Suzanne Turner and her husband, Scott Purdin, are big believers in urban communities. They live and work in Beauregard Town, just a few short blocks from downtown Baton Rouge.
As part of their commitment to the neighborhood, Turner, professor emeritus in the LSU School of Landscape Architecture, built a 2,800-square-foot garden behind her landscape architecture office.
She designed the garden on property she and Purdin acquired a few years ago and developed it with assistance from urban gardener John Hollingshead.
“We didn’t want somebody to develop it as a parking lot,” said Turner, whose roots to Beauregard Town go back at least three generations.
“I always had a small garden behind the office,” she said. “All of the people who work for me have small gardens.”
Originally the garden was half its current size, but, after the first year, Turner and Hollingshead decided they didn’t have enough room. They are continually adding, experimenting and improving.
Those in Turner’s office enjoy the garden as much as she does.
“I think it is important for people to have places to take breaks,” she said. “It’s also a test area for what we do. We can try out varieties of plants here.”
Turner designed the garden with raised boxes and plantings in circles. Although she has areas of flowers, much of the garden is dedicated to heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs. In the tradition of many old Southern gardens, a number of the beds are lined with wine bottles.
At the center of the garden is a walk-through vine-covered arbor of timber bamboo, with loofah and dipping gourds hanging through the pathway.
On the east side of the garden is a row of citrus trees. The north side features a patio of varying-sized pavers, a bee hive and a composting station.
The interior of the garden is planted with tomatoes, herbs, assorted greens, carrots, radishes and anything that strikes Turner’s fancy.
“I am very good at ordering plants,” she said with a laugh.
Turner and Purdin are “farm to table” people who enjoy the garden’s seasonal bounty and share it with friends. Their daughter, Amanda Purdin Standish, grew up in the neighborhood, where the family often cooked and ate with neighbors.
“When we picked tenants for our properties, we picked tenants who like to cook,” Turner said.
“We always try to cook things from the garden, seasonal things,” said Hollingshead, who often cooks with Turner and Purdin and other neighbors.
The ultimate plan for the garden is to “migrate” to the House on the Hill, a town square Turner and Purdin are developing in a collection of Beauregard Town backyards a couple of blocks from the big garden. The actual House on the Hill is one of the neighborhood’s older houses, which the couple has restored for the square’s gathering place. Across the green is a recently installed English greenhouse.
“The House on the Hill is centered around the idea of people gardening together, cooking together and eating together,” Turner said.
Phase 1 of the development will include seven new two-bedroom homes and four little studios for artists. The garden will be a two-tiered terrace behind the attractive greenhouse. There will be a catering area and lots of open lawn for relaxed living, meeting and entertaining.
“My goal has been to make Beauregard Town a residential neighborhood again,” Turner said. “The more crazy the world gets, the more important something like the House on the Hill becomes.”