A few months ago, I was asked if I’d like to visit Little Rock and P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm, a/k/a the Garden Home Retreat. How could I refuse?
So, this week, I drove five hours (after my airline canceled my flight), and I joined a group of bloggers who visited. A lot of writers have asked me why only certain bloggers were invited. I suppose we were a cross-section of the country in region and style. There were even behind-the-hand hints that we were being used. I found none of that on my visit. As at the GWA annual symposium, there were sponsors. The trip was paid for through them, but there were no restrictions on what we were to write.
I believe we were asked because Allen is launching a new blog and television show, Garden to Table. He also sent us his latest cookbook, P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden. All of the food we ate at the farm was cooked from recipes in the cookbook by Chef Brian Kelley. A small shoutout to the chef. He worked very hard to help those of us with special diets.
After spending two very full days with Allen, and the Hortus Ltd. staff, I can truly write that if you’ve only seen Allen on T.V., you don’t know the true P. Allen Smith. You get an inkling of how much respect he has in Little Rock by the people with whom he works and serves. His landscape design business creates and installs gardens for some the biggest names in Little Rock.
When you visit the governor’s mansion gardens which he and his team created almost from whole cloth after a tornado devastated the prior landscape losing most of the mature trees, and First Lady, Ginger Beebe (who is a Master Gardener), comes out and expounds on her landscape, you begin to understand.
We also saw the home of Chip and Cindy Murphy of the Murphy Oil Corporation. It was done in the style of southern France and was oh so charming. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy use the space for entertaining in order to raise money for many different charitable organizations.
However, my favorite stop on the first night was to Allen’s art teacher, David Garner, at the Marlsgate Plantation, which because of the storms was lit only by candlelight. It lended itself well to Southern Gothic inside and out.
Throughout our visit, Allen was patient and a true southern gentleman. In spite of weather challenges, he remained cool and collected even when the schedule had to change due to storms.
Allen is much more animated, funny and knowledgeable than the gardener expert we see on television. I understand the show is for beginning gardeners, but to reach a younger audience, I wish his partners would let the real Allen show.
For example, did you know:
- The only television in the Garden Home Retreat is in the basement where the farm offices are located. I think this explains his recent entry into social media and blogging.
- He is an avid reader. There are books on every surface, and his library shelves look like mine. You can’t read and spend all your time on the computer.
- He is extremely witty and funny. Yes, funny.
- He is an avid painter, and right now, he is painting gorgeous, giant vegetables.
- Allen is a student of history and Roman pastoral poetry.
- His farmhouse is only four years old although designed and built to look like a nineteenth century structure.
- The farmhouse is built of sustainable and non-toxic materials. For example, the wall insulation is soy and shredded blue jeans. The floors are preserved with linseed oil, and the paints are all natural and based upon colors from the various trees on the farm. One of the bloggers, I can’t remember whom, asked about the colors which are lichen blue, various greens, dark brown and butter yellow.
- A special set of rooms is decorated and set aside for his nieces and nephews.
- He gardens organically and is a strong believer in organic products.
- He works to save endangered breeds of sheep, ducks, geese and chickens.
- He is a fan of our founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson. His sense of style and many of the farmhouse’s outbuildings are based on some of the designs at Monticello.
- His favorite style is that of the mid-1700s.
- He collects American antiques, but not couches because he said he’s never sat on a comfortable antique sofa. I agree.
- He is designing a rose garden of purely American heirloom roses with Noisettes to be the star performers.
- He wants to be known as an educator and not a celebrity.
He was extremely gracious with his staff, the sponsors and everyone who help make the farm what it is. One brilliant business move is how he’s allowed the farm to be a testing ground for new plants and products. He teams up with different companies like Bonnie Plants, Easy Gardener and Proven Winners, among others. The farm is used for education days, along with being a test garden. With a large brand like Allen’s, this is smart business, so I admire his acumen.
I hope this post helps everyone to see Allen as I got to know him in Little Rock.
Allen, you rock.
You were delightful in person and your writing reflects that. This is a great review of the experience and I’m a touch jealous of you baby sheep picture. Mine did not turn out so well.
Oh Dee, what an experience and so kind of you to share in such detail. I’ve enjoyed perusing the other bloggers reports as well. Growing up I wanted to be a future Victory Garden host. Now I want to be reincarnated as PAS.
Patrick, it was a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I was asked. You’d make a great host of whatever you set out to do. They are going to do the blogger event each year I think.
Thanks for the guided tour, Dee. What a fantastic garden and home. I understand he paid $1 for the home because it was a historical structure that he agreed to restore. I can certaintly see the Jefferson influence in the vegetable garden. Sorry to hear about the scary weather but glad you and the other bloggers were able to enjoy the event despite it.
Of course, P. Allen has to be nice. He can’t afford to ruin the Southern gentleman’s reputation . We have a saying down South when someone attains success or fortune : ” He’s the same sweet boy he always was. ”
Thanks for sharing your wonderful visit with us.
Okay, I’m trying this again, because it did not show up and because I just have to tell you that your post is so inspiring. Thank you for the wonderful way you bring P. Allen Smith to life. Who cares why you got to go–what a blessing! And your sharing the trip is a blessing to the rest of us. Yes, I nod when I read about one having to curtail internet time in order to read, garden, write, paint, whatever. I’m doing that more and more. Your photographs are stunning. Thank you, dear friend, for sharing inspiration to keep following dreams.
Oh, honey, how generous of you to give us all such a great view of P. Allen and his inspiring world! Sheep?!! Lovely. Your photographs are stunning. Yes, more and more I am not on the internet and reading and writing and enjoying the gardens. There are only so many hours in the day. Your post inspires me to keep reaching for my own dreams. Thank you.
