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The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden

By Johanna Silver

Photographs by Marion Brenner

Will quench your thirst for inspiration ... Elegant photographs ably capture the architectural drama of its bold forms and eccentric groupings.

New York Times

Ruth Bancroft is a dry gardening pioneer. Her lifelong love of plants led to the creation of one of the most acclaimed public gardens, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California. The Bold Dry Garden offers unparalleled access to the garden and the extraordinary woman responsible for it. In its stunningly photographed pages, you’ll discover the history of the garden and the design principles and plant palette that make it unique. Packed with growing and maintenance tips, profiles of signature plants for a dry garden, and innovative design techniques, The Bold Dry Garden has everything you need to create a garden that is lush, waterwise, and welcoming.

Media reviews

"Will quench your thirst for inspiration ... Marion Brenner's elegant photographs ably capture the architectural drama of its bold forms and eccentric groupings."

New York Times

"Replete with brilliant color photography, this hopeful book will win over anyone who doubts that a desolate landscape can support thriving life."

Publishers Weekly

"Johanna and master garden photographer Marion Brenner would visit the garden every Saturday for a year. That commitment and dedication is evident in every sentence and every picture."

Succulents and More

"An eloquently written fan-letter to Ruth, and the garden ... You should buy this book. Because it's inspiring. Because it contains a subtle challenge to embrace your site, garden like you will live forever, and share your knowledge with those that care to ask."

Danger Garden

"Today, as the West wakes up with what fills like a collective hangover from the era of overly irrigated landscapes, the Ruth Bancroft Garden is the perfect antidote—dry yet lush, bold yet welcoming, and full of natural curiosities."


"Everything about The Bold Dry Garden, from the beautiful cover to the wealth of authoritative information it contains, will appeal to fans of succulents and other arid-region plants. But even if you have never planted a single cactus, you will be inspired by the story of Ruth Bancroft and her exemplary dry garden."

American Gardener

"Even if you don't live in the Bay Area, this is a garden of great significance and one that you'll want to discover. ... Throughout the book you'll discover secrets to Ruth's success and tips you can use in your garden."

Gossip in the Garden

"Celebrates the remarkable story of Ruth Bancroft and her groundbreaking succulent garden in the Bay Area ... includes design tips, plant profiles and stunning photos."

San Diego Home & Garden

About the author

Johanna Silver

Johanna Silver is a San Francisco–based writer, editor, and garden designer. She is the garden editor at Sunset, where she also manages the editorial test garden. Johanna is a regular contributor to Sunset magazines, books, and videos. Her writing earned her a James Beard Award in 2009 for her contributions to the One-Block Diet blog and an ASME award for General Excellence in 2014. Her website is johannasilver.com.

Read more about Johanna Silver

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