P. Allen Smith's Garden2Blog, Part II

Ten Garden Design Tips I Learned From P. Allen Smith

The next stop on our epic Garden2Blog adventure (see Part I) was P. Allen Smith’s original garden home, affectionately called Gaines, in downtown Little Rock. I fell in love with this charming place as soon as we walked through the front gate. Allen purchased the cottage for a dollar, rescued it from demolition, and moved it to its current location, a corner double lot that he acquired in trade for a garden design project. The cottage, a 1904 Colonial Revival, is surrounded by garden rooms that are connected by gates and pathways that draw you from one garden room to the next. This is my favorite garden design, because it adds mystery and whimsy to the garden, and the garden truly becomes an extension of the home.

As we strolled through the garden, Allen shared a few insights about garden design with us. I thought I’d share my interpretations with you.


P. Allen Smith welcomes the Garden2Blog crew to Gaines


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 1:  Don’t ever pay more than $1 for a house. If you don’t like its current location, just move it. Also, consider sharing your time and talent with other friendly gardeners in trade for something you want. In Allen’s case, he trades his garden designs for land. For most of us, we are more likely to trade seeds or recipes. It’s a win-win in any event.


Formal beds in the front of the original garden home, Gaines.


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 2:  Use Proven Winners plants for your beds and borders. And don’t be stingy with them. Plant them in generous drifts and masses of color and texture. These newly-planted beds will be gorgeous in just a few weeks’ time.


Garden path at Gaines


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 3:  Use pathways to add structure  and to lead the way from garden room to garden room.


An archway leads to further exploration


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 4:  Conceal some of the garden rooms with tall hedges or privacy fencing. There is no need to reveal everything at once. Because everyone loves a secret garden.


Water features invite contemplation


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 5:  Add a water feature. Or two. Or three. Water adds soothing sounds, cooling sprays and encourages contemplation and reflection. Water also draws wildlife into the garden.


A colorful container is a focal point on a garden path


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 6:  Use colorful container plantings as focal points along a garden path.


The garden shed at Gaines


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 7:  Garden sheds can be beautiful if you just give them a little TLC. This rose-bedecked shed marks the entry to the vegetable garden.


The vegetable garden at Gaines


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 8:  In the vegetable garden, let edibles and ornamentals mingle in raised beds. Vegetable gardens should be as beautiful and welcoming as any other garden. Ornamentals like pansies and nasturtiums also attract beneficial insects to pollinate crops.


Container plantings soften the pathways and catch the sunlight


P. Allen Smith’s Tip 9:  Use container plantings to soften pathways and add a little color and sparkle amidst the greenery.


Michael and Shirley planting tomatoes together


P. Allen Smith’sTip 10:  Share your garden with friends. Invite them to get involved in planting, growing, harvesting and enjoying nature. Above, garden bloggers Michael Nolan and Shirley Bovshow get ready to plant tomatoes, while below, LaManda Joy Minkel, Brenda Haas, Helen Yoest and Robin Horton celebrate victory as part of a container planting contest put on by our sponsors.  More about sharing in the garden with friends in my next post, when we journey to gardeners’ mecca, Moss Mountain Farm…


LaManda, Brenda, Helen and Robin


For more stories from Garden2Blog, enjoy these shares from Garden2Blog participants:

  • Bruce Bailey – Heavy Petal Nursery
  • Kylee Baumle – Our Little Acre
  • Steve Bender – The Grumpy Gardener, Southern Living Magazine
  • Carolyn Binder – Cowlick Cottage Farm
  • Shirley Bovshow – Shirley Bovshow
  • Amy Bowers – Local Eye Arkansas
  • Susan Cohan – Susan Cohan Gardens
  • Shawna Coronado – The Casual Gardener
  • Brenda Haas – BG Garden
  • Robin Horton – Urban Gardens
  • Lamanda Joy Minikel – The Yarden
  • Monica Milla – Garden Faerie’s Musings
  • Dee Nash – Red Dirt Ramblings
  • Michael Nolan – My Earth Garden
  • Kat Robinson – Tie Dye Travels
  • Genevieve Schmidt – North Coast Gardening
  • Carri Stokes – Between the Limes
  • Amanda Thomsen – Kiss My Aster
  • Christopher Tidrick – From The Soil
  • Linda Tyson – South Suburban Garden Girl
  • Jean Ann Van Krevelan – White Willow Media
  • DISCLOSURE: Attendees at Garden2Blog 2012, including myself, received transportation, accommodations and meals during the event. Event sponsors provided samples and product giveaways at no cost or obligation. All opinions are my own.

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