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Treasures from local beaches create a microcosm of nature in Chris Bany’s gardens in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Find treasures for your garden on the beach

“Within a hard stone is movement, direction and centuries of accumulated time. The gardeners’ task is to make these qualities visible to the human eye. He selects rough, natural stones and sets them firmly in the ground. He may add greenery to balance or soften the stones with change and instability. And if his stones are weighty and exert a deep-rooted sense of strength and power on his garden, he says that they ‘live.’”

This quote is from “A Japanese Touch for Your Garden,” by Kiyoshi Seike. Written in 1960, this book illuminates the essence of gardening with stone and natural materials.

As spring approaches, we often travel to garden centers to choose colorful flowers, vegetables and often shrubs that produce fruit. But in the Japanese garden, natural materials such as pebbles, large stones and water depict a mountain or a stream.

My father was an avid, self-taught gardener, and in many trips to Japan as an industrial designer, he “learned by learning to look.” He returned to our Japanese-style summer home in Wisconsin to create subtle rock gardens and even a stream in the backyard.

Most of all, he created a quiet, gentle space for him and my mother to sit and contemplate. Living the whirlwind life as an industrial designer, he was able to come home to peace and quiet.

According to Seike: “Most Western-style gardens are admired for their formal beauty: their careful geometries celebrate the rational precision of their makers. They also offer colorful flowers or food for the table. The Japanese garden is no less contrived than its Western counterpart. But its rhythms and patterns — reproducing and symbolizing those of the landscape in the world outside — are established in such a way as to disguise the human hand. Garden stones and trees are laid out asymmetrically to suggest the rugged wildness of nature.”

Carlsbad landscape designer Chris Bany is a true hunter and gatherer of local natural materials. He scours the local Carlsbad and Oceanside beaches for the gifts that nature has given us on the shoreline.

“After a good storm the beaches are filled with treasures,” he says. “I find lots of driftwood, shells, beach glass and, of course, the perfectly oval rocks that I use in my gardens. I also use beach sand as a structural element.”

The gardens that do emerge from his findings are true microcosms of nature. Sea snail shells line up like little soldiers, and oval rocks share the tiny landscape with two perfectly placed ferns.

To view his gardens, visit The Village Rock Shop, 2690 State Street in Carlsbad, open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact Chris at [email protected]


So, put on your flip-flops and walk the local beaches for driftwood, rocks or shells that might add a bit of the East to your Western garden.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist who teaches gardening classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center and other sites. Contact her at [email protected] for upcoming workshops.









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