Michelle Farnsworth
Paul Noot's painted pony, depicting North Dakota scenes, anchors his front-yard garden. (Michelle Farnsworth)

(Michelle Farnsworth)

Backyard bliss includes an Asian-style pond filled with koi fish. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Paul Noot is the visual art and art teacher at Bismarck High School and the artistic force behind the Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (BDAC). His artwork can be found in art galleries around the state, but perhaps his most public project is his yard on Washington Street. I took time to speak with Noot and capture his creative mix of flora (and fauna!).

M: As people drive by, do they do a double-take and perhaps get into an accident, looking at your magnificent front-yard garden?

P: (laughing) It's the best way to slow people down on Washington Street. And yes, they are not paying attention to the crosswalk, and then there's the yard...and HORSE!

M: (laughing) I can imagine. What possessed you to go to this extent with your flower garden?

P: Who wants a yard like everyone else? I grew up on a farm. I have a love of the land, gardening and planting. So I didn't want it to look like everyone else's yard, "oh, here's some grass..."

M: How much time do you dedicate to gardening?

P: Well, not enough. (laughs) For instance, today I've been out here for five hours. Mowing, planting, weeding and deadheading (removing dead flowers).

M: Where did you come up with the idea of the squares in the yard?

P: The squares are inspired by farm land -- sections and quarters of land. Just like what you see out of the plane window. The mounds are inspired by the western part of the state. And the formal parts of the garden were inspired by the gardens in Washington, D.C. They are more linear and symmetrical.

I like textures. Playing off color. Being an artist, I use my yard as another type of canvas.

M: What advice can you give to homeowners who would like to add a little more color to their yard?

P: Well, first of all, look at architectural landscape and gardening magazines for inspiration. Start with plants you like. Pick plants with different textures, and then add rocks and pavers. (It's) always important to have anchors in the yard, like my horse. And don't be afraid to be a risk-taker!

Michelle Farnsworth loves travel, writing, photography, daily devotions, gardening, making jewelry and finding old treasures. Her greatest accomplishment is her two sons, who bring life, love and laughter to her each day.