A deep and intimate conversation with my dear friend and environmental legend, P. Allen Smith. We talk about the current challenge of climate breakdown and some of the very viable solutions that are available to us in this very moment. We also touch on the majestic mystery that surrounds and enfolds in every breath and living creature.
P. Allen Smith, often described as one of America’s most talented garden designers, is the product of five generations of southern nurserymen. His foundational childhood experiences in planting naturally led to an appreciation for horticulture, genetic diversity, plant pairing and for an orderly and holistic approach to work. Later, as a garden and landscape graduate student in England, his design processes were refined to embrace each site’s unique characteristics and the needs of each unique commissioning family. Eschewing fashion, Mr. Smith identifies and sensitively accentuates the natural gifts of the landscape, imparting balance, harmony and beauty in the classic tradition of Palladio, Brown, Repton and Soane. His designs are an expression of his client’s lifestyle and their legacy–melding site with living material and improvements to create environments that mature and improve with the seasons. And Mr. Smith’s many esoteric interests and insights allow for a myriad of inclusions such as ornamented aviaries, sheep pastures, walled gardens, fruit orchards, kitchen herb gardens, container gardens, stumperies, rare rose collections, wildflower and pollinator fields, apiaries, ponds, and architecturally appropriate built structures and follies.
The result for his clients are timeless gardens and landscapes.
Health and improving the everyday experience of clients are also central to Mr. Smith’s designs. Often heard describing his approach as “blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor,” Allen organizes and then offers the aesthetic benefits the natural world both from the garden environment and from behind glass by partnering with architects and interior designers. His methodology initially considering a site in context, then he systematically focuses on the subtle, but critical, decisions that cumulatively distinguish an entire environment as exemplary. The particular grade, color and density of crushed stone on a garden path, height and volume of water falling from a fountain, the provenance of garden sculpture, or the history and environmental suitability of specific plant varieties are daily concerns for each project. For Mr. Smith, the details are paramount and distinguish his work.
An affable manner, humor and humility has earned Allen long-lasting client relationships that have grown into friendships, often spanning decades, with work for multiple members (and now multiple generations) of large families. Internationally celebrated for his for implementation of the Ferme Ornee form at his own private 600-acre Moss Mountain Farm estate near Little Rock on the Arkansas River, Mr. Smith’s valuable talent set has attracted both private family and corporate patrons. His portfolio includes a diversity of projects: plantations, townhomes, campuses, golf clubs, new town developments and rooftop gardens. In all, beauty, abundance, harmony and nature peacefully coalesce for the benefit of each guest.
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Paul Samuel Dolman, author, podcaster, and speaker, presents What Matters Most (the book!) a series of interview transcriptions from more than twenty inspirational Nashville and Tennessee residents, including special guest the journalist and author Bill Moyers.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, former Governor Don Sundquist, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal, Grammy Award-winning entertainer Wynonna Judd, and many more share intimate and inspirational aspects of themselves.
This twentieth anniversary edition also features bonus material from thirty more notables from Tennessee, including local business owners, spiritual leaders, coaches, radio personalities, authors, and educators.