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Yardscape is a cross between hardscape and found objects, such as these colorful bottles, that appear in your garden. Stock image
ColumnsJano's Garden

Create your own yardscape from found materials

On a quiet corner in suburban Carlsbad, I spot an odd collection of garden art that forces me to slow down and take a closer look each time I drive past.

I finally got to meet the owner of this eclectic garden, Terri Polley, and she described her 10-year hunt to find the perfect objects for her tiny front yard garden. 

“The VW door came from the first car I owned in 1966. And the license plate tells a little bit about where I came from, Iowa!” 

She gleefully guides me through the sculptural garden and explains how the construction of wine bottles arose.

“I had a few bottles from a wine club that we belonged to, and then once it got started all the neighbors brought me theirs,” she said. “I went out and bought a drill press, and watched a YouTube video about how to use it.”

Now, the bottle construction is the entryway to her garden and slows down traffic on her quiet street. 

Yardscape: The door of a VW Beetle becomes a work of art in Terri Polley’s garden in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
The door of a VW Beetle becomes a work of art in Terri Polley’s garden in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale


A yardscape is a cross between the hardscape and found objects that appear in your garden.

As many of you know, hardscape is the collection of any type of material that is not a living plant, tree, flower or vegetable. 

If you wander through your neighborhood, chances are that someone has created their own collection of driftwood, shells, rocks, sculpture and even children’s toys. 


Jamie Durie, a landscape designer from HGTV, and author of “The Outdoor Room,” reminds us, “When designing an eclectic garden mix, I shop around the neighborhood (okay, I did a little dumpster diving) for discarded and neglected pots and plants. 

“What a great way to shop for planters and what goes in them!”

Jamie also suggests checking online in local Nextdoor or Craigslist services that advertise free stuff. When homeowners or apartment dwellers are moving, they often have to get rid of valuable plants and hardscape material.


Many of my gardener friends walk the local beaches for the perfect items to complete their rock and driftwood collections. 

One local gardener advised, “Walk the beach at low tide after a good storm, and the stash of rocks and driftwood are at their peak. The favorite local spots are Ponto Beach in Carlsbad and the Oceanside Pier.”

After collecting ocean rock, you can build a small stone wall by inserting the rock in the soil, or place in an existing garden as a home for rock garden plants.


If you enjoy traveling, many regional states boast their own collection of rock and stone. 

Arizona, Utah and Northern California have geographical areas that boast quartz, amethyst, turquoise, and even fool’s gold.

Be certain when traveling in public parks that rock hunting is permitted.


When starting a new yardscape or rock garden, begin with just a small rock or shell collection and a small patch of soil. 

Check out the North American Rock Garden Society for local tours and clubs that can give you lots of ideas for rock garden plants and herbs that are suitable for your new garden. 

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist and educator who teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Contact her at [email protected].