Category: Uncategorized

Two Days and One Pond

Last week we hosted our third annual Garden2Blog workshop. We get together with our Garden Home Partners and invite garden bloggers from around the country to spend two days with us at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home. It offers the chance for all of us to do something kind of old fashioned – have a face-to-face conversation.

This year our partner Laguna Ponds did something that I thought was pretty amazing. They installed a water feature in two days. Come to find out, it wasn’t amazing at all because it’s that easy to put in a pond. The hardest part about the project is digging the hole.

We placed the pond behind my brother’s new house where you can see and hear it from the back deck.

One day one the Laguna team dug the hole, put down the liner and edged the pond with native stone.

The Durashield Pond Liner they used is good for natural looking water gardens because it will conform to curves and shelves.

When they dug it the guys created a shelf around the hole for stacking native rock to secure and conceal the liner.

On the second day the pond was filled with water and the bloggers added plants.

Pebbles packed in around the native stone further hides the liner and gives the edge of the pond a finished look.

These floating planters make it possible to grow just about anything in the pond including flowers and herbs.

The waterfall leading to the pond. I think Chris and his wife Joyce are really going to enjoy the soothing sound of this!

 

 

Small Beginnings, Big Rewards

Children who are involved in gardening reap benefits that are both tangible and intangible. Studies show they tend to eat more vegetables and be healthier overall, while growing a portion of their own food provides them with a sense of self-reliance, knowledge of plants, awareness of the seasons and higher self-esteem. Involvement in gardening helps them understand their connection to the earth and encourages eco-friendly living. Moreover, hands-on experience with gardening connects them with the agricultural roots of America.

I believe that teaching children to garden helps them to see the parallels between the care and growth of living things with the care and growth of their own lives, families and communities. You could say that it’s my mission to grow more gardeners so I was delighted when Bonnie Plants asked me to travel to southeast Arkansas to meet Emily McTigrit of Star City’s Jimmy Brown Elementary School.

Emily grew a 16-pound cabbage with a circumference of 43.5 inches this year, making her Arkansas’ Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program winner.

Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program provides more than one million free cabbage plants to 3rd grade classes around the country each year. This program fosters a love of vegetable gardening in youth. Here’s how it works: Children raise their cabbages at home or in the school garden with the goal of growing a monster-size cabbage. The variety, the O.S. Cross, produces giant heads, and some have been known to grow up to 50 pounds. That’s right— a 50-pound head of cabbage! At the end of the season, the child who grows the largest cabbage in the state wins a $1,000 scholarship.

Emily was presented with her check in a school-wide assembly, and I interviewed her for my TV show. She told me all about how she watered and fertilized the cabbage, made sure to pick a sunny location and how the 16 pounds of cabbage provided her family with buckets of coleslaw.

Visit BonnieCabbageProgram.com to see more big cabbages and learn how to participate in the program.

Deer Resistant Plants? Fact or Fiction?

Raise your hand if deer like to graze in your garden. How many different tactics have you tried to protect your plants? Have you tried hanging bars of soap from tree limbs, sprayed predator urine or scattered human hair around flower beds?

While these inventive measures may work temporarily, a long term solution requires a holistic approach. First, you have to give up the idea that you are ever going to deer proof your garden. Unless you build a 7-foot tall fence around your place, there’s not much you can do to keep them out. Next, make your garden less appealing to deer. Stop planting their favorites like tulips, roses and hostas and choose plants that deer are less inclined to eat. A few plant characteristics to look out for are fuzzy foliage, an antiseptic aroma and a bad taste.

Are there plants that are 100 percent deer resistant? No. The truth is that deer will eat anything when food is scarce, but if your garden is filled with plants that deer find unpleasant, there is a good chance they will move on to the delicacies in your neighbor’s yard.

 

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!

Designing Indoor Spaces with Rhythm


Hello, again, friends and fans of Allen. I’m so glad to be back with you today!

One challenge many people face is how to design their interiors so that the distinct spaces flow together, without making them all matchy-match. So I thought I would share a tip for how I manage this in my own work. As I see it, the key to doing this successfully is to choose one element (it can be a color, a finish, a pattern, or a theme) and repeat it–ever so subtly–in each room of your house.

Here are some examples from one of my own projects:

The motif throughout this ornate, Mediterranean design is GOLD: gold finishes, gold leaf, gold detail, a gold thread woven throughout!

