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Rebecca’s Garden in Carlsbad is closing late this month after 10 years, but still has lots of blue-and-white pottery to fill a backyard garden. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

The art of collecting garden art

Rebecca Parker is a gem. She is a lone star collector who sits by herself amid a rough and tumble collection of amazing garden objects and plant material on State Street in Carlsbad.

And if you are in need of any unusual pot, mirror, statuary, rare glass jars or even birdcages, you will find it here.

But, sadly for all of her devoted followers, her eclectic shop is closing at the end of August. Now is the time to snatch up those treasures before they are gone forever.

As the sole owner of Rebecca’s Garden, she has learned over her decades of collecting found objects that even the strangest objects make good bedfellows. “Recently, I took a large glass water jar with a spigot, added some succulents, green moss and a clay bird,” she said. “No one knew the succulents were fake, but it looked adorable.

“But seriously, most of my designs are done with real plants and found objects. I especially enjoy placing an object, any object, in an interesting container. It makes the viewer stop for a second, and look and say, ‘What the heck was that?’

“And the trompe l’oeil goes on when the viewer looks down into a tiny glass container filled with plant material, a miniature dinosaur and a tiny Buddha and feels like Gulliver in ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’  Many of the larger stores are now selling fairy gardens — well I have been doing them for 20 years.”

When asked what is her most popular item, she answered gleefully, “Blue, blue, blue and white from everywhere! When I went to China in 1976, I found my first true blue-and-white pottery.

“But I also found it in England as ‘Wedgewood Blue,’ and in the Mexican Talavera designs. True garden collectors will buy anything that is blue to add to their garden landscape designs.”

There are over 50 blue-and-white pieces in her garden yard, but they are going fast.

When the final move to her home in Oceanside is complete, Rebecca will conduct classes in painting, garden design, fabric painting and tile work.

Contact her at [email protected] or visit her at 3087 State Street where she will be open seven afternoons each week until Aug. 26.


The trick, it seems, to low-cost decorative gardening is to use a small amount of plant material, such as succulents, cacti, perennial cuttings or vegetables, which can be set off by a beautiful piece of pottery or found object.

According to Tucson, Arizona-based Scott Calhoun in his 2009 book, “Hot Pots,” when planting single specimen plants such as a hibiscus, plumeria or euphorbia, it is important to “remember that the plant is the number-one element. You want to select containers that show off the plant’s best characteristics. When placing pots in your yard, create a grouping near the entryway, on a narrow walkway or a stairway.

“In contemporary staging, plants are used in a rhythmic and sculptural way to create a kind of living potted work of art. This look is accomplished through the repetition of identical cacti or succulents, such as the placement of three rows of miniature barrel cactus in a rectangular container.”

As illustrated in “Hot Pots,” Scott suggests, “be on the lookout for unusual containers made from metal, wood or ceramic and place near a wall with a mirror, a wooden cross or Mexican Retablo. Your garden will grow and grow over the years with your travels, so don’t try to do it all at one time.”


So often when living in a small space, we long for an expansive backyard we may have had in the past. Without a piece of land or a large yard, we must create “miniature outdoor rooms.”

I had the honor of meeting one of Arizona’s foremost landscape designers while studying at the Desert Botanical Garden Landscape Designer School 10 years ago. As a transplant from Upstate New York, I had to learn how to design yards and spaces that had very few trees, and small patios with lots of pots.

Cesar Mazier is a quietly famous landscape designer and former director of horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I say “quietly famous” because he is not a boastful soul and happily shares many of his trade secrets.

In my interview with him a few years ago, he shared so many of his secrets to designing a backyard that looks as if you hired a landscape designer, but is a DIY project with supplies from the hardware store.


According to Cesar, “a lot of home gardeners do not realize they can create an expensive-looking garden with some house paint and sturdy terra cotta pots from the hardware store. I often purchase one expensive, very tall, Chinese handmade planter, as large as my budget allows, and use that as my focal point.

“Now, here is the trick. I purchase at least three terra cotta pots of varying sizes (8” to 10”) and paint them with matte outdoor house paint. Purchase small, pint-size varieties of paint in closely related colors on a color wheel. For example, if you are highlighting a bright azure, high glaze Chinese 2-foot planter, you could purchase house paint in periwinkle blue and deep lavender.

“These matte paints also have endless possibilities if you add matte white to make the terra cotta pots appear lighter or darker, almost as if you were creating your own color wheel. The possibilities are endless once you get started with a paintbrush and can of paint.

“To finish the design for the patio, I place my hand-painted terra cotta pots in a circle around the 2-foot azure Chinese planter, and voila, we have a classic patio design, made by the home gardener.”

Cesar’s website ( contains step-by-step videos for designing a complete backyard, including paths, seating, plant material and water features. His photo gallery is exquisite, and although photographed in Arizona, many of the designs can be used in Southern California.

Please send us your suggestions and photos, so we can pass them on to other readers. Email [email protected].

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