Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kate Presents has moved!

Hey everyone: I have moved the location of the blog onto my website. You can find it now at: http://sageoutdoordesigns.com/blog/

Here is a link to the most recent blog article. I will only do this a few times, so please change your bookmark over to the new location.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kate Presents is moving to a new home

I have been working hard to revamp my web presence, and as a part of that (drum roll please), I have finally combined this blog and my website. The new home of Kate Presents will be here. Same rambling (oops, I mean, relevant) content, just a new location. I hope you all decide to follow me there!

I will post a few final posts in both locations, and then I'll quit with that and move to the new location for good. So, one more time, just in case you didn't get it ('cause I really do want you to make the move with me), the new location is:


Thanks, readers! I appreciate you all and hope to see you soon with plenty more Kate Presents ramblings, I mean articles!



Friday, October 12, 2012

Mid-Century modern planters by Steel Life


 If, like me, you are a little obsessed with Mid-Century modern, I think you'll love these planters by Steel Life! I love their atomic-age look, their playfully bold colors, and their wonderfully unique shape.

The top two images are of their Shallow root vessel. It is perfect for succulents, cacti, or grasses. Because of its long legs, it helps elevate unique small plants up closer to eye level, so it is the perfect choice for showing off finer-textured specimens.

But my personal favorite is the Matchstick planter (last image). It comes in a small and large size so you can make a grouping with two of them. Don't you love how the earthiness of the wood contrasts with the smooth bright basins?

I feel like they embody everything that is attracting people to Mid-century design right now: the nice lines, the iconic forms, the optimistic color.... in fact the general optimism of the early sixties is something I feel like we could all use a splash of right now, and aren't these just so splashy?

I'm getting one for my office, which is in a Mid-Century building and is currently painted red-orange, teal, and lime green. I think they'll fit in just fine!

(and, I'll post photos for you all to see once I have mine in place....)

Happy weekend everyone!

















© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Modern barbecue island (outdoor kitchen)

 I have designed quite a few outdoor kitchens, and I will admit that I have my own favorites amongst them. This is one of them- it is a simple barbecue island but the difference is in the details (as always, right?) and I love the details on this island!

Hopefully it shows in the photos that the island curves slightly. It is built to be dual purpose- not only is it a barbecue, it is also a retaining wall. The garden space here is very small, so I had to use every trick up my sleeve to max out the amount of outdoor living we could squeeze into the space while still leaving room for plenty of plants (if you don't save room for the plants, no outdoor space will ever feel all that relaxing and comfortable).

I also just adore the materials: a poured-in-place concrete counter, stained a dark chocolate brown and sealed with an epoxy sealer for that hard-as-glass look, Syzygy tile mosaics just under the counter, and a clean smooth stucco on the sides. The paving that you can see just a little is a colored concrete that has a top cast finish to give it that sandy look.

You all know that I really believe that outdoor living is the way to go in San Diego, and this garden is just such a great example of how you can fit a lot of it into a small space. We found room for an outdoor diningroom, the barbecue island, a fire pit (which I might post for you soon....) with its own lounge area, a hot tub with its own little patio, and there is still room to wander around the garden, grow a few citrus, and let the dogs out into a dog run. Not bad, right?

Want to see what it looked like before? The before photo is at the end- take a look! And thank you to JCMS Landscape, who built the project! I have a few more photos of it up on an ideabook on Houzz, you can see them here.






Before we started- lawn and a tiny patio











Monday, September 17, 2012

Do you use Pinterest?

I stumbled upon Pinterest fairly recently, and I will admit that at first I thought it was silly. Pinterest is a way to easily grab photos from around the web and share them. There are lots of photos of cute puppies, rainbow layer cakes, and new ways to put on eye-makeup. I wasn't impressed.

But then I realized that there are a lot of amazing garden photos on there if you go looking. And it is an easy way to browse through images looking for inspiration, something I love to do!

Eventually it also occurred to me that it is a great way to group photos and start making folders of garden styles. My eventual plan is to use the folders as a tool to show homeowners what style of garden might work with their home. That plan might take me a while to execute, but here is the beginnings of it, if you'd like a bit of eye candy: Kate Presents on Pinterest.

What about you, do you use Pinterest? Have you come up with ways to use it that are about more than just looking at puppy photos?


© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Do you take your work home with you?

I think that everyone imagines that a landscape designer probably has a huge garden just bursting with plants. Some do, but I fall much more in the category of not wanting to take my work home with me.

So instead of a burgeoning garden, I have a few carefully picked pots on a small balcony. And I love it that way. One of my clients started calling all of her new plants her "dependents" and I guess I think of it that way, too. So these pots are the few dependents that I have deemed worthy.

