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Outdoor fireplace for a small garden

I came across this image of a outdoor fireplace by Scot Eckley serving double duty as a privacy wall. For a small urban or suburban garden, this is just such a fantastic use of space!

You’ll need a ventless or back-venting firebox to do this (these guys make some, and so do these guys). The payoff? You get a wonderful outdoor living space that feels like a courtyard, and you get to borrow your neighbor’s tall shrubs or trees to soften the background. And, in this case, you get to grow gorgeous boston ivy on the wall so it looks soft, and kind of secretive (okay, maybe I read the Secret Garden a few too many times as a child, but who doesn’t love a wall covered in vines?) and for a garden that is really mostly hardscape, it looks like a green refuge. So even though the plants used here are vibrantly green, this is a waterwise garden because their are so few of them.

After I ogled this image for a while (did I mention how much I adore the bluestone pavers?), I decided I needed to learn more about Scot’s work, and came across this small fountain with a stainless steel scupper and organic stone bowl. And yep, that really is fake grass. The ground cover needed to be something permeable since the bowl spills over into a basin that is hidden under the “grass”. You could use gravel if you are ethically against fake grass.

And then I found this lovely alfresco dining room. I’m always an advocate for gravel as a really good patio option. Yes, it is spikey and you won’t want to walk on it in your bare feet, but it is also so classic (think villa in Italy), inexpensive, permeable (and permeable is so Green)….

The key with a gravel patio is to use gravel that is fairly uniform in color (otherwise it looks speckled like confetti). I like cream colored gravel the best, but anything neutral is nice. I like the way the chairs at the head and foot of the table aren’t the same as the rest of the chairs. I think these ones are from Crate and Barrel, but Cost Plus has a decent knock-off right now.

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

Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Kate
Wiseman, the Principal, has been a San Diego landscape designer
for the past ten years. Find out more at