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. 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.

March 2018 Plant Highlight: Protea scolymocephala

by Brian Kemble


The Protea Family, Proteaceae, is primarily a Southern Hemisphere group, with most of the species found in Australia and South Africa. There are outliers extending farther north (up into Southeast Asia and various Pacific Islands on the one hand, and up into tropical Africa on the other), and also some found in Central and South America, but the great majority of the plants in cultivation come from either South Africa or Australia. The flowers of members of this family are a source of amazement, and many are popular as cut flowers. It is worth noting that what florists refer to as a Protea “flower” is correctly referred to as a “flower head”, since it is an artfully arranged cluster of small flowers, surrounded by colorful bracts (in some species, these have feathery rims).


The type genus of the Proteaceae, lending its name to the family, is the genus Protea. It contains over 80 species, with most of them native to the southwestern part of South Africa, but with some extending into other parts of the country and northward nearly to the equator. One of the southwestern ones, native to coastal areas near Cape Town, is Protea scolymocephala.

While some Protea species grow as small trees, P. scolymocephala is a small, well-branched rounded shrub up to 5 feet tall (1.5 m). It has narrow strap-like green leaves with pointed tips, and these are typically about 2 inches long, though this varies from plant to plant. The uppermost new leaves are often red-tinged. 

         The main flowering period for Protea scolymocephala is spring, with the first flowers opening in late winter. At the bud stage, the flower heads are round and covered by the overlapping red-tinged bracts, like fish scales. At maturity, the bracts spread widely, with their pale yellow or greenish-yellow inside surfaces forming a ring around the cluster of flowers.

Protea flowers have an unusual structure, with four tepals (the segments of the floral envelope) which are initially fused into a tube and capped at the top. Near the tips of the segments are the pollen-bearing anthers, and in the middle is the pistil (the female part of the flower). As the pistil elongates, it comes into contact with the anthers and collects pollen on its tip, which is known as the “pollen presenter”. The growth of the pistil splits open the flower, and at this point the pistil is the only part of the flower that matters. At first, the stigma (where pollen will eventually lodge to pollinate the flower and produce seeds) is not receptive, and its dusting of pollen makes it a de-facto anther, ready to shed pollen onto a visiting pollinator. Once the pollen is gone, the stigma becomes receptive, and when a pollinator brings pollen from another plant, fertilization takes place and the seeds begin to develop.


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.  He will be happy to determine which plants are appropriate for donation.

Garden Plant Information

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
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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