The pots themselves are from Planter Paradise in El Cajon. It is the best, and most affordable, pottery store in the County. Hands down, no arguing. Their pots are at least 50% cheaper than everywhere else, and about 100% cheaper than buying pots from a nursery. If you go, and you really should, say hello to Robert for me. He's the owner- you will not believe how many pots he can squeeze into the trunk of a Toyato Yaris. Really, it's a skill.

So, in the teal square planter, I have my newest dependent, Pennisetum spathiolatum. It came from Green Meadows and I love how the seedheads dance above the foliage.

The next one is my culinary herbs: thyme and rosemary. I also have cilantro, tarragon, oregano, and sage. With those around, my inner chef is satisfied.

My succulent planter has Sedum Autumn Joy (a little past its prime) and sedum morganium, with a little Echevaria peeking through.

My new succulent bowl has my favorite little Aloe, Aloe Doran Black, with a few friends.

What about you? Do you take your work home with you?







Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What was your first garden?

My road to becoming a landscape designer in San Diego was a long and twisted one. It all started with a little plot in my parent's backyard that I could make my own. I planted it with purple perennials- I remember foxgloves and columbines- and I was oh-so-proud of it!

Sadly, it didn't last long. We had the trees above my plot trimmed and all the branches fell on my little garden and smashed it. I was so sad to see my cheerful little columbines squished! To this day, foxgloves and columbines are still some of my favorite perennials.

Since then, I've had many gardens and many triumphs and defeats. I live in a condo now, so my garden is all in pots on my balcony. Wanna see? I'll write an article about them soon!

So, I want to know, what was your first garden? Did someone teach you to garden or did you strike out on your own? Do you have a green thumb?



© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is there anybody out there?

So I realize that a lot of the hits I get on my blog aren't actually real people, they are little "robots", programs designed by the search engines to troll websites and rank them. I'm glad those robots look at my blog. But, I suspect that some of you are actually real people, and I'd be so much more excited if real people were reading this.... You are real, aren't you?

I'd love to know who you are, and more than that, I'd love to know what you want to know about!

I'm an obsessive reader of Slate.com and on there they have a weekly advice column. Would you guys be interested in the garden design advice column? As in, you send me your garden questions and I'll answer them... what do you think?

Do you like some of my articles but hate others? Maybe there is something you wish I'd touch on... if so, write a comment! Ask and you shall receive!

Or just write me a comment and introduce yourself. Are you a fellow designer? If so, I want to see your website! Are you a homeowner looking for ideas to implement in your own garden? I could write more about do-it-yourself projects. Are you in San Diego and hoping to learn more about what grows here, or where to buy pottery, or how to find a contractor? Let me know that and I'll get you answers! Want to see what I am working on? I can show before and afters. Right now I'm working on a design in google's 3-D drawing program, sketchup, wanna see it?

Its a lonely word blogging for the robots. If there are real people out there, say 'hello' and it'll make my day. Tell me something about who you are and it'll make my week!

By the way, the awesome metal grate in this photo is from a design by Jeffrey Gordon Smith, who I stalk... well, I stalk photos of his designs I should say.  I think the grate might be made by Iron Age Designs.


© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Modern pottery in San Diego? Yep, at Grounded

San Diego has a pottery problem. We have plenty of places where you can get imported pots from China and Vietnam, but that is about it. If you are looking for anything else (say a Spanish looking vase to use as the center of a fountain, or a classic English garden urn) you have to go looking a little harder.

Thank goodness we finally have access to some really nice modern pottery, thanks to Grounded in Encinitas. If you haven't been there yet, please go! It is in the LumberYard on Highway 101 (and I'd recommend stopping in for a glass of wine at the 3rd Corner while you are there). They have a good selection of modern indoor and outdoor furniture and accessories.

These are just a few: Fruit Trough by Gus Modern ($115), Circle Pot by Gainey Ceramics ($89 ea), and Architectural Pottery Sculpture Column ($105).

Can someone please hire me to do a mid-century design for them so I can use the sculpture column....?


















© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Modern design for your garden: plant spheres


There is something about a perfect sphere: so geometric, so clean, so mathematical, so sculptural. They can't help but dress up a landscape.

I love sphere shaped plants in a modern landscape in perfect rows with some space in between the plants so that you can really clearly see the round form. I also love them in planter pots that share their curves (especially if the pots are the most basic of colors: black or white, with smooth sides. You don't want any texture to draw your eye).

