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

Carol Laughlin, Executive Director

Carol comes to the Garden from a long career in both nonprofit management in the Bay Area, and the world of retail, where she founded and ran her own event design and planning, and floral and home design businesses in St. Petersburg, Florida for 19 years. In between California and Florida, Carol served in the Peace Corp in Azerbaijan for two years as an economic development specialist.

Most recently, Carol was the Director of Volunteers, the Holiday Program, and Children’s Programming at Samaritan House in San Mateo for the last 3 years.  There she managed over 3500 volunteers and revived and increased their in-kind and grant funding, partially through website tools that encouraged online participation.

Prior to Samaritan House, she was the Director of Community Engagement at The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society for two years, where she grew partnerships with agencies, corporations, and other groups, increasing volunteers and revenues from the Garden’s programs by 30 percent.  Carol began her nonprofit work in the Bay Areas as the Special Projects Director for HandsOn Bay Area in San Francisco from 2010-2011.

Carol, who lives in Oakland, is especially excited about the prospect of returning to the garden after a hiatus of 3 years.

Email Carol

Carol Laughlin Executive Director

Gretchen Bartzen, Fundraising and Development

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


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

Volunteer coordinator

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


Angela Hartman, Marketing Director

Angela is excited to boost the Garden’s presence in the community and increase plant sales as Marketing Director. She joined the team in fall of 2016, and has experience handling marketing and communications for several local non-profits. She earned a BA in Broadcast & Electronic Communication Arts from San Francisco State University, and worked as a news reporter for a station in Joplin, Missouri. After getting married, she moved back home to the Bay Area where she now resides with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. When she isn’t at work, you can find her getting her hands dirty in her garden, or hiking our local trails. She also enjoys hunting for antiques, cooking, camping, and anything involving the outdoors.

email Angela


Tracy Fletcher, Events and Fundraising Manager

Tracy Fletcher grew up in Kansas City and joined Verizon Wireless at a very early age.  She worked through the ranks and moved many times with the company. She grew up and started her wireless career in Kansas City. From there she moved to Des Moines, then Atlanta and finally to Walnut Creek, CA.  After almost 30 years of service she felt it was time to leave the corporate world behind and pursue her true passions:  animals and gardening.  Tracy is an avid animal activist and has volunteered for various rescue groups and shelters.  When not with four-legged friends she is in the garden.  Her business experience and love for plants made her a great fit for The Ruth Bancroft Garden. She loves that each day is a new adventure and allows her to meet so many great people.  Her dog Freddie is frequently by her side when working at the garden which allows her to combine her two favorite things.

email Tracy

Tracy Fletcher

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.


Linnea Lion, Nursery Associate

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. 

email Linnea


Betty Lobos, Visitor Host

After 30 years working as a laboratory research biologist in St. Louis, Betty moved to Concord. About two years later, she visited the Garden during the 2014 Sculpture Show.  Entranced by the fascinating diversity of the plants and the whimsy of the artwork, she promptly became an RBG member and volunteer.  After helping as a greeter at several Garden events and participating in planning for the 2015 Sculpture Show, Betty became a weekly volunteer as a Garden Host and Sales Associate.  She is eager to share her enthusiasm for the Garden's treasures with its visitors and to devise ways to entice more of our neighbors to visit.


Eleanor Lonardo, Nursery Associate

Eleanor Lonardo joined the Garden staff as a Nursery Sales Assistant in October 2016. Eleanor comes to the Garden with lots of experience in retail, photography, marketing and little bit of coffee - but, her first love is horticulture! Two years ago she planted a bio-intensive flower/vegetable garden to add to her several years of experience as a collector of dozens of potted houseplants and succulents. She also became the “plant whisperer” for States Coffee in Crockett while she worked there. Recently Eleanor also completed a digital course in cultivating cut flowers through Master Gardener Claire Day. She likes to learn all she can about California natives and cactus gardens like RBG.


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, Design and Consultation Services

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, has moved to landscape consultation, design, and installation. Troy has previously held both the Garden and Nursery Manger and Nursery Manager positions here 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.


Melissa Sunbury , Office Manager

Melissa moved from Southern California to the Bay Area in 2006, taking a hiatus from her professional career in marketing with DIRECTV, to focus on raising her three children.  However, not one to stay idle for long, Melissa immediately began volunteering in her sons’ schools where she has put her marketing and management skills to work chairing various PTA committees and fundraising events.  With one son now in college and her two younger children in middle school, the time had come to go back to work and Melissa was excited to find an opportunity to join the Garden staff in the fall of 2017.  Melissa is charged with helping everything stay organized in the office and assisting with special projects as needed.  In her free time, Melissa enjoys gardening, theatre, and the outdoors.  She is currently redefining curb appeal by cultivating an ever-expanding raised bed vegetable garden in her front yard, since her backyard is too shady.  Melissa has a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an MBA from UCLA. 


Melissa Sunbury the Office Manager

Gina Trout, Visitor Host

Gina Trout joined the Garden as a Weekend Visitor Host in summer of 2016. She was introduced to RBG by her good friend William McDaid, one of the Garden’s talented Nursery Assistants. Immediately drawn to the prospect of working at the Garden since her mother is a long-time garden lover and a new enthusiast of succulents, it turns out Gina loves her weekend role welcoming visitors. You can tell that from her wonderful, warm smile. She enjoys learning about the plants, the friendly Garden team, and meeting new people. Gina attends Los Medanos Community College where she is working towards a degree in psychology. In her spare time Gina also loves playing softball and basketball with friends, sports she participated in throughout her elementary and high school years. 


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

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

click here.

Read the Biographies of our Board Members.
Job Opportunities

Now Hiring: Full-time Nursery Manager

Be part of an exciting new expansion of an exceptional retail and propagation nursery. This is an opportunity for an innovative visionary who cares about sustainable gardening. You will be a key player in growing an already thriving business to support a unique Garden. We are seeking someone with strong plant knowledge and retail garden center experience.

The Ruth Bancroft Garden, is a public garden and a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization in Walnut Creek, California. The Garden is a 3 ½ acre internationally significant collection and unique display of plants from arid regions of the world that Ruth Bancroft originally selected for their ability to thrive in the inland East San Francisco Bay region. This is a full time position Tuesday-Saturdays.


Reports to:        Executive Director

Classification:  Full-time, Exempt

Click here for the full job description

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

Job Opportunities

Ruth's Recipes

Garden Press

Web Resources

Ruth's Celebration of Life


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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