Herbal mandalas created by Terra Nova

By July 27, 2012Sustainable Landscaping

The story of the photos below goes like this…

Good Earth Tea Company had a warehouse located on the west side of Santa Cruz for many years. Over the years they would call me when they had product that for one reason or another was going to the landfill. When they closed their Santa Cruz warehouse they called and said they had a semi-truck worth of herbs going to the landfill! “I’ll take it” I said, without thinking. I ended up with One Thousand + pounds each of Rooibos tea, Chamomile tea, Rose hip tea, Hibiscus tea, Papaya Leaf tea, Eluthero tea, and get this, over nine hundred pounds of Kosher food grade crushed pink rose petals among many other teas and herbs. We also have our ongoing Chai Mulch to add into the mix. What ever to do with all these teas and herbs???


Well, I have given a lot of good quality tea away to friends, made sachets with the rose petals and then started to play with mulching pathways with the herbs. From the beginning I saw these herbs as a resource, even as artist materials. The ground has become my canvas and the herbs my paint. The next thing you know I was making herbal mandalas whenever Terra Nova had a table or a booth at an event. These photos are from a variety of venues. The Home and Garden Show at the Santa Cruz Cocoanut Grove, Earth Day, The Spring into Summer Festival and the Garden Faire. Enjoy our little foray into herbal mandalas, mulched pathways and even welcome signs written with the herbs.

Some of the herbs piled in my driveway.


 Ken gives a talk on making herbal mandalas.

  Jillian Steinberger makes a welcome sign.






About Ken

In 1967, 10-year-old Ken Foster read The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett. It took him a whole summer to read, but it inspired him to see gardening as a celebration of our coexistence with nature. In 1985, he took on an apprenticeship at the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden, and there he discovered his passion. He founded Terra Nova Ecological Landscaping in 1988, and has dedicated his life to caring for the environment and community through sustainable landscaping. He also teaches a permaculture class at Cabrillo College. When he’s not busy with designing, installing, and maintaining ecological landscapes, Ken can be found riding his bike around town, or making mandalas out of salvaged herbs that would otherwise have been sent to the landfill.


  • I love this! I can just imagine the aroma along with the incredible power of the mandalas.

  • Steve W says:

    There you go Ken, creating something beautiful. Way to be a human!

    Thanks for sharing your love. I’ll never forget the time you told me I should go see a band called the Red Hot Chile Peppers at the Catalyst. You were soooo right! So don’t just grow them, but also listen to them. and eat them!

    Lets sauna like we did last summer.

    Yours in dirt +;

    Steve Wells

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  • Very imaginative uses of too much tea. I like your style, I just would have wasted it by throwing it away but you have actually created some nice pieces of art there. Hats off to you.

  • Flower Pot says:

    What a creative way to enjoy all those herbs…way to go!

  • That’s a really creative way to enjoy the herbs!

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