Gold in the Master Suite…

Gold in the Living Room…

Gold in the Powder Bath…

And a slight nod to it in the metallic touches in the serene Guest Room!

 

And though there are a lot of differences in the moods, uses, and styles of these rooms, can you see how the gold is a thread that weaves through all of them?

So now go and try this motif magic in your own home, and let us know how it goes!

Xo,

WaterWise® Giveaway

Congratulations Duyen! You are the winner of the WaterWise® Easy Container Watering Kit from Proven Winners®. Thank you to everyone who participated. The correct answer is Diamond Frost® Euphorbia.

One way to get the upper hand on a drought is to choose plants that have low moisture requirements.

This one of my favorite plants to use as a filler in both flower borders and containers. It holds up like a champ even during the driest weather. Can you guess what it is? Tell me in the comments section below for a chance to win a WaterWise® Easy Container Watering Kit from Proven Winners®.

Need a hint? It’s a plant in my Platinum Collection from Proven Winners®, which you can check out here.

I’ll select the winner at random and announce the name on Wednesday September 5, 2012. Click here to read the official rules.

Pickling Punk Rock Style

I’d like to introduce you to my friend and fellow gardener Laura Mathews. She’s a garden writer and photographer who contributes to several websites including Punk Rock Gardens. She’s also the Northeast Garden Guru for Proven Winners. Laura attended our annual blogger event at the farm, Garden2Blog, in 2011.

While scouring the virtual garden for harvesting and preserving tips I discovered that Laura knew quite a bit on pickling. I asked her to share her knowledge, which she very graciously did. Plus a recipe for bread and butter pickles you can freeze. I can’t wait to try them.

If you have questions for Laura and just want to find out more good gardening information look her up on Twitter (@punkrockgardens) or Facebook or visit PunkRockGardens.com.

At times in the growing season, the bounty from our vegetable gardens can be a bit overwhelming. Many of our backyard vegetable garden favorites mature within weeks of each other. One way out to this annual pickle… is to pickle.

Pickling may seem like a frightening black art practiced only by women of the past with extraordinary quantities of technical kitchen skill, but it’s actually much less complex than say, maintaining a quality compost pile. With attention to a couple important things, pickling is easy. It also generates a lot of value. Pickling turns inexpensive homegrown vegetables into crunchy, tangy delights that cost far less than they would at the grocery.

The first thing to grasp is that pickling via canning is that it’s not cooking. You cannot safely fiddle with the recipes. Follow modern recipes to the letter. Make sure your source for the recipe is reputable. Consider as well, employing safer methods of pickling. Grandma’s recipe for refrigerator pickles – that may include letting the pickles stand at room temperature for hours – aren’t considered safe by the USDA. The trendy practice of pickling by fermentation is also best left for those with deep understanding of food safety. Canning your pickles or making easy freezer pickles is the safest way to start.

Next, your pickles will only be as good as the vegetables you use. Find or pick very fresh young cucumbers for pickles. The fresher the cuke, the more natural pectin it contains. This pectin will keep your pickles crisp. Some recipes call for products like pickle crisp or suggest ice baths to preserve the crunch. Make sure to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber because it contains enzymes that will soften the cucumber. If you’re purchasing cucumbers, don’t buy any that have been waxed. The wax will interfere with the pickling processes.

Vinegar is key to pickling. Acidity in the vinegar is what keeps microorganisms from spoiling food. Be sure to check your vinegar labels for acidity percentage. Recipes are tested using vinegar with 5 percent acidity. Don’t skimp on the salt or substitute table salt for canning salt. Additives in table salt will cause cloudy brine. Stay away from Kosher salt unless the recipe specifically calls for it. Kosher salt is measured differently and can cause your pickles to be too salty.

For canned pickles, look for fresh pack recipes. You’ll need sterile jars and a pot large enough to boil several jars at once. A rack or good tongs will be needed to take the hot jars from the canning bath. The steps are easy. The recipe will dictate how to slice the cucumbers. Add the spices and the slices to jars. Cover the vegetables with the hot pickling solution which is mostly comprised of specific proportions of water, vinegar and salt. Seal with hot canning lids and cook for a bit in a boiling water bath. Cooking times for pickles are less than other forms of vegetable canning. After the jars cool, flavors will develop in a matter of weeks and you’ve made your own pickles.