Here are a few of my favorite spheres, from top to bottom: Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), Hedgehog Agave (Agave stricta), Dasylirion wheeleri, Sedum 'Lemon Coral', Buxus sempervirens trimmed as a topiary sphere, and Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball'. Golf ball stays very close to a sphere all on its own, so it is quite low maintenance. All of these will be happy campers in most parts of San Diego county.






















© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Modern garden design using ornamantal grasses

Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a tour of the wonderful ornamental grass nursery, Green Meadow Growers, where I was reminded how much I love designing with grasses! The nursery has a huge selection of grasses to chose from (as well as a nice selection of perennials and succulents) and I think that many of them would be perfect for a modern landscape design, or a very naturalistic one. Here are a few of my old favorites, as well as a few I just learned existed:

 These little guys are Carex tumicola. They get about 18" tall and have a lovely emerald green color. I love these for Craftsman designs, as well as modern ones. They stay very tidy looking.

This is one of my all time favorites: Chondropetalum tectorum. I love its upright habit (it is about 4' tall, sometimes more) and the lovely blue-green color. It is a rush, so you'd think it needs a lot of water but think again! This guy is pretty drought tolerant. 
 This lovely little one is Deschampsia caespitosa 'Northern Lights', and you have to love its knock-out pink and yellow leaves. It gets about 14" tall.

This one is a biggie- Juncus 'Javelin'. It gets to be almost 7' tall, and it does have sharp needle-like tips so don't put it where anyone can brush up against it. But I think it is so sculptural and has a lovely blue color. 
 This sweet one is Melinus 'Pink Champagne' and I don't think you'll find a nicer grass to soften up an English garden or perennial border. I'd like to see them in a huge mass planting, as well.

This reliable grass is Miscathus 'Adagio'. I think it is just the right size, about 3'-4' tall usually, and I don't think anyone can resist its soft fluttery feathers, I mean seedheads. This is a grass that moves in the wind, so it adds a whole other dimension to the garden. 
 This is one of the smaller options, Muhlenbergia lindhamaerii, at about 24" high. It has feathers almost like a fountain grass.
 We all know and love the purple fountain grass, here is its sterile green cousin, Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails'. This grass will make you want to run your hands through the soft seedheads. I would love to see this grass softening up a modern landscape.
 This is not a flax, oh no. And if anything, its colors are more rich and complex than a flax. It is Pennisetum 'Princess', and it gets about 3' tall. Or for more of a statement, try its 7' tall brother, Pennisetum 'Prince'.
 Who hasn't spent ages wishing and hoping to find a tiny bamboo to add to Japanese garden designs (no? just me, really?) but been scared off by the fear that they will spread and get out of control? Well, this baby is Pogonatherum paniceum, aka Baby Bamboo, and it won't spread out of control! It will make a nice 24" tall and round mass. Doesn't it look exceptional in a pot?
 This lovely little one is Sesleria autumnalis, and I think it is just the perfect grass for small spaces. It is less stiff than the other tiny grasses, like Festuca, and I think less formal looking since the seeds stand so tall above the leaves. It will get 18"-24" tall.
Isn't this one a knock-out? It is Spartina bakeri, Sand Cordgrass, and it will get 6' tall. In this image it is mass planted under ginkgo trees and I adore the look.








© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Arabian lilac, a garden gem

Arabian Lilac, it even sounds like a gem, doesn't it?

Here is why the designer side of me loves this plant: it has remarkable leaves that are a soft green on top and a striking purple on the undersides. You don't have to wait for the flowers for this plant to make a statement, it looks as lovely as a flower all of the time!

Here is why the practical side of me loves this plant: It survives in our terrible soils! This plant can take clay soil like a champion, and still thrive.

Also, I like that you can train it as a medium sized shrub (~4' tall and wide) or let it be a larger shrub (~6' to 8' tall) or train it into a perfect tiny tree. And in the small gardens that most of us have, a perfect tiny tree is something I find myself looking for often.

Image credits: Flaming Petal blog by NZ Garden writer Jane Wrigglesworth, Monrvia Nursery's website (where you can get great info about this plant and many other excellent plants that they breed).


























© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Looking for something a little earthy?

I have always thought of Cepac tile as a company that made tile for commercial and institutional installations, so I never paid much attention to their line, until now. Have they gotten wildly more interesting recently, or was I just not looking hard enough?

These tiles are tiny mosaics- each tile is about a half of an inch long. The glazes are wonderfully mottled and the colors are lovely. They remind me of leaf litter and mushrooms, seashells and pebble beaches, cloudy sky and rain puddles. I'm especially fond of the herringbone pattern. Wouldn't they make a wonderful kitchen backsplash?I don't think I'd ever get tired of looking at the wonderful colors and wondering what exactly in nature they remind me of the most....

