Suzie Cranston’s Birdhouse Garden

When Suzie Cranston’s world was rocked by the death of her son, Peck, a sign saying ‘Peace begins in the garden’ inspired her to create a garden that would celebrate his life.

Beautiful at any time of the year, my sweetheart and I often pause to admire it on walks through our quirky little neighbourhood, Fondren, in Jackson, Mississippi. More than twenty years after starting the garden, Suzie is eager for others to enjoy it as much as she does. She welcomes visitors with a broad smile, pointing out things they may have missed: flowers, garden art, a new birdhouse and, in particular, things that Peck would have loved, such as the tortoises which appear everywhere. 

Red roses with an assortment of birdhouses

The extensive collection of birdhouses will command a visitor’s first impressions, but any garden-lover will soon be drawn by the cottage garden-style planting on either side of the white picket fence. Roses, daylilies, echinaceas, gaura, camellias, dahlias, cannas, tradescantia and ferns tumble together in a riot of colour.

A hand-painted garden hut with flowers and garden art

Round the back of the house, the flowers and whimsy continue. Suzie has created a happy space that’s always full of life to celebrate her son. The flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Although the birdhouses are rarely occupied, the garden is filled with birdsong in the day and the chirping of green anoles cuts through the dusk.

A craftsperson in her own right, Suzie has gathered together a collection of garden art of many styles with help from her friends. A classical statue of St. Fiacre looks out through ferns; a ceramic rabbit peeps over flowers near to a large, elongated metal one. The birdhouses really deserve a post of their own. I liked the textures and colours of these insect-themed birdhouses and loved the natural bird house made from the lower trunk and roots of a tree with a driftwood roof.

Birdhouses made from tree roots hanging from a tree

Flowers catching the light under a row of bird houses

You may remember this pink birdhouse – several bloggers admired it when I posted a close-up view of it covered in snow a few weeks ago. The natural planting falls midway between a cottage garden and a flower meadow. I love the way the light creates a pointillist effect as it falls on the gaura and other flowers.

Painting of Peck on the garden outhouse

I feel sure that Suzie would want me to finish this garden tour with this painting of the person who inspired it, her son, Peck Cranston, shown here as a boy holding a tortoise. To see a picture of Suzie and learn more about the story of her garden, take a look at this article: Flock Together.

Suzie is a wonderful advert for the benefits of gardening. As she says, “My yard makes me so happy… and people stopping by to visit it makes me even happier.”

I’m sharing this as part of the weekly challenge: tour guide.

44 Replies to “Suzie Cranston’s Birdhouse Garden”

    1. You’re right of course – flowers generally resist order. Close ups can lend a feeling of control, but in this garden, you’d have to trample flowers willy-nilly to get close to the one you wanted, with my iPhone at least. When it was covered in snow, Suzie’s double pink camellia looked absolutely gorgeous in full bloom, but from afar the camera just turned it into small pink blobs scattered across a green and white background. It was so very tempting to wade in and capture some close ups – they could have been the most classically beautiful pictures – but I resisted and feel better for it!

  1. I am in awe. The layers and complexity certainly seem to me true to a mother’s grief. What a memorial! I’m especially charmed by the bird church with the doorknob door, and I understand the impulse of her neighbor to stop and pray. Everything about this is touching. Thank you!

    1. You’re intuitive as ever to pick up the layers and complexity, which are more than I’ve been able to show. I hope I’ve come close to illustrating the character of the garden. As I was writing the post, I could imagine Suzie saying ‘you’ve missed this – don’t forget that!’ as she is so eager to share it with others. You’d have to live with a garden like this to fully appreciate the nuances – for all the plenty on show, it’s a garden that goes beyond the sum of its ingredients.

      1. Oh, no: you showed the complexities quite well! And you hit it exactly: it is indeed a garden that goes beyond the sum of its ingredients. What a marvelous place.

  2. I love this post! I don’t have a garden right now but when I do go back to garden living I am going to load it with bird houses and native plants. What a useful way to express creativity.

    1. I mentioned to my sweetheart that an earlier commenter had marvelled how gardens like this manage to be both beautiful and slightly dishevelled. He replied “As every cottage gardener knows, it’s ordered in her heart.” I thought you would like that!

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