Kate Watts – a powerhouse of knowledge at Raleigh Iron Works

Kate Watts – a powerhouse of knowledge at Raleigh Iron Works

By Misty Gil, Posted in People
October 31, 2022


Raleigh Iron Works is a piece of history forged into a modern use. The buildings are part of historic steel mills and warehouses that were once part of Paden Steel.  Grubb Ventures is creating office space, retail, and a new seven story multifamily building on the site. You can find pieces of the historic grounds and parts of the buildings throughout the landscape interwoven into newly installed plant beds. We are very happy that Myatt Landscaping and Construction was awarded the install and maintenance of the vast array of plant beds and raised planters on the site. It would take a special individual to be able to curate the many ornamental grasses, vines, perennials, and shrubs and make sure that Raleigh Iron Works was always ready for people to enjoy.

That is where Kate Watts comes in. I stood at the tailgate of her work truck and chatted with her about where her passion for horticulture came from, and her time watching Raleigh Iron Works go from a shell of buildings to watching new tenants move in. Here is what she had to say.

“I am interested to see how these natural landscapes play out in the years to come, when you have a high-profile site like this, how it will be pleasing to the people that use it. It is a lot of maintenance, but we will get a handle on it when we experience the change in seasons on the site. It has been an exciting to be here since the beginning and watch the first garden bed develop”

 As far as Kate’s extensive plant knowledge, Kate says her dad was a big gardener. She says she wasn’t really interested in what he did when she was younger. He grew vegetables and she worked in the garden with him a lot. She got a job at Homewood nursery part time when her son went to preschool. There, she says “I crazy fell in love with plants. Plants coming off the trucks, the varieties, helping customers, it was electrifying.” From there she really began working on her own yard. A member of the Knightdale Garden Club asked her if she wanted to join when she rode by and saw an 8 month pregnant Kate tending her plants. From there she became super active with that and began running a youth garden club at the elementary school. She did trainings through the garden clubs of North Carolina and trained to become a certified flower show judge. Several years down the road, she decided to go to school for landscape design at Wake Tech. Kate did worry though. “I had always felt it to be super therapeutic and wondered if I did it for a career if it would take that passion away? I am doing this for a hobby and love it, but will this be something different?” Once through Wake Tech, she reached out to NC State and spoke to Lee Ivy, Director of the Agricultural Institute,  who encouraged her to go the horticulture route at the Ag Institute. She did a mandatory internship through the Ag Institute with Bland Landscaping at an estate behind SAS Campus where she worked in the 4-acre fruit and vegetable gardens. She enjoyed working on a small farm. They quickly asked her to come on full time on the estate after graduation. Kate reflects “I was on an island, doing my thing because that’s what I love to do”.

Kate took a recent two-year break through Covid to be with her son and once he went to college, she was ready to enter the plant world one more time. That’s when she and Myatt Landscaping and Construction crossed paths. The difference between what Kate specializes in, and what a maintenance crew does is drastic. Raleigh Iron Works calls for detail gardening, a finely honed talent that takes years to learn and a commitment to plant ID, growth habits, and seasonality of specific plants to be able to do.

As this site grows and goes from an active job site to a place people work, live and shop, Kate is excited to watch the landscape mature and grow. Kate really enjoys working on her own and taking ownership of the site and the way it looks. She cares about the plant health and functionality of the spaces. Kate also enjoys when our install team is onsite installing new plantings and she helps the crew layout plants and focus on the details as they work through the spaces. Kate expressed that this has been a total team effort from design, estimation and install.

We are certainly happy to have crossed paths with Kate and look forward to seeing what she can do at Raleigh Iron Works and beyond into the future with Myatt Landscaping and Construction.