Cepac tile is distributed by the really helpful folks at DAL tile. Have you been to their showroom off Convoy to look at everything they have? DAL is a great resource because they often have designer tile at not-quite-designer prices.

© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Like nature intended- Anthony Archer Wills

I'm going to tell you something absolutely unbelievable:  the stream in this photo is man-made. Really.

It was designed and built by an incredible and awe-inspiring English artisan, Anthony Archer Wills. He is the maestro of naturalistic water gardens. A wizard with rock, an artist with water, a painter with plants. This is taking the creation of a water feature to a whole new level. And I for one, and truly amazed.

Please take a moment to look at his website- it is very worth the visit!

© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Monday, August 13, 2012

White gravel: not your grandma's garden

Please don't do this....

In a wonderful rant on Apartment Therapy this week, I came across Master gardener and author Margaret Roach's confession: she abhors red dyed bark mulch. As a professional landscape designer, I have to say I second that motion wholeheartedly!

After the article, readers were encourage to comment and I was surprised at how many people rose up to defend the stuff, claiming that it could look good in certain situations. I dare anyone to find one of those situations (and email me a photo- I'll post it!)

I was surprised, also, that so many people also tried to take black dyed bark mulch down a notch. Unlike its gawky red cousin, I think the black mulch can look wonderful, especially in a modern garden. Can you see it here to either side of the fountain? I love how it speaks to the inky black of the reflecting pond.

Another surprise was how many people objected to white gravel, saying it reminded them of their grandma's front yard. Okay, yes, I admit that I did like to steal the sparkly white gravel out of my septuagenarian neighbor's front yard when I was six, but it has made a real come back since then! It can be wonderfully clean and classic, like this elegant Mediterranean garden by AMS Landscape, or oh-so-minimalist-modern like this funky firepit/fireplace patio by Grounded (whose Mid-Century inspired work I just adore).




© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Urban gardens, done so well it's urbane

Every once in a while, I stumble on a design firm that just stops me in my tracks, and I find myself digging through their website until I've seen every photo they have to show me. Rees Roberts and Partners, out of NYC, are one of these firms.

It was this tiny urban garden that first caught my eye. They have pulled off everything you can hope for in a tiny city garden: it is verdant, peaceful, livable, comfortable, seasonal, and stylish, all in about 300 square feet! I adore the all-green color palette and how it makes you focus your eye on the texture of the plantings, the long draping Boston Ivy, the delicate bamboo, the big-leaved hostas.

Altogether nice, nice, nice. This is an urbane garden, if ever I saw one.

© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Water slides: please don't do this

On Kate Presents, I try to make an effort to stay positive, so I don't usually post very often about things that I really dislike. It is a belief that I hold very strongly that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That said- there are a few things that I am quite happy to be outspoken about disliking and this is one of them- I hate the way water slides look. In my mind, they fit into two categories: ugly, and horribly ugly. The worst offense of all is when you don't have a hill to slide down, so you just build one.... in the middle of nothing... and then you label it naturalistic. They don't look natural! In nature, water runs downhill, end of story. It doesn't magically get pumped up to the top of a pile of rocks so that it can tumble down.

And, as much as I do believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I believe something else even more strongly: things that look like they violate the laws of nature, like you tried to copy nature's work and just did a bad job of it, those things can never be beautiful.

(Normally, I link to the photos I use as examples. In this case, I'm sure you'll all understand why I'm not doing that).

What do you all think? Water slides, really fun or really ugly?














© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A cool look for summer

This photo was my inspiration for the day, so I thought I'd share it with you all to see what you think of it. This is a garden I came across on my rambles around the web, and I'm sorry to say that I don't know who the designer is (but if you do, please tell me so I can credit them). I love the plant palette for this garden- the cool blues and greys with a few pops of burgundy really grab me.

In case they grab you too, these are the plants I can identify in the photo (starting at the front left and working to the back right): Phormium tenax (maybe Amazing Red?), Carex testacea, Senecio mandralascae, Anigozanthos flavidus, Agonis Afterdark, Bougainvillea 'California Gold', Olea europea.

Other things I love about this garden: the decomposed granite pathway, the way the soil is mounded against the seat wall.... oh, and did I say the colors? I adore the colors?

Obviously, this garden isn't for everyone. I can imagine some crazy people might think it looks too wild or unkempt. What do you think?

© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I'd love to help! Please visit www.sageoutdoordesigns.com for more info.