Lisa Snow Lady has dressed up her garden with her own paintings and the works of other Northwest artists.

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LISA SNOW LADY’S Ballard garden is fairly bursting with flowers, foliage and art. The fencing, arbors and latticework are hung with her own nature-inspired paintings, as well as the work of other Northwest artists Snow Lady has collected and traded with over the years. Snow Lady’s plantings inspire her work, and in turn her work adds to the individual character and ambience of her garden.

In one of many DIY vignettes in the garden, Snow Lady made the mosaic mirror, then hung it to reflect the hanging basket filled with fuchsias and bacopa. The vine growing up the lattice is <em>Akebia quinata</em>. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
In one of many DIY vignettes in the garden, Snow Lady made the mosaic mirror, then hung it to reflect the hanging basket filled with fuchsias and bacopa. The vine growing up the lattice is Akebia quinata. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Vines and vegetables are as much a part of the show as the art. From the moment you open the garden gate, you feel welcomed into a little slice of nature bedecked in tile, paintings and metalwork, as well as flora. Despite its small size, the corner property in one of Seattle’s most quickly densifying neighborhoods offers private places to hang out, including a cushioned bench and sunny dining terrace.

When Snow Lady and her husband, Jim Lady, bought the house in 1996, the yard was nothing but ivy, junipers, lawn and ratty boxwood. She’s done most of the garden renovation herself, repurposing old materials and buying fencing off Craigslist for raised vegetable beds. Her husband helped with the hardscape, and friends donated many of the plants.

Snow Lady had little gardening experience, other than potting up annuals, when she set to the task of renovating the garden. “I grew up in Seward Park, and my mom was a big gardener,” says Snow Lady. “I got sick of weeding early, but I must have intuitively soaked it up.”

Lisa Snow Lady’s garden inspires her work, and in turn her work enhances the garden, like this old door she painted with poppies and honeysuckle, named “Opening,” and hung on the back fence. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Lisa Snow Lady’s garden inspires her work, and in turn her work enhances the garden, like this old door she painted with poppies and honeysuckle, named “Opening,” and hung on the back fence. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

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She learned enough from that youthful weeding to keep maintenance in mind while planning her new garden. When she paints, Snow Lady works in acrylics or watercolors, but out in the dirt she works with vines, grasses and small evergreen shrubs like nandina and sarcococca for year-round structure.

“I grow very few perennials,” says Snow Lady. She relies on art for color in every season, and in summer, annuals brighten the sunny areas. The effect is eclectic, casual and personal.

Mosaics pave the way along raised beds and Spanish lavender in a sunny corner of the garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Mosaics pave the way along raised beds and Spanish lavender in a sunny corner of the garden. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Snow Lady has created garden rooms loosely divided by function and relationship to the house. The back garden, with its deck, arbor-topped bench and sunny sitting area, functions as the garden’s living room. There’s a brick-floored outdoor dining room shaded by an ancient white lilac. The narrow side yard is an inviting stroll garden with a brick path winding through foliage plants such as euphorbia, hellebores and sweeps of Japanese forest grass. In the south-facing front garden, a little urban farm soaks up the sun in the warmest spot on the property. Here Snow Lady grows eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes and greens in raised beds. The tiniest-ever orchard consists of one each of ‘Northpole’ and ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ columnar apple trees. Along the sidewalk and front steps, Snow Lady has planted the early-blooming ornamental grass Stipa tennuisima, and Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and Spanish lavender that seed about happily.

Lisa Snow Lady, with <em>Clematis montana</em> blooming overhead, in her Ballard garden, which features her own paintings as well as artwork from other Northwest artists. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
Lisa Snow Lady, with Clematis montana blooming overhead, in her Ballard garden, which features her own paintings as well as artwork from other Northwest artists. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Snow Lady sometimes paints scenes from her world travels. More often she paints gardens and intimate urban streetscapes. In her little house on a corner in Ballard, surrounded by plants and art, Snow Lady could well be living inside one of her own paintings.

Snow Lady’s garden-themed paintings are featured in the “Bumblebees, Blooms & Birdsong” exhibit that runs through May 16 at the Simon Mace Gallery in Port Townsend.