July 09, 2016
  • Housing Issue

Talisman West

Talisman West
By The West View

Talisman West, home of the late LDS Church gardener Peter Lassig, was designed and constructed in 1976 by Peter and his father Don Lassig. The Rose Park location was chosen because of its proximity to Temple Square, Peter’s home-away-from-home for 40 years, and for the bucolic setting of the parkway that the home is situated on just steps away from the beautiful Jordan River.

The home’s name is Peter’s tribute to designer Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West.

The original design allowed for Talisman West to be built in phases so that it was affordable for the young Lassig family to build and live in, while planning for the eventuality of upgrading and completing a number of dream additions.

In 2002, Peter pulled out the original house plans and sketched in long-awaited changes. The first step was to convert the garage into a passive solar greenhouse. Peter had studied passive solar energy during graduate school at Utah State University.

He built the roof of the garage out of 12 inches of concrete, strong enough to hold the weight of a parked car. The bottom stories of the garage and adjoining room have steel beams that are clad in wood to avoid a foreboding appearance. At the same time, he also pushed out existing windows and added bay windows in several locations, inviting sunlight that bathes the home in warmth and allows Janet Lassig the light needed for 350 plants throughout the home, including marvelous oversized ferns that grace a number of the rooms.

Downstairs, the garden room is impressive, but the upstairs greenhouse, reached by a moveable ladder, is magnificent. The greenhouse is humid and beautiful, with creeping fig covering walls and columns, fragrant jasmine in bloom in early spring and a flickering chandelier on eye-level at the top of the ladder staircase.

When they were young, the eight Lassig children imprinted a "wreath of hands" in the greenhouse cement that is still there today.

Peter designed the angle of the roofline so that sun entered the front windows in the wintertime only. In the greenhouse, the 27-degree angle of the glass is exactly perpendicular to the sun on the day of Winter Solstice, another testimony to the love of both science and physical poetry within Peter’s soul.

The home is gracious, with both art and books throughout.
Many of the plants, both within the home and in the spectacular gardens outside, are souvenirs from travel, while other plants are gifts from friends and family.

The kitchen and sunroom windows look out on trees that Peter planted throughout his life. An enormous wrought iron wisteria trellis follows the lines of the home on the west side, with additional iron work on an arbor at the rear of the lawn and a gazebo entered through a garden gate. Just inside the back garden gate is an espaliered pear tree, delighting Peter and Janet with its first pears over the past few summers.

The old grandfather of the back gardens is an enormous slide that has delighted generations of Lassig children, grandchildren, and neighborhood children alike. Iron gates salvaged from his childhood home in Holladay frame the entry to the lawn and gardens, while beautiful “peachy pink” roses are tucked into the property everywhere.

The approach to the double front doors includes oversized sandstone steps salvaged from an excavation at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon. With permission, Peter was able to move them with cranes and trucks to Talisman West.

Peter designed iron hayrack planters, which were then created in Mexico, to grace the front windows. These planters are filled with ivies and blooms during spring and summer months.

As in many labors of love, Talisman West is still not finished; Janet continues to plan for peachy pink gardens to come. But it is a physical manifestation of a lifetime of striving for excellence, for contribution, and for beauty.

Together, Peter and Janet combined their love of gardens and their love for each other and family to create a Garden of Eden in Rose Park, a sanctuary for the senses, and an oasis of peace.

The late Peter Lassig worked for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as a landscape architect and head gardener of Temple Square. Among his many projects was the landscaping for Day Riverside Library near his home in Rose Park. Peter died on October 25, 2016.


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