On May 1st & 2nd I was invited to be one of a small number of garden writers to take part in an all expenses paid event in Little Rock, Arkansas hosted by home & garden divo extraordinaire, P. Allen Smith. Knowing that Garden2Blog 2012 was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend time with quite a few longtime friends and colleagues while spending time at some of the most divine gardens in the south, I graciously accepted.
The conversations that would take place over the next two days became the focus of so much of my attention. Information and laughs equally interspersed throughout this shared experience made it an unforgettable whirlwind of activity that left us amazed and exhausted.
Our first stop on Day 1 was the magnificent Marlsgate Plantation, private residence of the equally magnificent David Garner, Jr. As we walked toward the entrance from the bus, the air was electric with excited conversations, reflections of the previous year’s event and predictions of what was to come.
The grandeur of the Greek Revival mansion was only upstaged by Mr. Garner himself. Slight of stature but not of wit, David made everyone feel immediately at ease and relaxed, and his refreshments of merengue cookies and a special wedding punch “with a little something extra” helped us all to feel even more relaxed before we were given carte blanche to wander the extravagant rooms and elegant gardens that feel simultaneously old and familiar even to a first time visitor. It is easy to forget at times that these gardens are relatively recent improvements to this stately property, and in fact the mansion itself was in such disrepair at one time that it was being used as a barn before Garner and his dearly departed grandmother renovated it to the state of opulence it enjoys today.
One of the first things you notice about Allen is that he is a wellspring of information. He has a fond affection for history that he loves to share with anyone who will listen. Here he was sharing insights about his plant choices in one of the exterior “garden rooms” that adorn Marlsgate.
It is in moments like these, and when he pops up with a bit of historic or plant trivia that you realize why he is one of the best in the business. P. Allen Smith knows what he’s talking about and he never stops studying and learning everything he can. It’s a lesson that many of us could stand to learn and he is a prime example that through hard work and sheer determination you can truly accomplish anything you set your mind to.
I wish I had more photos to share as there were brilliant antiques everywhere indoors and lush greenery outdoors, but I limited my photos to just a few because I wanted to spend as much time focusing on the people I was sharing this experience with as possible. My friends Kylee Baumle, Carolyn Binder and Shawna Coronado did an amazing job taking photos and describing the time at Marlsgate. I hope that you’ll visit their sites to see more.
I’ll be posting more about the Garden2Blog 2012 event and the people who shared the experience with me. I hope you’ll comment, share and ask questions anytime!
FULL 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.