Grown Up Summer Camp – Garden2Blog 2012

What an honor to be included in the roster of garden bloggers at this year’s Garden2Blog event hosted by P. Allen Smith!

[And, yes, before you read further please note that this was a professional trip and expenses were paid for us – to read the fancy disclaimer language about an event like this, see the end of the post.]

At first I was a bit nervous. Landscape gardeners en masse sometimes scare me with their botanical Latin showdowns and pronunciation arguments. (Thanks to Teresa from Seasonal Wisdom, I just recently learned that “officinalis” is botanical Latin for “medicinal” and was very proud of myself). Being a lowly veggie gardener I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.

First off, the hotel we stayed in was haunted. I know this because I had a long, movie-like dream the first night about a ghost named Vera (she was very convivial). The next morning, when I asked Bruce from Heavy Petal Nursery if the hotel was haunted, he said “Only room 450.” Vera must have been branching out because I was in room 449.

On the topic of spectral visits, Day One started with an event of such historic resonance that I felt like I should be seeing ghosts! Our visit to Marlsgate Plantation was something I will never forget. The family “farm” had been run down to the point that the plantation house was used as a barn for accommodating hay bales and visiting pigeons. The current owner was bequeathed the property by his grandmother and set off on a labor of love to restore it to its former antebellum glory. After three years, and many millions of dollars, the pigeons were evicted and the family heirlooms were dusted off and moved back to the ancestral home.  To sum it up – I now fully understand the saying “living in high cotton” and plan to re-watch Gone with the Wind as soon as I can.

If you can believe it, even more amazing than the house – THE GARDENS! (Gasp) “Ferns & Urns” would be a great motto for the grounds (designed by a fledgling P. Allen Smith as one of his first landscape design projects).

After a lovely morning – and refreshed by our host’s Southern Baptist “medicinal” punch (I had a headache so I drank two glasses) – we ventured back to Little Rock to the original Garden Home for an afternoon of demonstrations, contests and fun.

You can imagine I was quite excited to see Mr. Smith’s vegetable garden. I quickly fell in love with the potting bench. And how everything, although stylish, was also well used. I also enjoyed the sense of humor displayed around the property in various ways. Here you see old bowling balls converted to ladybug sculpture! I will forever see ladybugs every time I go bowling now.

One of the activities was planting a salsa garden – one without organic fertilizer, one with – so we could see the growth differences over the season. My team included the awesome Garden Rockstar, Michael, Carrie from Between the Limes and Shirley of the Garden World Report. These were all people I was familiar with before this trip but hadn’t had a chance to interact with. They sure are a fun and knowledgeable bunch!

I wasn’t sure how Day Two could get any better but as we piled out of the bus after an hour drive to the new Garden Home I quickly realized they’d saved the best for last.

Moss Mountain Farm overlooks the Arkansas River and its classic style reminds one a little bit of Monticello. Once you step over the threshold and discover the historical influences that have guided Mr. Smith’s taste over the years you realize that, yes, this is a house and life deeply inspired by Thomas Jefferson. And, being a history geek, this discovery made me very, very happy.

After a tour of the house, we visited the rose gardens where I discovered I knew more about roses than I thought thanks to a lecture and quiz by Conrad-Pyle roses. (If you’re not a rose person, at least check out the Peace rose. It has a great story.)

That was followed by a visit to the MONSTER vegetable garden and a talk on GrowBoxes followed by more fun with Bonnie Plants. I didn’t realize they have converted most of their packaging to biodegradable pots AND they have a program nationwide to turn third graders on to food gardening- these things also made me happy.

The chickens really live in style at Moss Mountain. (I covet chickens as you may know from reading this blog and my Facebook page.) First, we saw the “chicken temple” and then we were lead to the “chicken trailer park” for the full show. Partnering with Purina, P. Allen Smith has formed the Heritage Poultry Conservancy which strives to reintroduce and support endangered heritage breeds. The ten or so chicken (and turkey!) varieties live in segregated runs that use old cotton wagons for the coops. As we approached, I’m not sure who was more excited – us or the chickens. They all came running down to check out the visitors (or maybe it was because there was food involved). In any case, we learned a lot about heritage breeds, which just made me even more jealous that I couldn’t have some chickens who’s lineage dates back to Roman times.

There were several other fun activities by Laguna Ponds and Berry Nurseries. However, by this time of the day I was a bit wilted. Despite the exhaustion, Robin from Urban Gardens and I did manage to win 2nd prize for this classy display made with found objects and succulent plants. What can I say – maybe it was heat stroke.

The evening ended with our final fabulous meal (where can I get cheese grits like that in Chicago? PLEASE TELL ME!) We were all happily shocked when Le Creuset told us all we could pick any item out of their catalog (I picked THIS) and then we had a lovely adieu to “I’ll Fly Away” played by the house band.

We went back to the busses humming, happy, informed and impressed by our two days together with promises to stay in touch and, hopefully, come back again next year.

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.



LaManda JoyGrown Up Summer Camp – Garden2Blog 2012

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