Sage Outdoor Designs » landscape design

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How to make a small tree out of a large shrub

Small trees in large planter pots look great as a focal point in the landscape, but full-size trees are much too large and will quickly outgrow their pots. So what do you do? I like to start with a large but bushy plant and trim it into a tree shape.

This is a really showy plant to start with, Grevillea ‘Superb’. Here it is in a 24 inch box looking like a big bush:















This is me pulling back some of the foliage so you can see into the interior. It has a nice branch structure, so I can tell it will make a nice looking tree.















And here it is after I pruned it, ready to go into its planter:















So, what do you do if you want to try this for yourself? You can do it in a few easy steps. Step one is to take off the bottom 1/3 of the foliage from the entire plant. This will expose what will become the trunk of your tree (or maybe multiple trunks). Take off any tiny branches or leaves that are growing directly off the trunks. Step two is to lace out the top of the tree. To do this, take out any small branches that crisscross each other or any of that are growing straight up into the air.

That’s it! When you are finished, you will have a miniature tree ready to go.


Plants that can survive under California Pepper (Schinus molle) trees

Most California pepper trees you see will have nothing growing under them for two reasons: one is that they produce a chemical which is mildly poisonous to other plants, and the other is that they form a dense mat of surface roots. However, most of us don’t love the idea of bare earth or mulch under our pepper trees.

In scouring the web, I found plenty of information about plants that would grow under oaks and eucalyptus, the other two most common culprits, but very little about understory plantings for pepper trees. So, I have been assembling a list, and I’d like to share it. Any other plants that you know of that can survive under Schinus? If so, reach out and let me know- I’ll add it to the list!

Agave americana, Bergenia cordifolia, Cyclamen, Hedera (ivy), Lamium, Myoporum parvifolium, Rosmarinus prostratus, Sarcoccoca, Senecio mandralascae, Vinca minor.

Sage is featured in This Old House magazine

TOH_Outdoor Rm 1I’m so proud to have an outdoor living space featured in This Old House magazine. They were also kind enough to quote me giving some advice on creating your own outdoor living space. Outdoor living is definitely my passion- I love creating spaces that are personal and stylish. If you don’t get the magazine, you can check out the full article here.

Sage is featured on!

Make sure to check out this article by Houzz contributor Jennifer Christgau-Aquino on how to plan for your outdoor kitchen. She featured some photos of Sage work and there are even a few quotes from l’il ole me!

The link:

It’s time to cut back ornamental grasses

If you haven’t already, it is definitely time to cut back your ornamental grasses for the spring. What you see here is purple fountain grass that badly needs to be cut back. Last year’s grass has turned to straw, and the funny thing about straw is that it does not come back to life. Instead, when you cut it off, fresh new grass will grow back. To do it, you some twine to tie up the grass like you’re tying a ponytail. Then cut the whole ponytail off! At first, you will have a short haystack where your grass used to be, but within four weeks you will see fresh new grass.