Tour of P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm: Terrace Backyard and Sister Oak

July 07, 2021

After St. Louis, Mother and I headed again to Texas through Little Rock, Arkansas. On the morning of June seventeenth, we wound our approach into the hills northwest of town and joined 80 others with a reservation for lunch and a tour of Moss Mountain Farm, the showplace residence and gardens of TV character, backyard designer, and tastemaker P. Allen Smith — the South’s personal Martha Stewart. Our tour group included avid P. Allen followers from all around the nation and the merely curious or backyard vacationers, like ourselves.

I haven’t seen Smith’s TV reveals or learn his books, besides I do know who he’s. I wager each gardener within the South does. Allen, as his workers refers to him (the P. is for Paul), is a golden-haired gentleman farmer with a honeyed Southern drawl who’s created a media empire not in New York or California however smack-dab in the course of Arkansas (the place he has negotiated controversial massive contracts for state {dollars} to advertise Arkansas tourism).

About 10 years in the past, Smith was yearly handing out golden tickets like Willy Wonka to woo bloggers throughout the U.S. to come back keep for a weekend at his farm, leading to a flurry of publicity for his ventures. Not being one of many fortunate recipients, I did surprise what all of the fuss was about. Properly, after springing for 2 tour tickets (at almost $100 per ticket for as much as 80 friends at a time, on roughly 40 dates per 12 months, excursions are a fairly candy aspect gig for Smith), I lastly came upon.

Large Sister Oak and Backyard Dwelling

What I discovered is that Moss Mountain Farm, a 650-acre property with a home overlooking the Arkansas River and classically designed gardens, is a fantastic and tour-worthy property, with a extremely skilled workers of guides and occasion planners. At its helm is P. Allen Smith himself, who, when he confirmed up at lunch for an informal discuss, Q&A session, and e-book signing, proved to be gracious, charismatic, and tartly humorous, with a expertise for making his “friends” really feel personally welcome.

However let’s again up and begin with the backyard tour. Mother and I arrived at 9:30 am for our 10 am tour, hatted and sunscreened, on a mid-June day that promised to be scorching. Tour-goers milled round within the reward store and underneath a giant tent with lemon water and scones. Mother and I sat within the shade of a broad put up oak, the place a semicircle of white benches ignored Smith’s Greek Revival residence and one other huge put up oak dubbed the Large Sister Oak.

Greater than 300 years previous, the Large Sister Oak stands squarely in entrance of the new-but-made-to-look-old home, spreading her limbs as huge as she is tall. The painted brick home defers to the tree, giving it star billing as you method. Surrounding the internal hedged yard, turf grass is allowed to develop lengthy and go to seed in summer season.

If I keep in mind proper, Smith stated it was zoysia grass, and his rule isn’t any mowing after Could as a way to present fowl and different wildlife habitat and to let the grass seed out. I heard somebody ask about snakes — in my expertise, snakes are the number-one concern about tall grass — and our information shrugged and stated, “Sure, certain, now we have snakes. They’re a part of a wholesome ecosystem.” No-mow and wildlife pleasant? I used to be shortly turning into a fan.

There’s a romance to this grand Sister Oak and the ungroomed meadow grasses underneath her leafy skirts. Twin iron benches again as much as her huge trunk, with a mown path to achieve them. The tree gives the principle axis level alongside which Smith constructed his residence and laid out the gardens.

On the appointed hour, the guides welcomed us and divided our group of 80 into two teams (usually it’s 3 smaller teams, however they had been quick a information), one beginning with the home tour, the opposite with the Terrace Backyard that runs alongside the slope behind the home.

Vitex pond and Arkansas River view

We scooted across the aspect of the home to achieve the Terrace Backyard, and there was a lot to see alongside the best way, however first the grand view. From a terraced garden behind the home, and from the house’s two-story porches, you look throughout a round pond framed by 4 vitex timber to the broad, muddy Arkansas River and inexperienced hills past. It’s a shocking vista.

The vitex timber had been in full flower, their purple bloom spikes bristling atop palmate leaves and gnarled trunks like olive timber. They made me wish to replant one other, regardless of how a lot pruning they require to take care of their multi-trunked type.

Agapanthus and different terracotta-potted crops ring the pond and line the broad stone stairs main as much as the home. I wager these stacked bricks within the pond are a ladder for wildlife to soundly get out and in for a drink.

Agaves in Arkansas? Sure, certainly! Smith stated he likes to plant variegated American agave in pots for its architectural type, and in his local weather he by no means must water them, though he does deliver them indoors in winter.

Two outbuildings, white with crimson steel roofs like the principle home, bookend the terraced garden. This construction is Smith’s artwork studio. His authentic watercolors and prints of fruits and landscapes had been out there for buy within the reward store.

Reverse stands a summer season kitchen, with a pizza oven and patio seating on the terrace beneath.

Terrace Backyard

The Terrace Backyard stretches out on either side of the home alongside a mown garden path, with perennial borders and espaliered fruit timber and vine-draped tuteurs and grape arbors and…OK, so there was so much to see. Right here’s a swath of ethereal Verbena bonariensis and a view uphill again to the home.

Boxwoods edge this a part of the border like large inexperienced gumdrops.

A blazing show of daylilies, Asiatic lilies, and verbena caught my eye. I don’t know what the burgundy foliage is within the center. Any guesses?

Coneflowers and daylilies absorbing the solar

One other view

Drying homes

Consistent with the model of an 1840s home and influenced by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Smith added two symmetrical drying homes close to every finish of the backyard.

Inside, bunches of herbs and flowers are hung to dry. I want I’d gotten a photograph, however you’ll be able to see one on this blogger’s put up (together with many different terrific photos).

The grapevine tunnel made for a shady respite on this scorching day.

At one finish of the Terrace Backyard, which I by some means didn’t {photograph}, a big fig (“Miss Large Fig”) anchors a round mattress. On the different finish stands this Victorian-style urn with a yellow-striped American agave, surrounded by iris, lemon-lime ‘Angelina’ sedum, and arborvitae.

Aspect gardens

Heading again round to the entrance of the home, I admired this beautiful planting of crocosmia, daylilies, canna, and Russian sage.

Superb scorching coloration, with a bit of splash of blushing white for distinction

Another of the crocosmia and velvety red-and-yellow daylilies

A picket gate in a tall hedge reveals the Bantam Temple, a classy coop for a number of chickens I noticed in right here. Smith has a whole barn known as Poultryville devoted to his obsession with heirloom poultry, which Mother and I skipped as a result of it was an extended stroll on a scorching afternoon on the finish of the tour. However you’ll be able to see it right here. (Transport could be welcome for these with mobility challenges, however that’s not supplied. When you go, be ready for as much as 2 miles of strolling on hilly terrain.)

One other agave alongside the side-garden path. Loree (“there’s at all times an agave”) Bohl could be happy!

An allée of wisteria timber in a golden meadow, with a mown path to a focal-point statue, gives one other romantic second within the aspect backyard.

I didn’t discover this muddy path (there had been current rain), however I admired the combination of wine-red foliage, purple flowers, and golden sedges.

Heuchera and hydrangea share a pleasant coloration echo.

Tuteurs and Rose of Sharon

I’ll finish Half 1 of my tour with this scene from the Terrace Backyard: purple rose of Sharon and a celery-green tuteur. I requested two guides for the cultivar identify, and so they didn’t comprehend it, however they stated it’s commonplace in Arkansas.

As we discovered from Smith at lunch, the gardens are maintained organically, and pollinator and fowl species have elevated tremendously with the addition of the flower gardens, hedges, grasses, and water options. Smith believes in shrinking the garden and letting weeds like clover develop in it, not dousing crops with chemical compounds, accumulating rainwater for irrigation, and utilizing green-energy sources like photo voltaic. He’s on a mission to show others about dwelling extra frivolously on the earth, and the excursions are a part of that.

Up subsequent: Half 2 of my tour of Moss Mountain Farm, together with the home, vegetable backyard, hidden rose backyard, and P. Allen Smith at lunch.

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