Union Tribune Feb. 4 2012Written by Nathan Scharn
VISTA — Few visitors to the botanical gardens in Brengle Terrace Park actually pay the requested $2 entry fee, but that doesn’t bother Alta Vista Gardens president and chief executive Bryan Morse. He’s just glad patrons are enjoying his latest venture.
“Right now I’m just happy to have people come,” Morse said. “It’s like my life mission to make botanical gardens. It’s what I need to do.”
Alta Vista Gardens is his second stint into this calling. The first was the Pikake Gardens in Valley Center.
The cylindrical collection box with a sign saying “Stop” and “Pay here” are easy to miss, nestled in the rocks and plants beneath a canopy of eucalyptus branches near the entrance. It collects about $25 a week, Morse said, less than it costs to order and install it.
Steps away from the entrance is the Children’s Garden, which includes a marimba-like instrument, a whale drum and a tuned instrument that looks like a massive Connect Four game, played by dropping pebbles into the holes.
“It’s one of the last free things to do in North County,” said Claire Hyde while visiting the garden with her baby, Layla, on her back and her 2 1/2-old daughter, Lydia. “Well, it’s a $2 donation when you come in, but you can be here for hours and pack a lunch.”
Lydia lay face down in pebbles while her mother talked about the garden.
“It’s really one of the only places in Vista where you can take your toddler and let them run around and not really worry about it,” Hyde said. “(Lydia) just likes to discover the trails, swim in the pebbles. It’s not a good day unless you go home from here filthy.”
Sculptures are mixed in with the plants in the 14-acre garden, because they belong together, Morse said.
Alta Vista’s Mission is to bring together people, nature and art.
Morse, who goes barefoot in the garden “to connect with the soil,” points to an unlikely little plant, which resembles a tropical version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, as perhaps the garden’s most rare: the Wollemi pine. It’s genetically identical to its plant ancestors from when dinosaurs roamed the earth 200 million years ago, he said.
Mustard weeds line the paths, reflecting Morse’s plan to under maintain rather than over maintain, “so it just feels right.”
Everything at Alta Vista Gardens is done naturally, Morse said.
“Here, we’re totally organic,” he said. “We’re a nature habitat. We don’t use any chemicals at all. We don’t use any bug spray. We don’t use fertilizers unless they’re 100 percent organic. Everything is done that way. That’s why we have more hummingbirds and more butterflies and more ladybugs and everything else. The nature is coming to the place.”