A third-generation gardener and a triple lot come together for a great Uptown outdoor living area | Entertainment/Life

Thirty years ago, when Karl and Cecily Turner bought the Uptown property where they raised their family, the purchase was as much about the triple-size corner lot as it was the historic 1860 cottage that resides on it. With ample green space all the way around, there was infinite potential for a garden and outdoor living.

“We loved it because it had great bones and a great yard,” said Karl Turner, who owns A La Carté Specialty Foods and enjoys nature photography and gardening. “I love working in the yard, and that’s where my wife finds me most of the time.”

In fact, both of the Turners use their outside space every day. Cecily Turner, a retired pediatrician, leaves the gardening to her husband, but the couple regularly enjoy morning coffee and evening wine in different areas of the yard. Recently, they turned the garage into a pool/guest house with a fully equipped outdoor kitchen.

The Turners’ home is an 1860s cottage on a triple-size corner lot.

Karl Turner was introduced to gardening during his childhood in Kentucky, where his father kept a home garden with collard and mustard greens. His mother and grandmother had green thumbs, and Turner said he spent a lot of time playing outdoors and learning to appreciate nature. To this day, he’d rather be working on a project outside than sitting inside watching television.

In 2019, the Turners, by then empty nesters (one son lives in LA, the other lives here) called in Kevin Green of Indigo Landscape for help with the yard. Just as they had inside the house, they went with traditional landscape choices in sync with the historic architecture of the house.

Indian hawthorne, which plays off of the mauve exterior, and magenta-tinged Crimson Fire (loropetalum), provide privacy along the front fence. There are beds for annual flowers and edibles.


Peggy Martin roses cover the wooden pergola at the home of Karl Turner in the spring.

To the right of the house, a flagstone patio is shaded with a wooden pergola. A lush spring display of Peggy Martin roses — named for the Plaquemines Parish resident who found that resilient antique variety had survived the flooding post Hurricane Katrina — climbs the pergola and blooms multiple times a year.

Roses were an addition that Cecily Turner wanted, and in the two years since they were planted, Karl Turner says the roses have grown to about 18 feet in length.

Evidence of his pastime wends its way around the house. He tends the flowers and vegetable gardens, weeds, changes out seasonal plants, clips and prunes, and in true horticulturist fashion has created a series of “garden rooms.”


Bonsai plants are displayed along a wall across from the pool.

His bonsai garden, inspired by a garden he’d seen in California, has a foundation of black rocks and shelves with miniature trees along the fence. A member of the Greater New Orleans Bonsai Society, he designed it to add a minimalist Feng Shui balance to the landscape.

Beneath a large Japanese magnolia that blooms around Carnival, he created a shaded seating area the couple calls “the chillout section.”

He also built a fishpond in a quiet spot cooled by evening breezes. An iron lion-head spout the couple found in Denham Springs is mounted on a wall, covered with creeping fig. The spout feeds the tranquil water feature.


A Chinese magnolia tree shades the ‘chill out’ section, with its comfortable outdoor furniture.

When a family member had a surplus of pavers, Turner laid his own pathway, a task of which he’s proud.

Shortly after the professional landscaping was completed, and just in time for the pandemic that would keep people at home more than ever, the Turners decided to turn the garage into a pool- and guest-house and built an outdoor kitchen.

Working with Poree Construction, owned by Cecily Turner’s brother, they transformed the structure into a bright, airy space with white walls, ceramic tile floors and a newly remodeled bathroom.

Taking a cue from the main house, which has multiple stained-glass windows, they found an antique stained-glass window at Ricca’s Architectural Sales and made it a focal point of the pool house interior.

“The grapes reminded me of Bacchus, and it’s a nice design for that room because we entertain and hang out there,” Karl Turner said.


A pathway leads past garden ‘rooms’ to the pool.

The outdoor kitchen is outfitted with a pellet grill (which uses wood pellets rather than charcoal or gas), a 30-inch Blackstone griddle that can heat up to 500 degrees (great for searing steak, he says), two refrigerators, a sink and granite countertops. A hardwood ceiling with a huge fan keeps things cool in warm weather.

“We’ve enjoyed sharing this kitchen space with friends and family,” said Karl Turner, who found the griddle especially handy after Hurricane Ida caused power outages.

As the garden evolves, he occasionally implements an idea he’s culled from a magazine, but he’s never followed a pattern, preferring instead to let things develop organically.

He likes the color purple and things that complement purple. But there are no hard and fast rules to his process. Time, patience and dedication are part of his gardening DNA.

“Every morning before I go to work, I’m out in the yard,” he said. “And when I come home in the evening, I’m doing the same thing.”


Art fills the Turners’ home. ‘We’re running out of wall space,’ says Karl Turner.



A framed print by famed Mississippi artist William Tolliver is among the collection of mostly Black artists.

Inside the Turner residence, the couple has cultivated a second passion: original artworks by mostly African American and African artists.

“A piece by William Tolliver was our first, and it was shortly afterward we fell in love with a piece by Aziz featuring Josephine Baker,” Karl Turner said of the colorful collection, which began when the couple acquired the house in 1993 and is exhibited throughout the interior.


A painting of Louis Armstrong by noted local artist James Michalupolas hangs in the Turners’ home.

The majority of the collection is by African American and African artists, but the couple also have paintings by local artists such as James Michalopoulos, Sean Friloux, and William Hemmerling, and pieces from their travels to Africa, China, Romania and Italy.

“While Michalopoulos is well known for his paintings of New Orleans houses, we own one that features Louis Armstrong,” Turner said.


Cecily Turner holds up one of her own watercolor paintings. She creates mostly portraits.

Both of the Turners are artists as well. Karl Turner enjoys nature photography, a medium that dovetails nicely with his interests in gardening, travel and the outdoors. Cecily Turner paints watercolors, primarily portraits, but has also dabbled in landscapes. She painted an image of Aspen trees for her husband after he saw a similar piece in Montana and has done watercolors of some his photographs.

“We have that symbiotic relationship,” said Karl Turner, who has nicknamed his wife “the artist formerly known as Dr. Turner. She’s been a watercolor artist for 25 years and is quite good.”

While the couples’ love of art and respective talents have not waned, the real estate needed for the art is dwindling. When asked the number of paintings in the collection, Karl’s response sums up the dilemma.

“We’re running out of wall space,” he said.

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