Tag: travel

We Eat A Lot of Pie in Arkansas

I’ve heard that food and music hold the personality of a region most strongly. After a recent road trip  I feel safe in taking it one step further and specify that a local favorite dessert really shows off a place’s personality.

Whether they’re fruit, nut, cream, meringue or cheese, baked, fried or frozen — pies come in a dazzling range of combinations. We like our pie in the south. The baker who masters the perfect flour to butter ratio in a crust is spoken about with the utmost reverence, given a place of honor in the community and undoubtedly, asked to bring a pie to every gathering until the end of time. While pies can be graham cracker or cookie crusted, hot or cold, latticed or exposed on top, they must all be delicious to survive in these parts.

Now you’ve probably heard the phrase easy as pie, but I’m not a fan. It strikes me as flippant. The creation of pies shouldn’t be reduced to anything less than an art. Bakers mix a tremendous amount care, thought and tradition into their pies, and most of them have worked on their technique for years. Respect for my favorite dessert led me to travel from Little Rock to Northwest Arkansas along Highway 65 in a quest to experience Arkansas’ pies.

Banana Split Pie

We first stopped at the Wagon Wheel in Greenbrier. Restaurants like these work as anchors and a hub of community life in small towns— a place to connect at lunch or celebrate with the team after a game. Don’t be fooled by this restaurant’s nondescript exterior. It boasts a spectacular spread and is known for its meringue pies. The bakers in this kitchen know how to whip egg whites and sugar into heavenly bliss. I had a banana split pie that had about three inches of meringue on top. So decadent!

Strawberry Pie

Every one of the restaurants we visited has a top pie, a pie that’s flavor is discussed like a legend, and at the Skylark Café in Leslie, that pie is strawberry pie. Cool and refreshing with impeccable balance between sweet and tangy, this dessert is a summer staple not easily forgotten. The filling is just the right consistency, not too thick and packed with juicy strawberry pieces. I dined on the porch and took in the café’s equally charming exterior. Originally a home, they remodeled the building into a restaurant, painted the outside turquoise with red trim and surrounded it with garden art and potted plants. Save me a seat on the porch. I’ll be back.

In addition to the sugary ecstasy, I also experienced a treat for the eyes. Highway 65 winds elaborately, offering dramatic views of the mountains and valleys, and the October leaf display has earned the region the nickname the New England of the Ozarks.

We detoured to Gilbert, an old railroad town with one sign that reads ‘population 33’ and another that reads ‘coolest in the state.’ They’re referring to temperature, but it works on multiple levels. The little town sits right on the edge of the pristine Buffalo National River. We had to pull over, not for pie, but for a view of the water.

The production crew and I stopped for lunch at Big Springs Barbecue in St. Joe after that, and I ate a bacon-filled “sammwhich.” It was nice to taste something fat-laden and savory to break up all the sweet. Plus they roast the meat themselves. I sampled an apple pie, and tried to wheedle the crust recipe out of the baker to no avail.

Apple Pie

In Jasper, we stopped at the Arkansas House, a restaurant that uses organic, locally produced ingredients, to learn the subtleties of the nut pie. Janet Morgan, the owner, showed me how to make her signature black walnut pie. Time, she said, makes all the difference between a mediocre dessert and a perfect dessert.

Black Walnut Pie

Top Six Must-See List for Arkansas This Fall

I’ve always known that Arkansas is the place to be and now the secret is getting out. Just this year Little Rock was named a top ten midsized city by Kiplingers and Editor’s Choice by Outside magazineIn this guest post Arkansas Tourism Director Joe David Rice shares six great places to visit in Arkansas during one of the best times to come – fall.

All four of Arkansas’s seasons have their charms, but fall’s my favorite. That first crisp morning after the dog days of summer recharges my flagging batteries and reminds me that cooler days are coming. Shown below, in no particular order, are half a dozen options for entertaining autumn getaways in The Natural State:

1) Driving the length of Crowley’s Ridge Parkway in eastern Arkansas should be on everyone’s bucket list. For nearly 200 miles, this national scenic byway traverses the winding terrain of Crowley’s Ridge, a fascinating geological anomaly extending from Helena-West Helena north to the Arkansas-Missouri state line. Civil War battlefields, historic districts, cemeteries, state parks, antique shops, golf courses and some fine barbecue joints line the route – and the fall foliage can be stunning.