If you want a no heat and no worries place to start, try freezer pickles. This is also fun to do with children. This recipe comes from Martha Zepp, Lancaster County Food Preservation Consultant with Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Martha’s Freezer Bread and Butter Pickles

Step 1
7 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons canning salt

Layer cucumbers, onion, and salt in a glass bowl or non-metallic bowl. Weight down and cover. Do not add water. Let stand overnight in refrigerator.

Step 2
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed (this can be adjusted for taste. Try adding some mustard seed.)

Next morning, combine, but do not cook, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon celery seed, Zepp says. Stir until very smooth and sugar is dissolved. Drain sliced cucumbers and rinse well. Return to bowl, add syrup and refrigerate an additional 24 hours. Place into freezer containers leaving 1/2 inch headspace and freeze.

Pickling is simply an artful mix of vegetable, acid, spices, sugar and salt. Don’t limit your pickling to cucumbers. Dilly beans are a personal favorite. Adding a little vinegar, some spices and salt to vegetables is really all that’s required to preserve your garden veggies while adding flavor and interest.

Behind the Scenes: Glam Up Your Garden

One of the main “products” my company produces is content – for television, YouTube, web and social media. The past few weeks we’ve been working on a “weekend warrior” idea to illustrate how to glam up a garden in one day with colorful annuals from Proven Winners®. For this topic we’re produced photos, an article for my website and a segment for television.

It took a team of people and a few colorful plants to make transform this idea into a reality.

1. Chip – Stylist, florist, and general Jack-of-all-trades

2. Bill – Video editor and go to guy for source of salvaged house parts

3. Anna Claire – Co-conspirator of the written word

4. Rockapulco® Rose Impatiens – Queen of the summer annuals for shade

5. Nikki – Producer par excellence, woman of many talents

6. Keegen – Digital artisan and idea guy

7. Charmed® Wine Oxalis – Purveyor of continuous summer color

8. Robbie – Cruncher of code, drinks out of a Darth Vader coffee mug

9. Catalina® Pink Torenia – A little something different for summer color

10. Brent – Man of mystery who just wants to create beautiful video

Step 1 – Creative Meeting
The first thing we did was talk. Sometimes we get together in advance; sometimes it’s a day before the shoot. During our creative meeting we kicked around ideas. Then Anna Claire headed off to write and Nikki to iron out the details and set a schedule.

Step 2 – Logistics
Next we set a date and location and picked up the props. The weekend warrior story was about how to spruce up an average size flower border, so we picked the City Garden Home for our location. Chip and I discussed the Proven Winners® plants we wanted to use and he got them pulled together.

Step 3 – Writing
With the plants and location decided, Anna Claire and I got to work on writing a story. I gave her some general ideas I wanted to cover and she flushed it out. Then she handed the copy over to Nikki who rewrote it in script format.

Step 4 – Shoot the Cover
With the story in place Nikki and Brent headed out to tape the before, during and after shots of planting annuals – cover video that accompanies the voice over narration.

Step 5 – Shoot the On Cameras and Voice Overs
Around the office they call me “the talent.” As the talent it’s my job to do the on camera and voice over narrations. The former involves me standing in front of a camera talking; in the latter Brent records my voice. We shot the on cameras at a garden center so I could discuss plant selection for this project. The voice overs were shot in the studio.

Step 6 – Editing
With everything shot, our editor Bill got the video and turned it into a segment that will be used in the half hour show P. Allen Smith Gardens and online. He wove together the on cameras, cover shots and voice overs.

Step 7 – Programming
While the editing was going on, Keegen and Robbie in the web department took the original copy that Anna Claire wrote put it on the website. These days everything is digital so to get images all they had to do was freeze a frame of the video.

And that’s how we go from an idea to a piece of content that we can use both on television and the web! Click here to read the article. Watch the video online in about 3 weeks.

Hello World

P. Allen Smith

Hello world! I’m stepping out into the blogosphere and can’t wait to exchange knowledge, information and enthusiasm over the virtual garden fence with you.

In addition to my plant nerdiness, my blog will also be a venue to discuss good food, sustainable farming, design, art and books, and I can’t wait to share pictures of all the critters on the farm.

To kick start my blogging education I’m meeting up with 24 bloggers from around the country and my home state of Arkansas and a few Garden Home partners for our first Garden2Blog workshop. Over the next two days we’re going to get together for seminars, garden tours and a party or two of course.

Blogging is a new frontier for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of fun we can get into!