Tour Designer Susan Hable’s Georgia Garden

Through trial and error, this designer has found a way to express her artistic style and discover inspiration at home.
Screened Porch with Lights and Variegated Porcelain Vine

Screened Porch with Lights and Variegated Porcelain Vine

One of Susan Hable's favorite parts of her garden is variegated porcelain vine covering the screened porch. Globe string lights connect the screened porch to a guest cottage.

Photo by: Photo by Angela West

Photo by Angela West

One of Susan Hable's favorite parts of her garden is variegated porcelain vine covering the screened porch. Globe string lights connect the screened porch to a guest cottage.

Susan Hable, known for bold colors and hand-drawn patterns in her textile designs, struggled with color when she started transforming her dirt-filled Georgia yard into a garden. She was used to buying beautiful blooms from vendors in New York’s flower district when she lived there. When she would go to a nursery, she would pick plants bursting with color, with no knowledge of how to keep them alive once she planted them.

"I always killed all my houseplants,” she says.

Tour the Garden

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Front Exterior of Victorian-Style Cottage

Designer Susan Hable, author of A Colorful Home: Create Lively Palettes for Every Room (Chronicle Books), and her husband, Peter, purchased the Victorian cottage in Athens, Georgia, in 2006, and spent three years renovating it. The garden was also bare, so she designed an oval-shaped front yard bordered by plants and trees, such as Japanese maples, azaleas, lamb's ear, loropetalum and peonies. 

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Susan Hable in Her Studio

Susan Hable draws, paints and designs in a studio behind her Athens home with views of her garden. In 2013, she moved two 100-year-old mill homes from Eatonton, a middle Georgia town, and merged them together for her unique and charming workspace. Her ventures include textile and furniture design, and she's also an artist and co-author of A Colorful Home: Create Lively Palettes for Every Room.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Screened Porch with Lights and Variegated Porcelain Vine

One of Susan Hable's favorite parts of her garden is variegated porcelain vine covering the screened porch. Globe string lights connect the screened porch to a guest cottage.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Exotic Patio Table and Seating

An Indonesian daybed serves as a table on the patio, made with bluestone. Susan Hable has had the wicker furniture for years, recently spray-painted black. A Japanese maple is behind the family-friendly space, which also serves as a spot for their grill and bikes.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Leaves in the Studio

Leaves lie scattered on a table in Hable's studio. Hable says her garden inspires her designs.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Screened Porch, Patio and Cottage

A patio connects the renovated Victorian-style cottage, which has a screened porch, to the guest cottage. Susan Hable and her husband, Peter, selected all the plants and hardscape materials, including brick, for their Athens, Georgia garden.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Garden and Side of Studio

When designer Susan Hable purchased her property in Athens, Ga., in 2006, there was just dirt. Hable, who previously lived in San Francisco and New York, says she learned through trial and error about gardening, and she added her studio to the back of the property.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Front Door of Studio

Designer Susan Hable's studio is a hub of activity for her work and her creativity. Paint samples show her picks for possible new door hues.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Backyard Studio

What now is the studio was going to be burned down by firefighters for arson practice before Susan Hable decided to buy these mill homes and rebuild them together with vaulted ceilings and a metal roof. 

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Studio Entryway

The shapes of leaves of plants such as honeysuckle and blue salvia inspire Susan Hable's artwork and textile designs, she says. 

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Antique Planter with Cedar on Brick Steps

A planter found at an antique show in Farmington, Connecticut has a new home on the brick walkway to Susan Hable's studio in Athens. A sculptural-looking whipcord Japanese cedar is in the container.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Cottage Garden Overview

From her studio, designer Susan Hable can look out onto her yard, which is framed by a guest cottage and her renovated Victorian home in Athens, Georgia. She says she wanted to create a garden with tight borders and groups of loose plants behind it. She has a variety of maples, including the tree by the back of the home.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Bird Nest with Egg in English Rose

Susan Hable and her kids, Bird and Lake, have come to expect and watch an egg each year in a tiny robin's nest. The nest is high up on a trellis with English roses in their Athens garden, and they have a ladder nearby to check its progress.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Side Garden with Arbor

Stone pavers move visitors through the hydrangea and hosta garden to an arbor covered with the "Peggy Martin Rose," which has pink blooms. The famous rose survived more than 20 feet of saltwater in a Louisiana garden after Hurricane Katrina and is now sold by Southeast nurseries. 