2) Checking out the harvest in southeastern Arkansas is worth a trip, especially when you work in visits to Lakeport Plantation, historic Arkansas City and the Japanese internments sites at McGehee and Rohwer. Bargain shoppers will enjoy a stop at Paul Michael Company in Lake Village.

3) Walking the grounds at Crystal Bridges is a true delight. We’ve all heard about the outstanding collection of masterworks in the Moshe Safdie-designed complex of buildings, but don’t forget the 120-acre site includes 3.5 miles of splendid trails – complete with outdoor sculptures, picturesque bridges and a gurgling stream. Park your car on the square in downtown Bentonville and walk to nearby Compton Gardens where you’ll catch trails winding through the lush landscapes to the museum.

4) Floating the lower end of the Buffalo National River (from Buffalo Point down to Rush – or on to the White River if you have time) can be a wonderful fall experience. With the summer crowds pretty much gone, your chances of seeing wildlife are that much better. The gravel bars and bluffs provide great scenery, particularly if you can time your trip with the peak of fall colors. Bring your camera and poke around a bit in Rush, one of the state’s only surviving ghost towns.

5) Touring Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs is always a special treat, but it’s even better with the enchanting Splash of Glass exhibit featuring 225 pieces of James Hayes’ handcrafted art (through September). This 210-acre peninsula, located on the shores of Lake Hamilton south of Hot Springs, includes 3.8 miles of easy-to-negotiate trails. For those not up for a good walk, tours by golf carts are available.

6) Last but not least on the list is hiking the Cossatot River Corridor Trail. Maybe a bit lengthy for most at 12 miles, this southwestern Arkansas treasure can be broken down into more manageable segments. There’s no better place to grasp an appreciation of the Ouachitas than along this relatively unknown footpath which parallels a beautiful mountain stream.

Between football games, county fairs and festivals, fall in Arkansas can slip away before you know it. So grab your calendar and set aside a couple of days for yourself. If none of the above ideas appeal to you, check out www.Arkansas.com for plenty of others.

Buffalo, Yoga and Black Walnut Pie

I recently spent a great couple of days around the Jasper area shooting some segments for an upcoming episode of my Garden Home television show. This scenic town is nestled in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Buffalo River.

The Buffalo River Valley

My trip included a stay at the historic Arkansas House. This inn is ideally located along scenic Highway 7 with easy access to both the Buffalo River and Ozark National Forest. Janet Morgan, owner of the Arkansas House with her husband, Joseph, graciously taught me how to make her famous Black Walnut Pie.

Janet showed me how to make the famous Arkansas House Black Walnut Pie.

I also visited with the Ratchford family on their farm. Originally founded in the 1950s, Ratchford Farms grazes buffalo, elk, and cattle on a 500 acre spread. The farm is located along the Buffalo River, which provides a beautiful area for the cattle to roam the open meadows and drink from pure spring water.

Jethro mugs for the camera and for a treat.

Finally, I visited with Holly and Matt Krepps, owners of the Circle Yoga Shala. They were kind enough to walk me around the 25 acre working homestead located on Shiloh Mountain. The property includes a fruit orchard, grape vineyard, pastures, and walking trails. They also showed me some easy, but beneficial yoga poses for gardeners.

A little yoga before gardening.

It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend spending a few days in this beautiful part of our state.

Tulip Displays in Arkansas

Arkansas attracts travelers from all over the country with all the splendor the Natural State has to offer, especially in spring. The vivid blooms of tulips usher in the warmer months and knock out the remaining gray of winter.

Here are a few of the state’s most spectacular tulip displays:

Moss Mountain Farm

We’ve planted 8,000 tulip bulbs at the Moss Mountain Farm Garden Home this year. I choose an array of types, bloom times and colors, including: ‘Blushing Girl’, ‘Menton’, ‘Maureen’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Princess Irene’, ‘Queen of the Night’, ‘Daydream’, ‘Red Impression’, ‘Golden Parade’, ‘Apeldoorn’, ‘West Point’ and ‘Red Shine’. The vast diversity of tulips makes them one of my favorite flowers¬— I never get tired of growing them.

The tulip display makes April’s tours at the farm a real treat. One of the greatest joys of gardening for me is to share the beauty with visitors, making the tours of the farm very personally rewarding. There are four tours that will be available in April, the 4th, 5th, 11th and 25th. These give me a chance to meet fellow gardeners, poultry enthusiasts and flower lovers. Plus when I see visitors enjoying the farm, it renews it for me; I see it in a fresh light. Click here to learn more about visiting the farm.

