 8-month subscription to Plant Master.  In this class, students will learn how to navigate and create a presentation that will be required for the Final Design Project.

DGDCP students are automatically enrolled in this class.

Final Design Project (2 of 5)- Overview | 8/27/22

Date: Saturday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: For this required workshop for Dry Garden Design Certificate Program students, there will be a tutorial on how to create a landscape design incorporating the design principles and plant palette that you’ve explored in the prerequisite and elective classes.

DGDCP students are automatically enrolled in this class.

Value Engineering | 8/31/22

Date:  Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description: Learn how to create a landscape design that fits in your budget.  This can be a challenge, as there are many variables to consider.  Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, will go over general guidelines of what you need to know (whether as a homeowner or a designer) for a realistic and successful project management in the context of landscape design.

Final Design Project (3 of 5)- Q&A | 9/7/22

Date:  Wednesday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description:  Dry Garden Design Certificate Program students will have an opportunity to pre-submit questions in regards to their Final Design Project and ask questions about their design development as well as the plant palette choices and the layout.

DGDCP students are automatically enrolled in this class.

Landscape Design as a Career | 9/10/22

Date:  Saturday @ 10am PT

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Creating beautiful and long-lasting successful garden spaces take more than just having an eye for detail and a creative vision; practical expertise in fundamental design principles, horticultural knowledge and many other skill sets are critical to success when creating residential or commercial outdoor spaces.  Join Cricket Riley, Landscape Designer, for a discussion on pursuing a career in this field and the different ways you can be a designer (ex. landscape contractor, maintenance gardener, garden coach, consultant, landscape architect, etc.) and what the legal parameters are for each option.

Register here.

Final Design Project (4 of 5)- Check-in | Various Sept. dates

Date:  Various Sept. 2022 dates

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description:  Dry Garden Design Certificate Program students will have an opportunity to share a draft of their Final Design Project, in an 1:1 format, and receive feedback before their final presentation in October 2022.

DGDCP students are automatically enrolled in this class.

Final Design Project (5 of 5)- Check-in | Various Oct. dates

Date:  Various Oct. 2022 dates

Required for Certificate: Yes

Description: Dry Garden Design Certificate Program students will present a garden design for evaluation a 1:1 setting with the instructor(s).  (Students will have the option of a virtual or in-person presentation.)  Must be presented before 31 Oct 2022 for a certificate.

DGDCP students are automatically enrolled in this class.

Soil Basics in Dry Gardens | Date TBD

Date:  TBD

Required for Certificate: No

Description:  Soil is the foundation of healthy plants.  Join Walker Young, Assistant Curator, for a lecture to learn about the content of soil, recommendations for the perfect ratio of materials, and the care that your soil needs in order to keep your dry garden plants healthy and happy.  The second portion will be open to participants for Q & A as well as Walker’s opportunity to talk further about the current techniques he’s employing in the Garden to encourage healthy soil conditions.

Meet our Instructors & Staff

Brian Kemble – Curator

Brian 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. With a BA in Philosophy from Antioch College, and Brian 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. He has traveled extensively in Mexico, Madagascar and southern Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats. His plant photographs have been featured in numerous publications on succulents.

Cricket Riley-Landscape Designer and Nursery Operations Manager

Plant centered design is the focus of all of Cricket Riley’s work at the Garden. Educating the community on the beauty, diversity and sustainability of regionally appropriate planting is always her goal.  In addition to creating garden designs and ordering and promoting Nursery plants, Cricket also teaches a wide range of topics from dish garden tutorials to basic garden design principles.  Cricket has an AA in Landscape Architecture from Merritt College, a BA in History from UC Santa Cruz, and an MA in Broadcast Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from NYU.

Jennifer de Graaf- de Graaf Design Associates

Jennifer is a licensed Landscape Architect (Lic. #5461) in California (PLA), a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), Bay Friendly Qualified Professional and Rater (BFQP, Bay-Friendly Rater), and a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL).  Go here to read more about how her love of horticulture launched her career.

Troy McGregor – Owner of Gondwana Flora

Troy is the owner of Gondwana Flora (a design-build landscaping company) and Waltzing Matilija (a nursery specializing in Australian, South African and other unusual plants from the Southern Hemisphere).

Walker Young – Assistant Curator

Walker joined the Ruth Bancroft Garden staff in January 2012 and since then has come to function as custodian of the Garden’s aesthetic. He acts as point person in the collaborative process of preserving, renovating, and rejuvenating Ruth’s beds, taking particular joy in sculpting undulating mounds and arranging rocks in the Garden to form a unifying backdrop and compositional foil to the Garden’s plant collection. Along with the Curator he propagates rare succulents from seed to be used in the Garden and manages care of the private collection. His most significant contribution to the plant palette has been the donation of a cycad collection, which he has used as an intermediate texture connecting the garden’s collection of radially symmetrical rosettes with its softer drought-tolerant herbaceous perennials.

Alice Kitajima – Program Director

Alice’s roots in the horticulture world are long and strong! After graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in Forestry and Music, she has worked at the New England Wildflower Society’s “Garden in the Woods,” Arnold Arboretum, Descanso Gardens and Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawai’i. Alice joined the Garden staff in February 2016 from the volunteer ranks of the Garden, where she assisted the Garden staff with plant records management. She now manages and facilitates the Education Department and Volunteer/Internship Programs at the Garden.