Country Gardens - - TABLE OF CONTENTS -

What do you get when you cross a con­ver­sant crafts­man and an avid plant col­lec­tor? An in­trigu­ing gar­den with lessons on how to use found things to make a state­ment.

Nes­tled in the heart of the Palouse, which en­com­passes some of the most pic­turesque farm­land in North Amer­ica, Suzanne St. Pierre and Scotty Thomp­son have carved out an ex­cep­tional gar­den where, they say, “hor­ti­cul­ture meets art.” Suzanne cu­rates and places plants, and Scotty cre­ates hard­scape and art pieces. Their col­lec­tive vi­sion is an assem­blage of hand­made and nat­u­ral beauty.

The cou­ple worked hard to ar­range their lives in a way that suited their dreams and their skills; in 2004, they opened a gar­den cen­ter at their home out­side of Pull­man, Wash­ing­ton. They called their busi­ness Liv­ing in the Gar­den. Grow­ing and sell­ing plants in spring and fall sus­tained the busi­ness, and the un­sold plants—gen­er­ally the left­over ugly duck­lings—were worked into dis­play gar­dens on the 2-acre prop­erty. The cou­ple re­tired in 2015, clos­ing the busi­ness, but they con­tinue to pur­sue their pas­sions for plants and art around their home.

Scotty’s con­tri­bu­tions come to him as fully formed ideas. “Scotty is a true vis­ual artist,” Suzanne says. “We ap­proach gar­den de­sign and our struc­tures to­gether. I hand th­ese images to him and he says, ‘Oh, I can make that!’” His fa­ther—a tal­ented artist, elec­tri­cian, and car­pen­ter—taught Scotty the skills to turn his ideas into beau­ti­ful and prac­ti­cal re­al­ity.

Since the early years of her ca­reer in whole­sale and re­tail hor­ti­cul­ture, Suzanne’s ap­proach to plants has un­der­gone a pro­found change. When she started her nurs­ery, it was a badge of honor to plant out­side your Zone, she says. “Your gar­den­ing skills were mea­sured by your abil­ity to keep mar­ginal plants alive.” Now, with a keen eye to­ward be­ing fru­gal, she thinks of her plants as com­pan­ions. “It’s fun to grow plants that are happy and per­form well,” she

Scotty fab­ri­cated the Junk Sphere by weld­ing dis­carded tools and pieces of metal into an orb. Plac­ing it on the de­com­posed gran­ite path, rather than nes­tled in a gar­den bed, makes it a stronger de­sign el­e­ment.

Vis­i­tors to the gar­den en­ter the iron­work gate and pass un­der Pieces Arch. Scotty cre­ated the mo­saic tiles by tum­bling bro­ken gar­den pot­tery in a ce­ment mixer.

Peren­nial golden hops (Hu­mu­lus lupu­lus ‘Aureus’) grow across the fa­cade of Suzanne and Scotty’s home. The fast-grow­ing plant pro­tects the house from hot af­ter­noon sun in the sum­mer and dies back to the ground in win­ter.

Rusted farm im­ple­ments find new ap­pre­ci­a­tion through­out Scotty and Suzanne’s land­scape. The silo, no longer used for grain, has a new life as a stor­age shed. Trel­lises made of bent hog-wire fenc­ing sup­port Cheyenne privet (Li­gus­trum vul­gare ‘Cheyenne’).

says. The Palouse area’s loess soils (loose and silty) get an av­er­age of only 20 inches of rain per year, and their Zone 6 win­ters can be cold and quite dry. Marginally hardy plants are no longer on her wish list.

When asked what her fa­vorite plant might be, Suzanne’s an­swer is, “What­ever is bloom­ing now…and any­thing hot pink and orange!” She loves the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing en­chant­ing mo­ments with plants as com­mon as old-fash­ioned orange and yel­low marigolds and other easy-to-find plants, such as gera­ni­ums, fuch­sias, Plec­tran­thus, and as­para­gus ferns. She asks her­self, How can I make it mag­i­cal?

And plants that don’t sur­vive? She laughs and says, “Well, we say that compost is a higher call­ing.”

OP­PO­SITE The out­door liv­ing area of Suzanne St. Pierre and Scotty Thomp­son’s gar­den of­fers a view of the sur­round­ing loess hills. This ge­o­graphic re­gion known as the Palouse cov­ers south­east­ern Wash­ing­ton, western Idaho, and north­east­ern Ore­gon. Wheat and lentils grow on th­ese hills. ABOVE LEFT Suzanne and Scotty grew an es­pe­cially artis­tic nurs­ery busi­ness and are now re­tired, but their cre­ative en­er­gies for blend­ing art and the land­scape are undimmed. ABOVE The brick path­way leads the eye along its axis to a large wa­ter fea­ture in a 4-foot-tall glazed teal pot. A pale gold gi­ant scabi­ous (Cephalaria gi­gan­tea) over­flows the bor­der.

ABOVE In its past life, Scotty’s mu­sic stu­dio was the of­fice and gift shop of the cou­ple’s for­mer nurs­ery busi­ness, Liv­ing in the Gar­den. Hardy se­dums and Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ cover the liv­ing green roof. RIGHT Once an out­house, then a nurs­ery dis­play struc­ture for pot­ting soil, the up­graded Be­go­nia Theater dis­plays ten­der and hardy be­go­nias. It was cre­ated for pure de­light but of­fers a bit of shade the plants need. Tin can lids make lapped sid­ing; the in­te­rior wall­pa­per is pages from an old gar­den­ing book. Hot pink paint—one of the few ma­te­ri­als that Suzanne pur­chased new—trims the struc­ture.


LEFT Glazed teal pots of sim­i­lar shape and size are placed through­out the gar­den, help­ing to unify var­i­ous ar­eas. This one is filled with a bright pink salvia and un­der­planted with or­na­men­tal oregano (Ori­g­anum ‘Kent Beauty’). ABOVE Suzanne and Scotty’s out­door liv­ing room of­fers a win­dow to the rolling hills of the Palouse and its lo­cal birds, such as the male Cal­i­for­nia quail perched on the fence. Scotty made the metal gar­den lamp by weld­ing to­gether two dis­carded or­chard smudge pots.

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