WALNUT CREEK, CA — Forty years into his dream job, Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery curator Brian Kemble is never entirely alone in his head as he goes about planting, hybridizing, photographing, documenting and building databases. He is still channeling, on a daily basis, the lovely, cactus-crazed lady who inspired, then hired him, back in 1980.
Kemble, 75, is the designated keeper of the flame lit by the late Ruth Bancroft, who over the course of decades turned her 3.5-acre plot of land in Walnut Creek into a world-renowned showcase for the variety, hardiness and beauty of ornamental, drought-tolerant plants.
A couple of weeks ago, Kemble’s colleagues at the garden surprised him by drilling a plaque in his honor into a large boulder on the premises. He can’t tell you what it says, exactly, because he hasn’t actually read it yet. But he was both thrilled and, yet again, a