Garvin Woodland Gardens

Garvin Woodland Gardens boasts a spectacular display of tulips every spring for its Tulip Extravaganza. This 210-acre garden, owned by the University of Arkansas, has planted 130,000 tulips of all types this year. Just outside of Hot Springs, a spa city famed for its purportedly healing waters, the garden makes for an excellent day trip. The tulips are planted in curving, full beds, blocked by their respective colors – pink, red, purple, orange and variegated – and surrounded with still-blooming daffodils and hyacinths. The sheer numbers overwhelm your senses with beauty, and it’s simply impossible to take a bad picture in these gardens. If you’re in Arkansas in the spring, this is a must-see. The Tulip Extravaganza is March 16 through April 16, 2013. Click here for details.

Downtown Little Rock

The streets of downtown Little Rock are bursting with pink and purple tulips this month. I partnered with the City of Little Rock this year to create March Tulip Madness, and we filled planters around downtown with 25,000 tulips bulbs as part of the city’s effort to revitalize downtown.

I choose a blend of three different types for the planters: ‘Menton’, ‘Pink Impression’ and ‘Negrita’, which when combined create a pleasing pink and purple display. These mid and late bloomers take full advantage of the season and make stunning streetscapes. Read about everything you can do in downtown Little Rock.

Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock

The Argenta Arts District of North Little Rock is another fantastic place to see tulips. The city planted 28,000 ‘Red Impression’ tulips this year. These bright flowers reach the peak of their blooming in late March and continue through early April. They are growing in beds and planters throughout the Arts District.

One of the most wonderful aspects of this display is that the majority were planted by 75 volunteers last fall during a tulip planting party. The Bank of America, the North Little Rock City Beautiful Commission and the Park Hill Garden Club partnered to sponsor this effort, and the red tulips paired with yellow spring flowers create a vivid contrast in the district’s streets. Find out what’s going on in Argenta.

Ten Cool Things I Discovered in Chicago

There was lots to see at the IGC show.

Whatever way you spin it, Chicago is a great getaway. Pair a week there with a gardening conference, fabulous fall weather, and interior design shopping and you get a better picture of why I loved my visit to the Windy City. My production crew and I headed north for the annual Independent Garden Center Show where we met up with old friends, bloggers, Garden Home partners, and a whole slew of Chicagoans ready to show off their city. These were a few of my favorite experiences and finds:

Peterson Garden Project

The Peterson Garden Project is a collection of Chicago’s urban gardens started by my friend LaManda Joy and inspired by WWII victory gardens. I love American history, so pair this with my appreciation of community gardening and you’ll understand just how much I enjoyed learning about them.

Moss Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory

I spent a morning at the Garfield Park Conservatory and each of their nearly dozen garden rooms were fabulous. While the outdoor garden drew my attention, it was the moss garden full of ferns and other tropical growth that really transported me to a different place.

Artiflor

Artiflor is a Dutch company that had a booth of home and garden décor at IGC. Besides the fact that the two owners were a couple of the nicest men I’ve met in a long time, they had some fabulous and fun designs.

Topsy-turvy Pots

As I was rushing to find the room where I was meant to speak, I got distracted by this funky, and functional, garden sculpture. I can’t remember who made it, but I sure do wish I had bought one.

Colorful Dramm Water Tools

Having lived through this summer’s Arkansas drought, I’ve become well acquainted with my hoses, sprinklers, and water tools. Coming across the Dramm booth at IGC was like stepping into the sunlight! These watering tools are not only functional, they’re beautiful! I wanted one of everything, all in different colors.

Jellies at the Shedd Aquarium

Speaking of colors, I have never seen color composition like the jellyfish exhibit at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. We got an early morning pass and had those silent wonders all to ourselves. With about 10 different species in the exhibit, I found myself simply mesmerized. Luckily we had penguins to visit post-jellyfish, otherwise I may still be there!

Salvaged Metal Cello

My friend Julia Edelmann from Buckingham Interior Design has a simple, stylish and somewhat quirky sense of design, and this upright bass shows that off. It was resting in a corner of her office, and she mentioned that it was made of recycled WWI aircraft metal! She bought it for her a son, a cello player, but it ended up in her shop. Sadly, it didn’t fit into my carry-on.

Jute Light Fixture

Julia also brought us to an apartment in downtown Chicago that she had recently redesigned. While the views stole the show, this particular light fixture made from jute really centered the breakfast nook and gave the airy space a cozy feel.

