Add a Little Farm Chic to Your 2013

You don’t have to live on a farm to have farm chic style. Take a look at these ideas for adding a little of the pastoral to your interior décor.

Rain chains are a fun alternative to down spouts. In addition to the tradition copper you can find them made with stones, glass, and many other whimsical materials.

I love this Paul Michael Company side table made from a petrified wood. If you have a tree trunk you’d like to transform into a table allow it to dry for a month, remove the bark, and then coat in polyurethane.

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. This “work of art” is made with old garden tools I had in my shed or found at flea markets. See more wall hanging ideas in this video.

Not enough farm chic for you? Join me on my Facebook page for Farm Chic Friday . Each week we give away prizes and share ideas for bringing a little Southern charm into the home and garden.

 

Fresh Holiday Greenery Without the Hassle

See how to customize fresh evergreen wreaths for the holidays. Read my column in this month’s AY Magazine. Click here.

I’ve always found the holiday season to be a magical time of year, and nothing says it better than fresh greenery adorning your home. After years of making individual pieces by hand for my friends, I started designing fresh greenery holiday décor, and now you can have these pieces in your own home. This year, my Holiday Collection is made from beautiful Noble Fir, the finest and most fragrant pieces handcrafted by my friends at Berry Family of Nurseries . I’ve created several designs that I’m sure you’ll love because beautiful styles and wonderful aromas of my Holiday Collection are the perfect way to enjoy the holiday season. The best part is that there’s a little something to bring the holidays to every style and every space.


You can purchase the Colonial, Chocolate & Spice, Williamsburg, Lodge, and Classic Collections online at HomeDepot.com and the Rustic Collection at Frontgate.com. The Collection is also available at independent garden centers across the country, select Sam’s Club stores, and Reasor’s in northeast Oklahoma.

Coffee Table Books Make Great Gifts

I’ve always loved the gift giving tradition of the holidays. We have a large family so we tend to stick to simple and thoughtful pieces, and one of my favorite gifts to give is coffee table books. They are elegant and cost-effective and with so many quality ones to choose from, you can really personalize this gift to the recipient. I’ve recently discovered two books written by dear friends that I can’t wait to wrap up and place beneath the tree, Empress of the Garden by G. Michael Shoup and Natural Companions, The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations by Ken Druse.

Empress of the Garden

Text and Photographs by G. Michael Shoup

200 pages with color photographs

ISBN: 0-9678213-2-0

$39, available for purchase online or at the Antique Rose Emporium

Empress of the Garden tells the story of antique roses and is bold in every sense of the word. Behind its square cover lies an immense library of stunning photos and descriptions of the ancient roses that Shoup has spent the last 25 years breeding and researching. He identifies these roses under a variety of types of women like Drama Queens, Captive Spirits, Tenacious Tomboys and Big Hearted Homebodies and his brief but detailed description of each breed includes adjectives about each of their personalities. With his intimate knowledge of the history and lineage of these old garden roses, Shoup seems to have a personal relationship with each of them. Whether you’re looking for the perfect rose for your garden or simply looking to be inspired, this is a coffee table book deserving of the many fine adjectives that its author assigns to his roses.

Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Companions

By Ken Druse, Botanical Photographs by Ellen Hoverkamp

250 pages with color photographs

ISBN: 978-1-58479-901-6

$40, available for online purchase Amazon or Abram’s Books

Natural Companions is equally stunning, and where Empress focuses solely on roses, Natural Companions explores the entire plant kingdom. Garden writer Druse shares his immense horticulture knowledge to show recipes for the perfect plant pairing for every yard and experience level. His simple, streamlined style presents different ways to plan your garden to have diverse species that complement one another and bloom at the same time. From color to fragrance to type of plant, there is a how-to for every gardener. And even the blackest thumb can be inspired by the full-page images of gardens across America. This coffee table book is sure to capture the eye of gardeners and designers alike.

Apple Seeds Teaches Kids Healthy Nutrition through Gardening

I want to get on my “seed box” for a minute about a topic that shouldn’t be a topic in one of the richest countries in the world – childhood hunger. Arkansas has the highest rate of childhood hunger in the nation. At the same time, approximately 38 percent of Arkansas students have been found to be overweight or at risk of being overweight each school year. My recent visit to Northwest Arkansas and the Apple Seeds afterschool program introduced me to those baffling statistics, but also made me wonder “how do we fix it?”

According to Beth Ashbaugh, executive director of Apple Seeds, it’s all about community buy-in.