Well, it looks like the tour of a lifetime. Were his fingernails dirty? Can’t wait to hear all the stories at the next blogger event. Love what you captured in words and pictures.
Dee, love your blog as especially this post! So glad you were are part of of the event. Were there other bloggers from near us (OK, AR)? Thanks again for the lovely pics!
What a fun trip!! I love the pictures with the deep blue, stormy skies behind that luscious greenery!!
I’m speechless. “Indredible” kept coming to mind as i read and viewed your beautiful pictures. i love that your name’s on them. never noticed that before. Dee, i love your life! well, i guess i’m not speechless after all! haha thanks for another beautiful post.
Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence
Well done Dee. It was great seeing you there. It’s hard to say what was the best part. It truly was the entire package, the garden and the home.
It was fabulous to meet you Dee. Thank you so much for making the drive after your flight was canceled. You’ve written a wonderful post.
Mary Ellen, I loved meeting you too. It was a great couple of days wasn’t it? Thanks for all you did to make it happen. By the way, the drive was lovely. All those fabulous pine trees you guys have in AR.
Thanks for these wonderful pics and post! I have enjoyed your blog a long time and really loved following the tweets from the Garden2blog event too. Keep up the great work!
Leigh from Larrapin Garden
(next door in Fayetteville, Arkansas)
Hi Leigh, I enjoyed the tweets and facebook updates myself. Thanks so much for your kind words. I do my best.
Lisa at Greenbow
I have never known what to think of him when I see him on tv. I have seen his farm on tv. It is gorgeous. It would be nice to see sometime. What a great opportunity it was for you.
I’ll definitely look at PAS differently, now that I’ve seen him through your eyes. What a gracious host he was and he gets even more kudos because he had such adverse weather circumstances to work around!
Thoroughly enjoyed this delightful post, dear Dee. Great photos and info … yes, YOU Rock!
Gardener on Sherlock Street
I so would have gone too! I saw him speak at a garden show in Wichita once. He seemed most gracious. You gave a great post. What stunning landscaping and his farm is great. That lamb was toooo cute! I haven’t seen his show on a regular basis in a long time but always enjoy it when I do catch it. I think you get the deeper sense of his educator status in his books.
Yes, I think you do get more of his depth from his books. I really like the new cookbook. Good recipes in there. Thanks for all the kind words GSS.~~Dee
Great post Dee – loved seeing you and spending time with you. 🙂
Lovely seeing you too Shawna. It was great fun.
Well you certainly captured the essence of who P. Allen Smith is Dee. What a fantastic post. So much so I linked to it in my post about our trip. I was so nice to meet you in person and spend time together. Your blog is inspiring and so are your gardens.
Thank you so much Jackie, and thanks for linking to my post. That was so kind.
What a fantastic trip this must have been, Dee! As beautiful as the mansion gardens are, I think I would have enjoyed seeing Smith’s gardens most of all. I really enjoyed learning more about his personality and other interests, too–it’s always nice to know that a celebrity like this is as nice as he appears on television. Thanks for sharing this, Dee!
Rose, thank you so much for reading it. I worried that it was rather long, but there was so much to tell. I enjoyed my trip so much.
Christine @ The Gardening Blog
How stunning! Thank you for sharing this with us!
Dee, I am drawn to the fantastic photo of the outbuilding inspired by TJ! The view is breathtaking with the backdrop of dark clouds. Cute, cute, cute lamb! I am glad you had a good time~If we must leave our Spring gardens; it’s good to go somewhere and have a unique and positive experience. PAS sounds like a man with both depth of knowledge and breadth of interest~Now I wish I had been invited! gail
Gail, there were plenty of dramatic views because of that angry sky. It was a very interesting and enlightening trip indeed.
Fascinating post, Dee. I loved the glimpses of the personality behind the “personality”. Thank you for sharing.
Victoria, thanks for stopping by. How are things in Britannia?
Looks like it was a really fun trip. I worried about you guys because of all the bad weather we were having down here (we’re only 3 hours away). I would love to see his spread in real life one day. It looks so amazing on television.
Yes, the sky was green a couple of times. I wasn’t scared, but many were. He kept a running dialogue all the way to Marlsgate because I think he was trying to take their minds off the storms.
I wish I could have been a little ladybug on your shoulder! What a fun trip. Thanks for sharing it in photo and word with us.
Dana, I carried you with me in thought. When he has an open house, you must go. It was wonderful.~~Dee
Dee, thank you for the nice summary of what you learned in Little Rock. It just goes to show that until you open a book, you really don’t know what is inside of it, just by looking at its cover. Thanks for opening this “book” up for us.
So true Carol. I hope I presented it well.
Wonderful post Dee, and magnificent landscapes! The views from his farm are just beautiful. Thank you for taking us along.
PS The lamb is adorable.
Thank you so much Sweetbay. I could only show you a bit of his farm. When there is a open day, everyone who can should go see it. The little lamb was posing I think.
Glad you got to meet the real Allen!
Tim, he was exactly like you said. What a kind person he is. Must run in the family. Loved Donna and Chris too.
Thanks for this inside look into PAS. I have no doubt there is much warmth and depth that doesn’t show through his short television appearances. But I am particularly impressed with his painting and scholarship. Sounds like a true Renaissance man.
Robin, that’s what I thought also.
Dee, you rock! Thank you for such an insightful overview of P.Allen Smith’s Arkansas home and gardens. It does seem his public persona is not getting across very well what a multidimensional person and gardener he is. I love the Thomas Jefferson influence.
Thanks Frances. Being a huge fan of history, I was also touched by the Jeffersonian aspect. I love Monticello. Now, I love Allen’s farm too.
What a fun behind the scenes look! Thanks for sharing, Dee, and for your insight.
Thank you for coming by to read Leslie. I appreciate it. Now, I’m off to read yours.