Gardening Tips from P. Allen Smith

Legendary landscape designer and television personality, P. Allen Smith, came to Springfield, Missouri and gave gardening advice at the 30th Annual Lawn and Garden Show.

By Heather Kane

Apr 06 2020 at 2:42 p.m.

P. Allen Smith at Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas
Photo courtesy Moss Mountain FarmP. Allen Smith calls Moss Mountain Farm home in Roland, Arkansas.

If you missed the 30th annual Lawn and Garden Show, then you missed television personality and landscape designer P. Allen Smith’s Spring gardening tips. But don’t we worry, 417 Home Editor Heather Kane was there and has the details on P. Allen Smith's likes, dislikes and his love for Moss Mountain Farm.

The Epic Beauty of Moss Mountain Farm

If you’ve never visited Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, AR then you're definitely missing out. The 650-acre estate offers up majestic views of The Arkansas River Valley and is filled with gardens, orchards, ponds and beautiful views of the countryside. It’s also the Arkansas home to famous landscape designer P. Allen Smith. Mid-March daffodil hill has over 875,000 blooms with a multitude of varieties of daffodils. The farm is also home to a 300+-year-old oak tree Allen calls Big Sister Oak. It provides a beautiful canopy for gatherings and events at the farm. Allen’s formal rose garden is a newer addition to the farm, housing American specimens from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Another Spring sight to see is the wisteria trees in bloom. “Here today, gone tomorrow! But that’s the delightful thing about it.” Allen proclaimed during his presentation. Along with flower gardens and orchards, Moss Mountain Farm is home to the Poultry Palace, which serves as Allen's rather grande chicken coupe, and White Dorper sheep. You can also find over 300 veggie varieties growing throughout the seasons.

P. Allen Smith with peonies at Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas
Photo courtesy Moss Mountain FarmP. Allen Smith recommends planting peonies in early spring to reap the benefits for years to come.

What to Plant Now 

Roses, peonies and hydrangeas can all be planted in Spring well after the last frost. One of Allen’s personal favorites is the Hybrid Tea Rose, which is considered one of the oldest classes of roses. Another good option Allen prefers is Mother of Pearl, a shrub rose, that’s hardy and thrives easily. Peonies are another perennial that comes back every year and have been known to thrive for over 100 years. You can plant them in early spring and reap the benefits for years to come. Allen suggests that when you are looking for peony bulbs, make sure to look at the “eyes” of the bulb. They look like small reddish buds and will eventually become the plant’s stems. The more “eyes”, the more stems. If you’re a lover of hydrangeas, Allen suggests Annabelle hydrangeas as they have larger flowers than other species. He suggests that when pruning the shrub, cut back to 1 foot above the ground, so it can grow back taller and bloom again. Don’t prune mophead hydrangeas like this, however, just remove dead stems, as these hydrangeas don’t need pruning. Allen also loves planting hydrangeas in containers, I had no idea you could do this and I can’t wait to try it myself.

Tulips at sunset at Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas
Photo courtesy Moss Mountain FarmTulips are a lovely, bright surprise each spring.

Tips on Tulips to Plant this Fall 

Although native to the Himalayas and eastern Turkey, tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century, and today the Dutch are the number one tulip producers in the world. Technically tulips are perennial, but they need very hot summers and very cold winters to come back each year. If you're looking for a tulip that plays well with others, Allen suggests the Negrita tulip, which presents with large purple petals. One of Allen’s favorite tulip varieties is Perestroika, which has a beautiful salmon color. Allen also likes to use tulip petals as garnishes for spring dishes as they are edible if not treated with chemicals.

Arial view of Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas
Photo courtesy Moss Mountain FarmEven with his vast knowledge, P. Allen Smith prefers to work with plants that are not overly fussy, and enjoys a natural lawn.

No Fussy Plants Please

I found the fact that Allen doesn’t like a fussy plant quite a relief! "People and nature living in harmony" is one of his themes for the farm and this really shows when he talks about his favorite plants and how easy they really are to care for. Allen’s perspective on lawns was another thing I found inspiring. “I hate perfect lawns,” he said this while showing a slide of the lawn at Moss Mountain Farm, full of lovely green clover. He mentioned that perfect lawns usually means harmful chemicals and “toxic grass.” Allen loves the older neighborhoods in Springfield because he gets to see old lawns full of clover and mixes of weeds.

Moss Mountain Farm in Arkansas
Photo courtesy Moss Mountain FarmVisit Moss Mountain Farm in person and let the gardens and landscape inspire your own gardening endeavors.

Plan Your Visit and Start Planting

With all this time to stay home, my hope is that this could inspire you to dig in the dirt and enjoy what Allen calls therapy. Many of the local nurseries in Springfield and beyond are open for business, as they are deemed essential and are offering call and reserve services for easy curbside pickup. You can also order online and have bulbs, plants, and shrubs shipped right to your door. If you still want peruse on your own, be prepared for the actual greenhouses to be closed as many nurseries are only allowing employees in, but don’t worry, most have pulled the plants outside during business hours. Don’t forget to plan a trip to Moss Mountain Farm. Go online for more information on event dates and tours. Your trip to Moss Mountain Farm would make a lovely weekend getaway as the estate is only a 4-hour drive from Springfield.