Apple Seeds is an after-school program based in three Fayetteville schools that focuses on creating healthy lifestyles for students and their families. School gardens, cooking, field trips, and farm-to-fork initiatives are what make healthy living come alive for these students. Their hands-on activities help teach them to make lifelong nutritious food choices and to create a sustainable food system.

“Gardening is just the catalyst to get the kids interested in something they wouldn’t be likely to care about otherwise,” said Lucy Kagan, an AmeriCorp VISTA volunteer and the Plant to Plate coordinator for Apple Seeds.

At Owl Creek Elementary, one of the afterschool gardening programs, there are six adult volunteers that make the program a success. They have students work in the gardens, write about what they’re seeing, cook with the ingredients that they’ve grown, and eat these healthy snacks.
“The organization has been growing and empowering healthy children for seven years, but we saw a huge jump in the impact of the program once we started getting more community participation,” Ashbaugh said.

While Ashbaugh organizes the gardens and shows kids how to plant, she says that it’s the knowledge of the other program leaders that truly brings that information to life. A local chef teaches the students’ parents how to cook simple, healthy meals, the 5th grade science teacher uses the gardens as a lab for the students, and the school nurse instructs the kids on fitness and healthy living choices.

“Our mission can go so much farther when other people, especially experts, offer their skills,” Ashbaugh said. “One of our goals is to find community partners that we can set up with the resources that they need and support them. They, in turn, support these kids.”

Kagan’s goal is for every child to know where his or her food comes from, and she thinks the program is making that a reality.

“The change in attitudes that you see from kids after three weeks of working in a garden is amazing,” she said. “There’s an attitude of positive peer pressure with ‘who can eat the weirdest thing’ and the students see a connection with their bodies and what they eat. You never know what will lead kids to make better eating choices in the future, but it’s happening here every day.”

Just witnessing the program in action was an inspiration, but like Kagan and Ashbaugh pointed out, “there’s something like this in every community- it’s going mainstream now.”

“People are looking for alternatives. The economy is weak, we have more access to information about good foods versus bad foods, and people want to know about and cook their own food. They just need a little guidance and advice, and we can do that.”

I encourage you to reach out to these types of programs in your own community. You never know how your skills might help create healthier lives.

Old Traditions, New Recipes

 

During the holidays, I always look forward to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a Smith Family Christmas. The holiday traditions of my family have been carried throughout the years, and I love passing our family stories and recipes on to my nieces and nephews. This year, though, I’m hoping to create a new tradition around the dinner table with an alternative to our typical recipes- this year, I’m making Pekin Duck.

Pekin Duck is one of my favorite “sounds fancy, cooks easy” main dishes, and when paired with a citrus glaze it is a beautiful and delicious meal with a holiday twist. Long Island Ducks are what we know as “Pekin.” They were bred in China and in 1873, exported to Long Island. It’s the most common duck meat consumed in the U.S. and in my opinion, the tastiest. We tend to rely on the holiday meal staples, but I think trying out a different bird this year will be a hit and hopefully start a tradition of trying new recipes each holiday.

Pekin Duck with Mandarin Sauce

Say Happy Thanksgiving with Brussels Sprouts

Thanksgiving is the big holiday for my family- no matter where we host it, we’re all in a frenzy of activity. The kids are playing in the yard, uncles and aunts are enjoying the fire, and my cousins, siblings and I are busy catching up while also putting the finishing touches on lunch. When we finally sit down at the table, though, it’s hard to talk to everyone during lunch because everyone in my family loves to eat.

I find that it just takes one recipe to bridge the gap between the adult and kid’s table, though. Desserts are always a good go-to, but last year I tried fresh Brussels sprouts. I know what you’re thinking- “my kids would never eat Brussels sprouts!” But try this recipe and I bet you’ll be surprised just how many members of your family ask for seconds.

Tarragon Pimiento Brussels Sprouts

Heritage Apples Welcome Autumn

Do you want more information on heritage apples? Check out my column in this month’s AY Magazine. Click here to read it online.

 

This time of year sends my senses into a whirlwind. I love how so many of the sights, sounds and smells around me proudly announce autumn’s arrival. Heritage apples are the perfect example- come November, their colors are bright, their taste is crisp and fresh, and their smell… well, there is nothing better than the smell of baking apples wafting through the house.

 

The week leading up to Thanksgiving is one in which I don’t spend much time cooking, but I couldn’t help throwing together this 5-ingredient Apple Tart Tatin recipe yesterday. It is quick and easy to make, and I might even add it to the Thanksgiving menu because it certainly gets me in the mood for the holidays.

