P. Allen Smith’s Garden2Blog Event: Sunshine, Southern Punch and Plant Geekery

I’m a humble landscaper in a small college town, so when I got the email inviting me on an all-expenses-paid trip to Little Rock, Arkansas to meet P. Allen Smith and hang with some garden writer peeps at the 2012 Garden2Blog event, I was thrilled to say the least. I’ve never been anywhere besides the West coast, and getting to meet Allen, who’s a big celebrity in the gardening world, sounded amazing.

Where do I even begin to share with you all I saw? Allen’s two properties have amazing gardens, and they are so totally different from anything I do for myself or for clients that it was exciting to see. Lots of traditional garden structure: boxwood hedges, towering cones of clipped holly and Arborvitae, formal fountains and urn planters, and bed upon bed of exuberant spilling annuals and perennials.

Yet even as the gardens seemed to celebrate a historic view of gardening, there were modern touches everywhere, from the bold use of foliage color, drifts of grasses, and best of all, the emphasis on growing organically. That’s right: P. Allen Smith’s a chemical-free gardener. While he has a lot of roses on his properties, most are either old-fashioned varieties which need little help, or the newer landscape roses like Drifts and Knockouts which don’t make good cut flowers but grow brilliantly in the garden with no spray.

And the results? Lots of happy butterflies, pollinators, birds and life:

Garden2Blog (3)

I was so surprised to see my native California poppy in this garden bed – to travel how many miles and see an old friend? Neat!

Garden2Blog (8)

The groundcover plants were gorgeous. Check out this Sedum and Verbena combo:

Garden2Blog (20)

And THIS plant – look closely at this Cleome below – Humboldt peeps – does it remind you of anything? I’m in love with the flowers of this thing – like a little petal explosion – but am definitely planting it in my BACK yard so nobody mistakes it for anything they’d want to steal.

Garden2Blog (18)

After a hot day of touring and getting to meet the sponsors, walking the garden at dusk with my glass of wine was exactly what I needed:

Garden2Blog (19)

Garden2Blog (39)

Aha! And there was the Ruby Spider daylily I’d been looking for in the scavenger hunt! There’d been a Proven Winners scavenger hunt to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but I think everyone had been crowded around this one blocking it from view while I was on the hunt for it. Drat!

Garden2Blog (31) Garden2Blog (46)
Garden2Blog (37) Garden2Blog (28)


Garden2Blog (47)

My fellow writers and I had a blast at Garden2Blog.

Jean Ann Van Krevelen enjoyed stepping into the life of a Southern lady (Does anyone NOT want that tub?):

Garden2Blog (44)

Kylee Baumle nabbed a bunch of photos (this was pretty much the only moment of the trip when Kylee wasn’t grinning – all the pecan toffee we ate seemed to cheer her greatly!):

Garden2Blog (42)

And the highlight of everyone’s trip was when The Grumpy Gardener, Steve Bender, serenaded us with a rousing rendition of Ring of Fire after the last evening’s dinner. I think all that good food loosened him up.

Garden2Blog (2)

We all thought he was marvelous (left to right: Barbara Wise, Christopher Tidrick, Shawna Coronado, Carolyn Binder and Helen Yoest):

Garden2Blog (22)

Want to hear more about our adventures (and possibly see further incriminating images of Grumpy)? My fellow Proven Winners Garden Gurus who attended have each written up a blog post about their experiences:

Carolyn Binder

Jean Ann Van Krevelen

Dee Nash

Amanda Thomsen

FTC disclosure: Attendees at Garden2Blog including myself received transportation, accommodations and meals during the event. Event sponsors provided samples and product giveaways at no cost or obligation. I am also a paid blogger for Proven Winners which was one of the event sponsors.


    • says

      Thanks, Jim! After meeting him in person I’m going to be making a point to catch him on TV more (I don’t usually watch TV on TV, I watch on the internet, so certain shows are harder to catch than others). Just couldn’t believe how genuinely knowledgeable he is.

  1. Elaine Sumner Rumsey says

    What a treat to see all of those beautiful gardens!! Did PAS cook for you, too? He always has great recipes :) Glad you had such a wonderful trip!

    • says

      Somebody cooked for us, and it was tas-ty! Guessing it was P Allen’s recipes, but that he didn’t cook for us personally. We were a pretty ravenous pack! :)

  2. says

    You took some wonderful photos. I personally don’t care much for his TV show but it is sure a hellava lot better than most garden shows on the tube. Your excitement at this opportunity came through in this post. Mr. Smith is cleverly reaching out to gain influence over the influencers in the garden blog world. It’s probably too much to ask for attendees to maintain a critical distance. Your disclosure at the end is admirable.

    • says

      I don’t watch much TV at all Carolyn, but what I’ve seen of P Allen’s shows I like a lot better than the HGTV stuff, just because with HGTV I feel like they set people up with wildly unrealistic expectations of how long it takes and how much it costs to have landscaping done at their homes. Also, I am a sucker for food and keeping hens, both of which Allen discusses on his show!

  3. says

    How lovely to see it through your eyes, and to meet you too. I think of you often now as I stroll my garden. I wish I could show you everything I grow and then head to your garden to see what you’re growing and sowing. Seriously, meeting you was one of my highlights of the trip.~~Dee

    • says

      Oh, Dee, may I just say I totally feel the same? I adore you and wish we lived closer so we could have tea and GF cookie get-togethers in the garden! :)

  4. says

    Oh Genevieve! It looks like you all had a wonderful time! Love the shot of Jean Ann in the bath tub. And I see what you mean about the Cleome. Not only a beautiful bloom, but in a drift….. well it makes you a little weak in the knee’s. So beautiful! Love the write up! Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Laura – I am so excited to be growing Cleome for the first time in my garden – it’s actually doing great so far! I am shocked and impressed. Just love the texture and colors.

  5. yvonne colburn says

    Wow! What a great trip you must have had. Sounds like you met some nice peeps too. Love the Proven Winner Plants! Hope you keep blooming. Thanks for the pictures, always nice to see interesting plant combos. Peace in my friend.

  6. Jennie says

    Beautifully written and photographed. I love the in depth look at the gardens. thank you and glad you had a good time . . . but how could you not?! : )

  7. Roberta says

    Yes Gen, wonderful pictures!!
    The garden through your eyes has always been… A Proven Winner!! 😉


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *