July 09, 2021
Last month, on a garden-visiting road trip with my mom, I bought tickets for a farm lunch and tour at P. Allen Smith‘s Moss Mountain Farm, about 40 minutes north of Little Rock, Arkansas. Smith is a nationally known TV personality and garden designer, and the half-day tours at his country home draw visitors from all over the U.S. Here’s Part 2 of my tour; click here for Part 1.
P. Allen Smith’s home
During the first part of the tour, we were invited inside Smith’s buttercream-yellow, 3-story Greek Revival home, built in 2008 but designed to look like mid-1800s construction, right down (or rather, up) to an authentic absence of crown molding. Smith lives here part-time, we were told, and keeps a house in Little Rock as well. His traditional decorating style shows that he’s a maximalist as well as a collector of art and antiques, and his interiors are lovely and inviting.
Our guide led us from room to room, pointing out certain pieces and telling us about their history or how Smith acquired them. Some of the stories were quite entertaining.
In the living room, two of Smith’s fruit watercolors hang on either side of a window.
The all-white kitchen overlooks a hedged lawn, with a charming bud vase on the sill.
At another window, morning light washes over white ceramic serving items shaped like animals.
A ceramic rooster keeps watch over an egg display and egg cups on the windowsill.
The kitchen opens to a breakfast space and family room, but I was soon drawn out onto the screened porch, where cushioned sofas and chairs are scattered about.
Charleston-green shutters on each end provide shade. The “haint blue” ceiling color is traditional in the South.
But the view — garden, pond, Arkansas River, and blue-green hills — grabs your attention as soon as you step onto the porch.
Two outbuildings — Smith’s art studio (pictured) and a summer kitchen — face each other across a small lawn to frame the view.
Heading upstairs, we passed two large landscapes and a collection of Founding Father busts.
At the top of the stairs you pass through a collector’s charmingly cluttered display area and reading nook.
The stuffed bear lounging open-mouthed on a red divan was an unexpected touch.
Smith’s bedroom and bath were the only rooms we weren’t permitted to explore, understandably, although we could look from the hall. There were also a guest room and, on the attic-like third floor, a suite of children’s rooms for visiting nieces and nephews.
View of Big Sister Oak
The guest bathroom window looks out on the post oak named the Big Sister Oak in front of the house. She’s stunning, isn’t she?
Upstairs sleeping porch
A row of iron beds on the second-floor screened porch invites outdoor sleeping during nice weather.
Next up on the tour was the organic vegetable garden. Because the day was hot and we were told the walk would be long and hilly, Mom sat out this part of the tour along with several others. The 1-acre vegetable garden is laid out symmetrically along a broad path, with two hip-roofed, black-stained sheds on either side near the gate.
Colorful potted plants dress up the path, under galvanized farmhouse lights hanging on the sheds.
Tuteurs flank the path as do posts supporting wide rebar arches, à la Monet’s garden. Hyacinth bean vine was being trained up the arches. Imagine how beautiful that will look by late summer.
Chipped-paint ceramic chickens perch atop tree-trunk posts in the garden beds, to charming effect. Ornamentals like daylilies, purple coneflowers, and sunflowers are given space alongside edibles.
Cedar arbors and wattle-style fencing add country style.
At the end of the path, a bench sits in front of a tall, green hedge. Walk around the hedge, and you’re treated to the surprise of a stag on a brick pedestal. And then…
…your gaze is drawn down a long, sloping path lined by pots of spectacular hot-pink hydrangeas and emerald hollies, the glinting river glimpsed in the distance. This is the path to the Hidden Rose Garden.
Hidden Rose Garden
The rose garden appears on a lower terrace, nearly hidden from view until you reach an overlook at the end of the hydrangea allée.
Looking over a parapet you see grand gates supported by brick pillars, which open to an oval lawn. A temple-like folly smothered in ivy draws the eye to a statue of the Goddess Flora.
An allée of Eagleston hollies, which Smith prizes for their bee-attracting flowers and red fruits, encircles the garden. Eventually the trees will be pleached so you can walk under a leafy tunnel around the garden.
Potted oleanders flank the gate, adding hot-season color.
Holly and boxwood create an evergreen frame for garden paths and sight lines to crenellated brick pavilions on each side of the garden.
Pink roses and an agave (fighting with grassy weeds — it’s a real garden!) in a Victorian urn
Castle-like with its crenellated top, the Flora pavilion is softened by creeping ivy that adds secret-garden romance.
Flora stands amid potted boxwoods and white flowering annuals.
The garden can be rented out for weddings, and I imagine it’s a popular spot for Little Rock brides.
Blowsy pink and red roses mingle with boxwood inside hedged beds.
The cross-axis view from one of the smaller pavilions to another
Looking back toward the gates, you can see people on the parapet overlook, accessed via curving ramps on each side. It’s all quite grand and formal for a farm garden, Smith says, which is why he separated it visually from the rest of the garden.
Lunch and meeting P. Allen
Back at the house, we found lunch waiting for us under a tent. Overhead, magnolia wreaths lay in iron chandeliers, and rustic tables were decked out with potted topiary, lanterns, and flower bouquets. Salad greens with chicken, sautéed vegetables, and Smith’s “famous buttermilk pecan pie with homemade whipped cream” filled us up. As lunch wrapped up, Smith ambled down from the house to greet us.
It had to be 90 degrees, but Smith was dapper in slacks, a button-down shirt and vest, and a plaid sport coat. So far as I could tell, he never broke a sweat. I was in awe of his sweat-gland control. He perched on a stool and started chatting about the farm, and instantly he had us eating out of his hand, laughing at his jokes and asking questions about growing hydrangeas, when to fertilize, and the like. He was a real pro — accessible, witty, and a storyteller with a languid Southern drawl. After a Q&A session, he sat for a book signing and photos.
We opted not to wait in line to meet Smith and also skipped the final portion of the tour — Poultryville, where a huge barn houses Smith’s beloved heirloom chickens — because we had other places to be. But we enjoyed our visit to Moss Mountain Farm and would recommend it to anyone who likes home and garden tours. And if you happen to be a fan of P. Allen, you’re sure to love it.
For a look back at the Terrace Garden at Moss Mountain Farm, click here. This concludes my series about my Austin-to-St. Louis road trip.
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