Ingredients

1 pre-made piecrust

1/2 cup sugar in the raw

6 apples, peeled cored and quartered

7 ounces butter

3/4 cup sugar

Instructions

In a heavy, oven safe, 9-inch skillet combine 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup sugar in the raw with 7 ounces of butter. Cook over a medium high heat until amber in color and brown around the edges. This should take about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat and carefully circle the apple wedges around the skillet positioning them so they all face in the same direction. Place the apples as tightly together as possible because they will shrink during cooking.

Top the apples with a round pie crust that overlaps the skillet by about 1/2 inch all around. Fold the crust overlap toward the center. Push the edge of the pie crust down into the skillet with a rubber spatula or something similar to seal all the apple goodness inside. Cut 3 or 4 vent holes in the top of the crust.

Bake in the pre-heated 350 degree F oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the skillet from the oven and cool. Place a dish at least 1-inch larger in diameter than the skillet on top of the skillet. Carefully flip the tart to where the pie crust is now on the bottom with the plate.

 

Win a Pair of Dramm Hand Pruners

I can’t believe what an awesome response we received on this contest. I wish I had more pruners to give away. Today’s winner by random draw is Tammy Hathaway. Congratulations Tammy and thanks to everyone for participating. I’m blown away.

People often ask me about which plants to cut back in autumn and when to cut them back. I advise to wait until a killing freeze to cut back perennials and pull out summer annuals. If a plant had problems during the summer always through the foliage in the trash rather than the compost bin to prevent carrying fungus and disease over into next year.

I like to leave some of my perennials and ornamental grasses uncut for winter interest and bird habitat. How about you? Do you prefer a tidy winter garden or is a little frowzy more your style?

Tell me in the comments section below for a chance to win a cool pair of Dramm ColorPoint™ Bypass Pruners. They are bright yellow, which makes it easy to find them in the garden. I’ll announce the winner on Friday November 02, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. CST. Click here for the official rules.

Christmas Comes Early

“What do you do every day?” It’s a question I’ve been asked, always politely, throughout my entire career. And it is a fair question. Do I spend all my time in the garden, making recipes, or choosing paint colors? Do I have an army of workers running crazy while I sit back and drink hot cocoa? Do I spend one day a week writing, another filming, another speaking, and another managing my farm?

Honestly, it’s a little bit of each of those (with the exception of the hot cocoa. In Arkansas there is a small window of time when it’s cold enough to drink hot cocoa.). The average week involves all of those details, but usually there’s a little something extra thrown into the mix.

Recently, it was shooting a commercial for my Holiday Collection with Berry Family of Nurseries. Filming is a part of daily life at the Garden Home, but we decided to rent out a studio for a new look for this commercial.

Here are a few things I learned about making commercials:

You have to take your shoes off when walking on an all-white set, otherwise you track dirt onto the set. If you do it correctly, though, the magic of television can turn an empty set into a fully decorated room in the snap of a finger.

It’s better to just bring most of the shirts in your closet, because you never know what is “holiday appropriate,” especially when it’s still 80 degrees outside.

Even a small amount of greenery can get you into the Christmas spirit, especially when the greenery was flown in just that morning from the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon.

It takes a lot of people to make a commercial come together. Luckily, I’ve got a very talented crew.

Five hours, three cups of coffee, one rented studio, a dozen set changes, 10 different wreaths, and a crew of 8 people later, we had a commercial.

Well, let me rephrase that. We had the footage for a commercial, and now it falls to the editing team back at the office. And I will say this much- I can’t wait to see what they produce.


Dress your Table for Fall!

Hello again, friends and fans of Allen!

What a relief that the weather here in Arkansas is cooling down; it’s really getting me in the Fall spirit!

Because I share Allen’s passion for entertaining, I thought I would offer some ideas for creating a Fall tablescape that is still bold and bright. No muted tones for us this Fall, we’re going festive!

This month, you can find me on the pages of Traditional Home, inviting you into MY home for a dinner fit for Fall. There are also fun tidbits–including reicpes!–over at their website recap.

 

 

(event photographer: Emily Followill)

For a special party, consider transforming your dining chairs with slipcovers that work well with your chosen decor. And this faux bois wingchair, upholstered with fabric from my upcoming Tobi Fairley Home line, strikes a rustic note without taking away from the glamour of this event design.

 

On this table, I drew out the green accents from my living room design and then punched it up with a gorgeous sapphire blue. Monograms are a detail I love; it gives linens a very tailored, sophisticated, Southern touch.

 

The place setting and invitations (from Molly’s Paperie) extend the antler motif, which also appears as a grouping of wall-hangings (see photo above).

 

These lovely acorns really enhance the seasonal feel!