I am filled with gratitude this morning as I wait for my airport shuttle in the beautiful lobby of the historic Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I’ve just spent the past few days at Moss Mountain, the beautiful home and farm of P. Allen Smith. Twenty three bloggers from around the country were invited to participate in this 3-day event, called Garden-to-Blog, with the purpose of meeting industry leaders, discussing new gardening trends, becoming inspired with new ideas and to take a step back from what we do day-in and day-out.
As P. Allen says ‘It’s my pleasure to welcome bloggers because I’ve seen the work they do and am continually impressed with the way they merge the physical with the digital, the garden with the blog. Gardening goes back a long way in my family, and I’ve often felt that it was an art that was dying out through the generations. But these days, the virtual garden has helped revive gardening and green living…partially due to the efforts of people sharing all the benefits of getting out in the garden online…My mission is for us to grow in our passion for gardening by learning, and I hope that Garden2Blog 14 will advance that mission.’
The day began in The Bernice Garden with a delightfully southern breakfast, catered by Root Café and the solar-powered food truck, Loblolly Creamery, where I tasted my very first biscuits and gravy!
The garden was conceived in 2007 by Anita Davis, who magically transformed a former rundown Long John Silvers into this public sculpture garden, open to all. Master gardener Laverne Davis has done a beautiful job maintaining the garden and upholding its mission to ‘Keep Little Rock beautiful.’The next stop was just down the street at The Green Corner Store, officially the first store dedicated to sustainable and local products in the entire state!
It also happens to house one of the only soda fountains from the turn of the century lovingly restored to its former glory and used daily. Random fun fact: do you know why soda fountains were always located in the same building as the pharmacy? It’s because the medicine was so horrific tasting, they needed to provide a tasty way to help it go down! (sort of the ‘ol salty pretzels as a bar snack philosophy).
Aren’t these seating areas on either side of the building fun? They’re made of repurposed suitcases, cabinets, surfboards and tree stumps!
After hopping back on the bus we were taken to the Clinton Presidential Library (the first federal building to receive a platinum LEED rating!) where we were given a tour of Clinton’s private rooftop garden. It was pretty cool to be escorted through his working office (sorry, no photos allowed) leading out to the garden.
I love Chihuly’s ‘Red Reeds’ glass installation at the front of the building.
The garden (over 14,000 square feet) consists of over 80 species of plants, the majority of which are native. On one side of the garden is his putting green, surrounded by native plants and yellow roses (his mother’s favorite flower) and on the other side is a garden meant for meandering.
With a boardwalk built to mimic the flow of the nearby Arkansas River, the garden boasts natives and low-water plants with a special area dedicated to music. To honor Clinton’s passion for music and to bring a little musical harmony to this windy site, wind chimes were created in the note of G. Would you like to hear them? Click here: IMG_3181
After loading the bus again, we visited his downtown 1904 Colonial Revival-style home featured in his first book, Garden Home, and where his long running television show, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, was originally filmed. This charming home is located on a small city lot, with neighbors crowded on all sides, yet feels private and spacious thanks to all the garden rooms he’s created throughout.
The sides of the arbor leading out to the sidewalk has beautiful, rustic twigs acting as a support for vines.
And I love the personality given to the pathway at the base of the arbor, with hand-laid pebbles in a pattern that mimics the twigs.On the other side of the home is a narrow pathway broken up with this urn placed in the center of a cobblestone sunburst. Again, this pesticide and herbicide-free garden has weeds. And bugs. Which all gardens should have, right? That’s one of the things I loved about his gardens is that they’re not manicured to the point of unrealistic proportions. They’re real.
P. Allen’s garden style is a blend of formality (with carefully placed, matching containers, topiaries, shrubs, etc) and informal, casual plantings.
Each time you walk through a formally laid out area like this one (note the symmetrical clipped shrubs on either side of the arbor) you’re hit with a dose of informality, thanks to his use of rustic elements combined with blowsy, carefree plantings.
For example, walk through the arbor and you enter the pond garden, filled with artistic whimsy…
At the rear of the garden is this demure archway leading to his hoop house and potting shed – the workhorses of the garden.
The good thing about a garden being filled with lots of people is that they make it easy to sneak away, undetected.
I love this fence at the back of the property, behind the hoop house. You can see how the colors of his neighbor’s roof have been incorporated into the color of his fence.
One of my favorite tricks in a small garden bed is to place containers within the bed, adding much needed height and interest.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of my first day in Little Rock!
Please stay tuned! In just a few weeks I’ll take you up to the unforgettable Moss Mountain, P. Allen’s gorgeous 600-acre farm and garden home.