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“Garden2Blog 2011” Event – Day 1 – P. Allen Smith Brings Arkansas Alive

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Arkansas Governor's Mansion rose and nepeta garden
Discovering gorgeous Little Rock, Arkansas gardens designed by P. Allen Smith with P. Allen Smith as your personal guide – PRICELESS!!P. Allen Smith and first lady, Ginger BeBee

The Garden2Blog Event with P. Allen Smith and his incredible team began with a tour of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

To the right you see Ginger BeBee, the First Lady of Arkansas, greeting our group with Allen and inviting us to visit the gardens designed by P. Allen Smith & Associates (PAS&A), Allen’s design firm. Blooming ‘Blue Wonder’ Nepeta and Knock-out Roses, both low maintenance plants which do not require heavy spraying and maintenance in the humid south, joyously filled the parterre garden.
Shawna at the Arkansas Governor's Mansion
My favorite feature at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion was the charming little “mini-mansion” playhouse which was located next to the family vegetable plot at the back of the property. This playhouse was simply adorable and a whimsical statement; whimsy is a great way to build interest and smiles in the garden.

At the Murphy Residence garden we were able to see how PAS&A designed a grand staircase and balustrade which incorporated a grotto and made the walk to the Murphy’s magnificent swimming pool garden a thing of beauty (photo below). There was a lovely covered outdoor garden room which provided a perfect photo opportunity for we garden addicts.
Murphy Residence, designed by P. Allen Smith & Associates in Little Rock, AR

P. Allen Smith hosting and guiding us through the Little Rock garden tour.On our way to Brockington, a French Country style home with a lush Mediterranean plant garden, Allen grabbed the microphone on the tour bus and acted as our guide; giving us a charming detail of the Little Rock, Arkansas region and gardens.  More than answering questions about the region, he really welcomed us as family and told us wonderful stories of his childhood and experiences as a designer. It was a warm and happy ride for all of us, particularly considering the region was under threat of thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Most of us had a challenging time with our travels with long airport delays in order to get to the event, but were rewarded with Allen’s incredible garden views.
Brockington (shown below in two photos) was an inspiring garden filled with flowing roses, beautiful container gardens, and strong stone work.
Brockington Garden courtyard view
Brockington Garden Front View
We had a quick dash through of Allen’s original Gaines Street Garden Home, which he featured on many television episodes – I will cover this in a separate post as there are a lot of wonderful ideas I’d like to share with you from the home and property.

By far, the most exciting garden visit was a trip to Scott, Arkansas where we visited Marlsgate Plantation. We drove to Marlsgate in a horrid thunderstorm with green skies and winds tossing debris against the tour bus. When we arrived at the plantation (see below), the storms had flooded the gardens and the electricity had gone out, so we ran into the safe arms of the Greek Revival style mansion. Our host, Mr. David Paul Garner, served us Peach Bellini’s and cookies laced with macadamia nuts while we wandered his home. Never in my life have I seen such amazing and decorative furniture and oddities collected from the mid- to late-19th century southern American culture. David was not only a charming host, but also a personality – he was filled with interesting stories about the previous owners of the property – I loved every minute at Marlsgate.
Marlsgate Plantation in the pouring rain
Marlsgate Plantation in the dark
As thunder boomed and rain flooded the property, we were greeted by candlelight in the front lobby which made for a haunting and romantic atmosphere. In the photo above you can see the tall P. Allen Smith standing below the hanging crystal chandelier. He is standing next to a shorter man with white hair (our engaging host, David) while gazing out the front door hoping for sunshine after we all piled into the front lobby.

Touring the home by candlelight was beyond surreal. Green windows drenched in rain showed views of the garden as you walked from room to room gazing at the astounding antiques collection. Candles flickered while we stood chatting over our cocktails and cookies. It was magical. It was also entrancing to hear stories of Allen’s youth from his once former art teacher, David. Below you see a photo of my friend, Shirley Bovshow, standing next to Allen in the candlelight. I will post more soon on David’s home and garden – it was captivating. Shirley Bovshow with P. Allen Smith by candlelight at Marsgate Plantation
As Day 1 of our amazing Garden2Blog Event ended, we were driven back to our hotel and surprised by Corona Tools, one of the sponsors of the event. Garden tool  shaped cookies awaited us in our rooms. They tasted delicious and eating a trowel is simply perfection after an exhausting day of garden excitement. Corona Cookies

Thanks to everyone involved with #G2B11 for making an incredible and memorable day for all we garden writers. Spending time with some of my best gardening friends, meeting fascinating people, visiting fantastical gardens, and getting to know P. Allen Smith personally was beyond fun.

Link to DAY 2 of the Garden2Blog 2011 Event – LINK.

*Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am noting that P. Allen Smith and his amazing team paid for this trip and Garden2Blog experience for all attendees – he flew 20 of the best garden bloggers in the nation in to have the experience. We were not told what to document or how to document the experience, we were simply asked to attend – anything expressed in posts related to the Garden2Blog event is my own opinion expressed from my own personal experience.

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  1. I loved following everyone's updates from the event and I'm so happy to be reading about it in more depth now. Looks like a wonderful time and those cookies look great (although maybe not as good as the treat in the wheelbarrow that Corona supplied the next day!).

  2. Aren't those tool cookies the cutest? Since I can't eat wheat, I gave them to my daughter. She pronounced them good. I loved Marlsgate. Would love to see it in the day time too. Yes, Allen did welcome everyone as family. It was great.~~Dee

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