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Hydrangeas and Hostas

Hydrangeas and hostas are thriving in Susan Hable's side garden. For example, one super-sized plant is a giant blue-leaved hosta (bottom right). She often posts photos of her Georgia garden on Instagram

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Front Porch and Door

Blue stone pavers and brick in an oval shape mimic the shape of the front yard leading to a door painted with Benjamin Moore's Blue Suede Shoes. A tea olive tree is by the steps, and she's also planted azaleas, beautyberry and American boxwood.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Caladiums and Cleome in Front Garden

Caladiums, joined by cleome, circle the front garden. Susan Hable's mother gives her caladiums for Mother's Day, so she has planted them throughout her Athens garden and appreciates the vibrant color they bring to the garden during the summer.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Back Door

A fiddle-leaf fig in a ceramic container gives some shade to the back stoop, where Fanny sits. The chair is an antique, along with the bell, which Susan Hable's kids ring. The Georgia garden also has a variety of ferns. The black back door is painted Farrow & Ball's Railings.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Trees and Birdhouse

One of the first changes to designer Susan Hable's bare Georgia yard was planting a row of 29 trees to serve as a fence and to frame the property. The birdhouse, which was a gift, is for Purple Martins.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Japanese Maple

A Japanese maple fills a nook in the garden of the renovated Victorian cottage in Athens. The home is painted Labrador Blue, by Benjamin Moore.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Climbing Ladder

One of the first things people see when arriving at Susan Hable's Georgia home is a climbing ladder in a tree that her children, Bird and Lake, use when playing outside.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Brick Steps and Studio Interior

Fig covers steps made of recycled brick (harvested from their driveway) leading into Susan Hable's garden studio. Native honeysuckle hangs over the front entryway over the studio, which has shiplap walls. The Chinese-style lantern is an item that her sister found in a Texas barn.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Black Bathroom Door

To keep with the English feel of her garden, artist Susan Hable added WC (short for water closet) to the door of the guest cottage bathroom. The door is seen from the garden.

Photo By: Photo by Angela West

Enchanted Entry

Stone steps, a picket fence and an arbor covered in the "Peggy Martin" rose create a welcoming path to the backyard.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Rabbit Mat

An outdoor mat in the shape of a rabbit silhouette on the front porch welcomes guests into Hable's home. The mat is by Droog, a Dutch company.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Peace Sign and Hummingbird

A lighted peace sign, from Design Legacy, is among the yard art in the Georgia garden. The stone wall and steps were existing to the Athens, Georgia property.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Sky Lights

String lights hanging over the outdoor seating area combined with the variegated porcelain vine crawling on the screened porch exterior gives a whimsical feel to this patio. Hable says these lights are from Target.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Flowers in the Garden

Dahlias were added to the vegetable garden, where broccoli, strawberries and other foods grow for the family.

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Pink and Blue Hydrangeas

Hable has various colors of hydrangeas growing in her garden. 

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Patio

The patio serves as the central outdoor gathering place, connecting the screened porch and guest cottage with string lights. 

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Fox Door Knocker

A fox figurine adds detail to a brightly colored front door. 

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

Light and Bright

Two textured light fixtures hang in the back room of Hable's studio. 

Photo By: Photo by Laura James

She and her husband, Peter, purchased their Victorian cottage in Athens, Ga., in 2006 and spent three years renovating the home. As for the garden, Hable, who had lived in apartments in San Francisco and Manhattan, had no experience with plants.

After they moved into their Athens home in 2009, Hable tried to tackle the yard but found she was not knowledgeable about her soil and which parts of her yard were wet and dry. She had her soil tested and learned from a neighbor to outgrow her garden naivety, without sacrificing color. 

Hable began to understand how complicated it was to grow favorite flowers, such as 'Pearly Gates' and English roses, which are now in her garden. She was inspired by Victorian and Nantucket gardens, bringing in design elements such as lattice and arbors and old-fashioned plants, such as pearl-bush.  

Her work and book, A Colorful Home: Creating Lively Palettes for Every Room is inspired by her garden and color choices in her renovated cottage. Her studio—built from two former mill houses—is at the other end of the backyard. She often strolls the garden and snaps Instagram photos of plants that inspire her.

“I wanted my yard to be more artistic,” she says. “I knew then, and I still know, that everything that I plant really enriches my day.”

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