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Village Rock Shop owner Xenia Mateiu and landscape gardener Chris Bany create a harmonious garden with rocks and plants on State Street in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Jano’s Garden: Plant and rock people

Sometimes connections just happen. A joyous collaboration between the owner of the Village Rock Shop in Carlsbad and a local landscape gardener has produced a go-to site for anyone who ventures to the south end of State Street.

“My job is to lure people in with plants, then hopefully they wander into the rock shop to visit with Xenia and see her incredible collection of rocks,” says Chris Bany, of California Foodscapes in Carlsbad.

Village Rock Shop’s owner, Xenia (pronounced Zinnia) Mateiu, has been collecting and selling rocks for over a decade.

“People just like rocks!” she says. “They come into the shop and love to handle them and buy some to add to their collections. They are also interested in learning the origin of the rocks, many of which could be hundreds of years old.

“When I started collecting crystals years ago, I was fascinated not only by their geology but also their energy. Later, my husband and I started collecting a myriad of raw, rough, tumbled and faceted gemstones and since we have so many to share, we decided to open a shop.”

There are many theories as to why rocks appeal to people. Some say that certain rocks, such as crystals, give off a certain aura. Whether it is a glowing crystal, a sparkling pyrite or soothingly smooth moonstone, there are hundreds of rocks and gemstones to choose from.

In the courtyard next to the rock shop is an empty driveway, and when local landscaper Chris Bany walked past the site, he saw the potential to beautify another State Street space. He had been working on storefront gardens at State Street Yoga and The Stylist and wanted to spread his landscaping skills around the street.

Although Xenia had planted some of the favorites she had grown in her native Romania, there was still lots of blank space. And right there on the wall of the building was every landscaper’s dream, a 10-foot galvanized metal wall!

Now not everyone would be so excited about a metal wall, but Xenia and Chris set out to plant a garden that would attract visitors.

They planted a multi-color sunflower display, which would eventually reach 6 feet tall, assorted annuals, and the queen of the crop was two rows of State Fair Zinnias, appropriate considering how Xenia’s name is pronounced.

Xenia and Chris discussed the garden border, and Chris brought in his collection of beach stones. The oval beach stones form a border from the entrance to the shop, curving back to the driveway. The beach stones are a perfect example of how any homeowner can use materials that they have collected over the years to put their personality into a garden.

Rocks and stones have been used for centuries in both gardens and public and private sites around the world.

“Standing stones such as those at Stonehenge — either solitary or arranged in circles and rows — have been discovered in sites around the world and were probably used in rituals and ceremonies and for astronomical observations. No one knows for certain how these stones were moved into place, since contemporary monoliths are usually placed with heavy equipment,” writes Jessi Bloom, in her book “Creating Sanctuary” (Timber Press, 2018). Bloom traces the elements of sacred spaces and gives suggestions for the contemporary gardener.

Local examples of the fusion of plants and rocks in gardens can be found by visiting the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park and at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. Another West Coast garden to visit is Earth Sanctuary in Whidbey Island, Washington.

If you have an interest in this type of garden, you can also view sites at

For a closer look at Xenia’s collection of rocks, crystals, gems, salt lamps and chakra products, visit her at 2690 State Street in Carlsbad, phone 760-626-8520. Chris Bany works on gardens in Carlsbad and can be reached at 760-421-9855 or on Instagram at California Foodscapes.

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and works on community gardens in North County. She was the former Director of the Master Gardener Program at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Cooperstown, New York. She can be reached at [email protected]


J Clark August 28, 2020 at 11:11 am

We were just introduced to Chris Bany’s work in front of Janae’s Stylist studio. It was gorgeous and the cactus garden was amazing!
I am anxious to see what Xenia’s Rock Shop looks like!!!

jano nightingale August 31, 2020 at 8:27 pm

thank you both for your lovely comments! Our hope at COAST NEWS is to feature business people who are beautifying the area, and also providing new items such as ROCKS!!! The “South End” of State Street is now becoming a go-to site, and luring tourists and locals alike to expand their experience in Carlsbad.

Xenia Mateiu August 27, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Beautifully written! Thank you for all your time and talent Jano! You created a beautiful story, giving a voice to our space and collaboration. Many many thanks!

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