Skydeck

We began our final day in Chicago at the former Sears Tower, 103 floors up at the SkyDeck. While a couple members of my crew were nervous about the glass-floor lookout, I couldn’t wait to experience that view!

All in all, it was a fabulous trip full of good finds and great memories. I can’t wait to head back to IGC again next year.

Happy Birthday Mister President

In honor of one of my personal heroes and in celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on April 13th, I’d like to share a very brief visual tour of when I went to Monticello recently. We filmed an entire episode there for my show P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table but I’d just like to remember back right now some of grounds and gardens with some imagery from my visit.

The Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Home

Josephs’ Coat (Amaranthus tricolor) found along the Winding Walk on Monticello's West Lawn.

The Pavilion with its double-sash windows, Chinese railing, and pyramidal roof in the Vegetable Garden that Jefferson frequently used as a quiet retreat where he could read in the evenings.

The remarkable Vegetable Garden Terrace Wall as viewed from the South Orchard.

Here I am in the Northwest Vineyard with Gabriele Rausse, one of the founders of the modern Virginia grape industry. Gabriele oversees the production of wine at Monticello as well as the care of the restored vineyards, which continue to serve as experimental gardens of unusual varieties of grapes.

This is Monticello Grove on the northwest side of Monticello Mountain and a spectacular sunset on an amazing trip that checked off another item from my bucket list.

The Doors at Canterbury Shaker Village

Doors are symbolic of opportunity, new life and passing from one state to another. But what about the doors that welcome us home everyday? It seems to me these passages represent a return to shelter and comfort, a return to the familiar.

During a recent trip to Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire I couldn’t help but wonder over the building entrances. Since the late 18th century these entries have ushered residents and visitors into meeting halls, workshops, dinning rooms and living quarters. What stories they could tell! Each door must have represented something different to every person who crossed the threshold.

Canterbury Shaker Village is located in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Built in 1792, it was one of 19 Shaker communities in the United States. The last Shaker resident, Ethel Hudson, died in 1992. Today Canterbury Shaker Village is a non-profit museum tasked with preserving the heritage of the Shakers who called the area home for 200 years. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. If you want to see the Canterbury Shaker Village doors in person you can tour the site May through October and for special winter holiday events. Learn more by visiting www.shakers.org.

 

 

 

Road Trip to the English Countryside

I discovered my inner Anglophile shortly after college while studying garden design and history at the University of Manchester. England felt like a home away from home for me and I don’t think there was a more ideal place in the world for me to hone my landscape design skills.

I recently returned to England on a tour of houses and gardens. While I started in Cheshire for a stay with my friends at Arley Hall, the majority of my visits were made in Norfolk and Suffolk. There was so much to take in and discover. I certainly came home with more than enough material to share with you on my blog. Over the next few months I’ll post a series of installments about my trip. This first one gives the 30,000 foot view.

Arley Hall, Cheshire. A favorite haunt of mine as a student in England. Lady Elizabeth Ashbrook wrote the forward to my 1st book, Garden Home.

Roses and lavender are a classic. Arley Hall gardens.

Arley Hall walled garden. Catmint, 'Halcyon' hosta  and 'Rosemary Rose' roses.

The herb garden at Arley Hall. Lady Ashbrook designed this years ago.

Themed gardens! This one is for golden plants. Very striking! Next to this garden room was one done in silver foliage.

'Fire and Water' fountain at Houghton Hall. David Cholmondeley has done great things with the garden in the past 10 years.

The Mediterranean garden at Houghton Hall. Note the 'bullnose' boxwood border around the raised pool. Brilliant! Love the potted agaves too.

Catmint 'Six Hills Giant' framing the view to the glass house at Houghton Hall.

My friend Xa Tollemache and Carla Carlisle at Lady Carlisle's home Wyken Hall. They are standing behind the Cornstalk Gates. Love it!

Silver parterre at Wyken.

Guinea fowl on the lawn at Wyken. Carla loves poultry!

Wyken Hall. Love the color!

Gifford's Hall. So attractive. David Hicks did the interior design back in the '70s & it still looks great! So hip!

Helmingham Hall was built in 1510. It's completely moated & the drawbridge comes up every night.

Helmingham is so majestic! I love the punctuation & rhythm of the boxwoods along the moat.

One of Xa's beautiful designs at Helmingham.

Columbine Hall and its moat.

The kitchen at Columbine. So charming!

Columbine's dinning room. I was so taken by the generous fireplace.