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 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 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 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 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 for more info.