Ruth’s Vision, 1971-1980

Oral History

Hubert Howe Bancroft, the original owner of the property, was a historian of the West. One of his legacies is the extensive oral histories he gathered during the 1860s for his 39-volume history of the West. Ruth Bancroft, his grandson’s wife, shared her own oral history of the Garden in 1991-92.

Ruth Bancroft kneeling on the ground, smiling at the camera as she plants echeveria.

Ruth planting Echeveria

In the introduction, Wayne Roderick, former Tilden Botanical Gardens director and head of the California section of the UC Botanical Garden, describes Ruth:

“As far as how much Ruth works, if you want to get her on the phone, you’ve got to call before seven in the morning or after six at night. She’s not in the house at all. She’s in the garden almost every day of the week…hand-weeding those paths until her knees would get so sore from the rocks, the gravel… Use gloves to work in the soil? You use gloves to handle spiny things and that’s it… I would classify Ruth as a genuine dirt gardener. She’s out there doing things with her bare hands.”

Additional Resources

Ruth’s Oral History


Preserving Ruth’s Vision

Ruth passed in 2017 at the impressive age of 109!  Her inspiration lives on in the work of our horticultural staff. Our curator, Brian Kemble, maintains Ruth’s vision, tends the collection, works with horticultural staff to create new compositions, and shares stories of Ruth.





Watch Curator Brian Kemble as he describes his historical perspective of the Garden.







Click on left image for a close-up of the Golden Jubilee Sign #4. 






Go back to previous page  Return to exhibit homepage  Go to next page