The Bold Dry Garden

Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden


By Johanna Silver

Photographs by Marion Brenner

Formats and Prices




$46.95 CAD



  1. Hardcover $37.50 $46.95 CAD
  2. ebook $16.99 $21.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 5, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

“For those of you—and your numbers are growing—gardening in drought-stricken parts of the country, The Bold Dry Garden will quench your thirst for inspiration.” —New York Times Book Review

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. 


  • “This sumptuous book will inspire you to create your own water-saving paradise.” —Flora Grubb, owner of Flora Grubb Gardens
    “This book wonderfully reveals Ruth’s enduring lessons in the power of creativity and imagination—and big, bold compositions—to transform even the most unpromising landscape into a work of art.” —Jenny Young du Pont, president and CEO of The Garden Conservancy
    “Ruth Bancroft’s garden is a rare combination of an artist’s vision and a meticulous collector’s passion—an invaluable resource that showcases the rich textures, structures, and colors of dry plants.” —Andrea Cochran FASLA, principal of Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture
    The Bold Dry Garden beautifully showcases the glorious garden Ruth Bancroft so courageously created.” —Bernard Trainor, bernard trainor + associates

    “For those of you—and your numbers are growing—gardening in drought-stricken parts of the country, Johanna Silver's The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden will quench your thirst for inspiration. This dazzling three-and-a-half-acre succulent garden in Walnut Creek, Calif., was the Garden Conservancy's first preservation project. Marion Brenner's elegant photographs ably capture the architectural drama of its bold forms and eccentric groupings, as well as the strange and intriguing textures of individual agaves, cycads, euphorbias and sedums. Plump or spiny, tiny or looming, succulents have enormous variety and endless appeal. It seems almost criminal to avoid them in favor of lawns.” —The New York Times Book Review

    “The American garden, located in Walnut Creek, CA, that inspired the Garden Conservancy is handsomely portrayed precisely when people should follow Bancroft’s lead of using xerophytic plants, challenging convention, and paying attention to climate cues.” —Library Journal starred review

    “Combining biography of the dry-garden pioneer with a landscaper's guide, Silver and photographer Brenner tour the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, Calif., and discuss the life and work of its creator and namesake. Replete with brilliant color photography, this hopeful book will win over anyone who doubts that a desolate landscape can support thriving life.” —Publishers Weekly 

    “A must for any garden-lover’s bookshelf, this book pairs Johanna Silver’s eloquent storytelling and Marion Brenner’s exquisite photography to show how the Ruth Bancroft Garden evolved into the 3.5-acre waterwise garden that it is today.” —Garden Design Magazine

    “An inspiring history of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, in Walnut Creek, California, that’s packed with rich photography. You’ll learn about design and plant palettes, as well as practical information on how to maximize a water-wise landscape from the pioneer of dry gardening.” —Martha Stewart Living 

    “This book serves readers in several ways. If you live in a nearly frost-free, dry climate like that east of San Francisco, you can take it right out to the garden or a local nursery. If you are an avid indoor gardener with grow-lights or south-facing windows, you will be thrilled by the extensive picture-filled encyclopedia of cacti and other succulents. If you love gorgeous books with voluptuous pictures (by Marion Brenner, California's premier landscape photographer), this is a book for your collection. I'm happy to say that another reason to get this book is for the richly illustrated biography of this remarkable plantswoman.” —Better Homes and Country Gardens

    “Part coffee table book and part homage, The Bold Dry Garden is a beautiful book.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk

    “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.” —Sunset

    “The book provides a history of the garden and its founder as well as practical information about design principles and plant palettes, all beautifully photographed by [the photographer] Brenner.” —Hortus

    “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.” —The American Gardener

    “This book is a loving tribute in text and magnificent photographs to the plant collecting passion of one woman—Ruth Bancroft. . . . Bancroft's adventurous plant choices, attention to climate cues, and lack of fear of failure all provide an exquisite lesson to contemporary gardeners.” —Choice 

    “Lavishly illustrated with full colour photographs—including charming shots from the early years and eye-catching vistas or close-up details of plants taken more recently—all demonstrating Ruth's ability to blend art, horticulture and botany. . . .anyone interested in putting together a garden of succulent plants cannot fail to be inspired to try and replicate some of those vistas using hardier subjects. Otherwise, simply turn the pages and immerse yourself in the story of one of the world’s great gardens.” —The Garden

On Sale
Oct 5, 2016
Page Count
236 pages
Timber Press

Johanna Silver

About the Author

Johanna is a James Beard Award-winning author who writes mostly about plants and people. Johanna is a contributing editor at Better Homes & Gardens, and her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Eating Well. Previously, Johanna spent ten years at Sunset Magazine, beginning with a shovel in her hands and culminating as head of the garden department. In 2016, she oversaw the creation of new editorial test gardens as part of the brand's historic move from Menlo Park to Oakland and Sonoma. 

Learn more about this author