Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Day With P. Allen Smith at Moss Mountain Farm - Part II

Playing in the gardens with other fanatical gardeners and garden writers is such a fun thing to do and we got the chance to do plenty of that at Garden2Blog.  The fact that we were doing it in P. Allen Smith's gardens (with P. Allen Smith!) made it even more special.  After spending a day with him, touring other gardens and sharing good food, we got to know Allen and his staff a bit better, and that made our day at the Garden Home Retreat feel like we were visiting good friends. The entire experience had a family reunion feel to it.

After a tour of Allen's home, we started our day with a delicious breakfast by Chef Brian Kelley, including a frittata made with eggs laid by the hens there at the farm. (The recipe for the frittata is in his new book, P. Allen Smith's Seasonal Recipes From the Garden which I reviewed here.)

Allen has, among others, Buff Orpington and Silver-laced Wyandotte hens, which is what we have here at Our Little Acre. There's a reason for that! Allen and I had a conversation about chickens while I was there, in which I sought his advice about which breeds to get, thus the Buffs and Silvers.

Activities for the day began shortly after breakfast, and a full day it was! There were workshops in and out of the gardens involving container planting, vegetable gathering, garden tools, water features, learning about new plant introductions and those currently offered, as well as other activities. We dodged raindrops off and on during the day, but managed to get everything in that was on the agenda.

A few of the gardening products we learned about:

Easy Gardener offers a convenient planting container that is easy to assemble and easy to plant and harvest. All Garden2Blog attendees received one of these after we got back home. More on this later!

Danielle Ernest, of Proven Winners, showed us some of their new plants offered this year, and challenged us to plant a container using them. It was great fun as we all scrambled to put together our containers. At the end of the day, various prizes were awarded for several categories such as "Most Creative," "Best Use of Foliage," and "Best Use of Color."

In the one-acre veggie gardens, we learned about Bonnie Plants and their unique biodegradable pots, The Berry Family of Nurseries and blueberries,  GardenSafe's organic products, and Jobe's Organics.

The potting shed

GardenSafe held a scavenger hunt for various vegetables and the first three people to bring back all the vegetables on the list won a prize. I was speedy and received a $100 gift certificate to Allen's gift shop! I used my certificate to get an egg gathering basket, one of Allen's books, a t-shirt, and a couple of books for my mom. Thank you, GardenSafe!

Laguna Ponds had constructed a small garden pond near the house. They also had a contest featuring their easy-to-assemble water fountains, with the winning group each receiving a water fountain of their choice!

One of my favorite garden product companies, Corona Tools, was also there, and told the story of their company. Corona Tools originated in the orange groves of California, with a small tool used to remove the stem on oranges so they would transport better, without bruising from the stem. We each received one of the little tools, as well as a trowel to take home.

Corona Tools team of Kelly Bates, Chris Sabbarese, and Jim Wolf

Learning about gardening products was interesting and fun, and the best part was doing it all on part of the 650 acres of Moss Mountain Farm. The property is absolutely beautiful and is appropriately named the Garden Home Retreat. A feeling of peace and tranquility reigns in this place.

Side porch

The croquet lawn and summer kitchen at the back of the house.

Some of the raised bed gardens behind the house.

Perennial border gardens

You can catch a glimpse of the Arkansas River in the background.

Allen had hoped that the large rose garden he's having constructed would be pretty much finished by the time we arrived, but their wet spring prevented it. Now completed, the rose garden encompasses 18,000 square feet, terraced with roses that span the centuries, from heritage roses to modern-day Knock-Outs.

Throughout the day, each attendee was filmed giving a garden tip. Mine involved the planting of poppies:

You can find other garden tips on Allen's YouTube channel here.

There was much to take away from the Garden2Blog experience. I learned about some garden products that I wasn't aware of before. I liked having such easy access to their representatives so I could ask questions of them if I wanted to. I was able to spend time with other gardeners, garden writers and garden-related people not only discussing our mutual interests, but simply enjoying them on a personal basis in a lovely place.

Good times with Danielle Earnest and Fern Richardson

I got to know P Allen Smith a bit better as a person and what he's all about when it comes to his business. I think they're one and the same: He truly loves gardening and what it does for the body and soul of the gardener. He feels that everyone can garden and his mission is to help people do that, no matter if they've got acres or simply a patio or balcony on which to do the growing.

Allen doesn't see himself as a celebrity, although he certainly is that, but more a garden authority and teacher. He has a quick wit, coupled with southern charm, and it was a delight to be in his company, all the while gaining knowledge and ideas that I can use in my own garden and share with others.

What a privilege it was for me to be included in this Garden2Blog experience. Thank you, Allen, and also thank you to the staff, the sponsors, and the many people it took to make the event happen. It surely will be one of the highlights of my gardening life.

I was invited to attend the Garden2Blog Event by P. Allen Smith and Associates/Hortus, Ltd., free of charge. My airfare, lodging and meals were provided (with some exceptions) by them. Any opinions expressed on this blog in this post and any subsequent posts about my experiences or products associated with them are my own true and honest opinions, as always. Please note that they are just that - my opinions - and I was not asked to blog, tweet, or post on Facebook about any of it.


Amy Junod said...

How beautiful! I think when I need a break in the future I'm going to revisit this post and wander through the gardens!
I loved the raised portable container they gave away. Such a great idea. (Been on the lookout for raised planters for seniors)
I just love the shot of everyone wearing their garden boots!

Glimpses of Glory said...

Hi Kylee,

Sounds like an amazing trip and life experience!
I'm jealous!
Thanks for posting about it,

carolee said...

How many gardeners take care of P. Allen's place? It looks enormous!

Louise Hartwig said...

What a beautiful place.Hope to get visit sometime.

Kylee Baumle said...

Amy ~ The Easy Gardener container would be great for seniors! It's just the right height. I'll be doing a review of it on here soon.

Karen ~ I truly was a wonderful trip!

Carolee ~ If I remember correctly, there are four all together. Yes, very large! The vegetable garden alone is an acre.

Mom ~ Road trip?

Julie Zickefoose said...

What an awesome blog! I'm so happy to find you here. I googled an image of Lime Bicolor petunias (new fave plant) and there you were. I'm a fellow Ohio blogger and writer (sometime NPR commentator) who digs gardening, birds, and all of nature. Just wanted to say hi and congratulate you on this beautiful piece of work. I'm an old friend of Roger Swain's, and P. Allen's cousin Tim is one of my dearest friends. Not that I've ever been invited to the farm, mind you...

Keep on blogging! and I'll be looking.

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