August 5th, 2013
We’re all at the mercy of the weather, especially gardeners. Even P. Allen Smith and his garden at Moss Mountain Farm is at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Remember that beautiful film scene in the Keanu Reeves movie A Walk in the Clouds where all the workers frantically build fires and dance with fans between the grape vines? A killing frost has descended on the valley and they are trying to keep the vines and grapes from serious damage. They end up saving the crop and romance was born.
Most of us don’t have dozens of dedicated field workers to battle the earth-cracking drought, biblical-proportioned floods or the weird, unseasonable weather that, strangely, seems to come about every other season. We just suffer along and accept that we are partners with nature in the creation of a garden. Sometimes our partner is our friend. Sometimes our partner is our enemy.
When 25 or so bloggers visited P. Allen Smith’s garden overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, it was during this year’s unseasonably cool spring. Huge swaths of the South and Mid-Atlantic had been blanketed under some weird pressure system that fooled our flowers and vegetables into thinking it was March rather than May. As we were squired around the 650-acre estate, more than one of Moss Mountain Farm tour guides rushed to explain, “It’s been so cool, everything is behind in blooming!”
Of course, there was nothing to explain since most of us on the tour had gardens at home that were similarly tardy. But even more, everything was perfectly lovely and there were plenty of blooms to admire.
(Is it more appropriate to say there is a garden or there are gardens?)
When you have 650 acres, there are many very separate and distinct areas.
There is the vegetable garden, expansive enough to grow food for a small city. There are two rose gardens. There are perennial gardens and annuals and a daffodil field and pond gardens and terrace gardens.
(Well, that settles it. Gardens.)
Indeed, plants there in Arkansas did seem to be a bit behind what you might expect for May. Nevertheless, it was a lovely garden stroll and I expect it would also be lovely in the fall and even in the dead of winter—just a different kind of lovely.
Other Posts of Interest: P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm: Elegant Country Living
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Posted In: Gardening
July 31st, 2013
I’m not an interior design critic or writer. But show me a beautiful house when I have my camera in-hand and I can play one on the internet.
I wasn’t particularly surprised that P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm home looks like a spread from Traditional Home magazine. After all, he’s firmly rooted in the South, resisting to move his media empire to New York City or Los Angeles. He has that whole Southern elegance thing going on. The house is located on a 650-acre spread overlooking the Arkansas River Valley. And he has developed a certain persona that suggests traditional rather than contemporary.
I was surprised, however, that he opened the doors and let 25 guest bloggers during a recent hosted tour called Garden2Blog 2013 just wander through with their cameras.
Smith kindly provided a welcome and introductory remarks that described his historical research into Southern historic houses and the efforts to build Moss Mountain Farm home in the Greek Revival style four years ago. Because of his research into the characteristics of period houses, his house is almost a study in architecture of the time. It is a three-story structure with high ceilings, deep walls, hidden doors and screened porches extending along the back of the house overlooking the Arkansas River Valley.
The interior is a little crowded by contemporary design standards, filled with stuff chairs, arrangements of collections and stacks of book on tables. It’s all very comfortable and pleasing—the kind of place you would enjoy curling up with a good book and a glass of wine.
I certainly hope Smith gets to do that with all his busy-ness. He seems to be forever launching something, making something, promoting something, talking about something, doing, doing, doing.
In addition to his gardening and cooking activities, Smith is also a talented artist. When he went off to study in England his grandmother asked if his plans were to study painting. Smith demurred, saying he planned to study horticulture. “Well, you’re a damned fool,” she replied. (Grandmothers in the South curse in a very charming way, when necessary.)
The house is so photo perfect that some of the bloggers on the tour whispered, “Do you think he really lives here?” Certainly he must, but I caught more than one peaking in kitchen cabinets. I wish I had the nerve to peak inside the refrigerator for signs of habitation—a carton of milk, some leftover chili, a half-eaten carton of vanilla yogurt. I did spot a loaf of store bought bread (gasp) under a cake dome.
White-on-white rooms have become cliché in the home decorating magazines. In fact, the editor of Architectural Digest recently commented that the majority of the photos she sees cross her desk are white-on-white. People are so afraid of color!
Nevertheless, my favorite room in the house was the white-on-white, sun-filled kitchen. Kitchens get a pass on my judgment against white-on-white because I think the food should take center stage and not get lost in a sea of color. White also seems more sanitary. If you’ve ever had a white-on-white kitchen, you know why that’s the case. You see every little marinara splash and panko bread crumb. Scrub, scrub, wipe, wipe.
A huge, marble-topped center island fills the center of the kitchen. White ceramic ware arrangements are artfully arranged here and there. There are milky white walls, white appliances and white glass pendant lighting.
What’s an elegant farmhouse without a mud room? Well, you haven’t ever seen a mud room like P. Allen Smith’s mud room. I saw no mud. There was evidence that this is a working area since there were bottles of plant fertilizer, rolls of paper towels and a jumble (an elegant jumble) of flower arranging containers.
The upstairs screened-in porch is arranged as a sleeping porch, with a deep, hand-forged, open-air copper tub at one end. Smith still seemed a bit uncertain about the decor.
“I hope it doesn’t look like an infirmary.”
Upstairs a central foyer is cram packed with a central table and a collection of nature-related treasures. There are only two bedrooms on the second floor of the three-story house–a guest room decorated in greys and mauves and the master bedroom.
Smith has created a comfortable and lovely home to go with his beautiful gardens. And speaking of gardens, P. Allen Smith’s expansive gardens will be the subject of another post. Soon.
Posted In: Gardening