Little Rock, Arkansas. The last time I was there was in the 70s on a road trip to the Northeast. A few months ago, I was invited to attend a 2-day garden blogger’s event hosted by P. Allen Smith and his sponsors in Little Rock. About 24 prominent garden bloggers from around the country were invited to attend this exclusive event this past week. A skeptic at heart, I must admit I initially thought there would be a catch to this expense-paid trip. There wasn’t. No expectations or restrictions were placed on us about our coverage of the event. We were treated to deluxe hotel accommodations at the Capital Hotel in downtown Little Rock and gourmet meals prepared by Chef Brian Kelley at the farm.
What I Didn’t Know…
All I had seen of P. Allen Smith (everyone fondly calls him Allen) was through his television shows and books. I had no idea that his design company (P. Allen Smith & Associates) had created some of the most beautiful gardens in Little Rock for some very prominent people including the Governor’s mansion. I also didn’t know how much interest he had in caring for the environment and living sustainably. His farm is environmentally responsible and organic. Allen is a true Southern gentleman and he and his staff were gracious and delightful to be around. Charming with a witty sense of humor, he was the perfect host. Our entire stay was first class even through a series of challenging weather events.
So what did we do?
On the first day of the event, we toured area gardens designed by Allen and his team. The second day we spent entirely at Allen’s 500+ acres retreat, Moss Mountain Farm. The sponsors Proven Winners, Corona Tools, Stihl, Bonnie Plants, Garden Safe, Easy Gardener, Laguna Ponds, and Berry Nurseries each gave us presentations. I especially liked their focus on sustainability. From powerful, yet cordless chainsaws to biodegradable container pots, we heard what each company was doing to reduce their impact on the environment. We even had a container garden design throw-down sponsored by Proven Winners. It was a great experience getting to know these informative and engaging sponsors.
Inside the Garden Home
The Garden Home is styled after a 19th-century American farmstead and may look old, but it’s not. Allen combined the romance of the period into a modern structure of sustainable design. The home is energy efficient and incorporates such elements as a cistern for water collection, wall insulation made from soy and old blue jeans, and using the sun to preheat water through a network of tubing.
Allen enjoys blurring the lines. The home and the garden connect through a series of outdoor rooms, terraces, and porches, all designed to seamlessly create one magical place.
We asked about the color palette used in the design and Allen said it was created from the colors reflected in the moss and bark of trees.
The farm is over 500 acres, but the gardens around the home were exquisite. Meticulously designed with flowing pathways, raised beds, borders, roses, and just about every kind of flower you can imagine. Cottage elegance is masterfully planned in a utilitarian design. It simply works and produces food, flowers, and comfort.
Edibles are part of the landscape here in simple raised beds dappled with trellises and arbors.