Experiencing P. Allen Smith

 

It isn’t often you get to visit a place you see on television but I had that pleasure last week when I attended a Garden2Blog workshop at P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home Retreat. Located in Roland, west of Little Rock, it is truly an oasis, an escape to a different era. The Moss Mountain facility figures prominently in Allen’s various television shows, websites, books and other avenues.

The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” came to mind as we accessed the property off the main highway. The drive leisurely winds through the rolling foothills of the Ouachitas full of trees and other foliage. P. Allen Smith was on hand to welcome the group of approximately 25 nationally known garden bloggers who came from all across the U.S. He explained the history of the property and the home. Located on an old dairy farm, Smith wanted the home to look like it had always been there even though it is a new build. He accomplished his goal. He based the 1840s farmhouse design on four Southern Greek Revival structures located with 150 miles from the property: two at Historic Washington State Park, two in Little Rock and one in Memphis.

A tour of the home led by our host was informative and entertaining. The furnishings, Smith explained, are a mixture of inherited pieces and Southern-made furniture constructed prior to 1835. What particularly caught my eye was the 1793 Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. I think it’s quite amazing that a state as small as Arkansas is now home to two Washington portraits done by Stuart, the other being at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Smith emphasizes the home is not a museum. He encouraged us all to take a seat and get comfortable while he talked. The décor changes every season so it’s always fresh for visitors. What seems to be his favorite place in the home and was all of ours on the tour is the sleeping porch off the upstairs back of the house. The screened room overlooks the Arkansas River, the valley and the Ouachita Mountain foothills. You can look to the west and see Petit Jean Mountain while Pinnacle Mountain is visible in the east.

Breakfast followed in the barn…and I use the term loosely. It’s not your ordinary barn. Whitewashed barn wood walls and graceful iron chandeliers highlight the interior. The quiche featured eggs and broccoli from Smith’s farm, and the blackberries, blueberries and strawberries were also home grown.

After breakfast, the hands-on experience began with the gardeners being able to learn from experts in the industry: Bonnie Plants, BioSafe Systems, Black Gold, Conrad Pyle, Berry Family of Nurseries, Purina Mills, Laguna, Le Creuset,  and Grow Box.

A variety of special events and workshops are held on a regular basis at the Garden Home Retreat. They are definitely worth your time and energy. You can sign-up for information on upcoming events on the Garden Home Retreat website. Group tours and open houses for individuals are also available.

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