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P. Allen Smith is an award-winning designer, a nationally known gardening/lifestyle expert, and the host of two public television programs, P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home and P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table, as well as the syndicated show P. Allen Smith Gardens. He appears frequently as a guest on such programs as the CBS Early Show and the Today show on NBC, and on the Weather Channel, sharing design and gardening tips with viewers. He is a contributor for a number of national publications such as Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Southern Accents, Southern Living, and Woman’s Day, and is the author of several bestselling books.
Paul Allen Smith Jr., the oldest of four children, was born on March 12, 1960, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to a family with deep Arkansas roots. His great-great-grandmother Foster lived in Lonoke (Lonoke County). His parents met in his mother’s home town of Little Rock while his father was in the U.S. Air Force. The family left Arkansas for McMinnville, Tennessee, in the Cumberland Mountains, where his father’s family had farmed for several generations and also operated an ornamental plant business. Smith calls himself a fourth-generation nurseryman and horticulturist.
Smith’s family grew what it needed on its farm. Smith said he loved farm life and was active in 4-H, raising cattle, pigs, and poultry to show. The family moved back to Little Rock when Smith was twelve due to a career opportunity for his father, who unexpectedly died just three months later. To cope with his grief, Smith planted a small garden in the backyard and began raising chickens, showing his poultry at the Arkansas State Fair.
After graduating from Little Rock’s McClellan High School in 1979, he attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County) to major in biology, with plans of becoming a veterinarian. After graduation in 1983, he earned a Rotary International scholarship to study ornamental horticulture, garden design, and history during an eighteen-month stay at the University of Manchester in England. After returning home to Little Rock, Smith entered the nursery and garden design business with his family. He also became a private tour guide to European gardens and began teaching gardening workshops at a nursery his mother had bought.
Regular appearances on local radio led to a weekly gardening segment on Little Rock television station KATV’s Daybreak show in 1989. A Little Rock couple, Gaston and Gloria Gibson, were impressed with the work he had done on their home’s garden landscape, and they helped Smith launch a production company, Hortus, Ltd. It soon led to a syndicated program starting in 2000, P. Allen Smith’s Gardens, which was largely shot at Smith’s historic home in Little Rock’s Quapaw Quarter. Smith divides his time between that home and his 650-acre Garden Home Retreat at Moss Mountain Farm in Roland (Pulaski County), which overlooks the Arkansas River Valley.
At Moss Mountain Farm, Smith promotes the local-food movement, organic gardening, and the preservation of heritage poultry breeds. Smith founded the Heritage Poultry Conservancy in 2009.
Smith is author of a bestselling series of books published by Clarkson Potter/Random House, including P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home: Creating a Garden for Everyday Living (2003), P. Allen Smith’s Colors for the Garden: Creating Compelling Color Themes (2006), P. Allen Smith’s Living in the Garden Home: Connecting the Seasons with Containers, Crafts, and Celebrations (2007), Bringing the Garden Indoors: Containers, Crafts, and Bouquets for Every Room (2009), and P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden (2010).
Smith is a Certified Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society and a board member of the Royal Oak Foundation, the U.S. affiliate of the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. His awards and recognitions include the 2009 Arkansas Cultural Enrichment Award from the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the 2011 4-H Celebration of Excellence Award, the Medal of Honor from the Garden Club of America, Garden Communicator Award from the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), Horticultural Communicator Award from the American Horticultural Society (AHS), and the Odyssey Award from the Hendrix College Board of Trustees honoring the achievements of Hendrix College alumni.
Smith has said, “The garden is an extension of the home. We should spend as much time outdoors as inside.”
For additional information:Hoelzeman, Amanda. “P. Allen Smith Remains Rooted in Little Rock and Garden Grown,” LIVING in Arkansas, July 11, 2011. http://www.livinginarkansas.net/post/25563/p-allen-smith-remains-rooted-in-little-rock-and-garden-grown (accessed November 16, 2016).
P. Allen Smith and Associates. http://www.pallensmithandassociates.com (accessed July 30, 2016).
P. Allen Smith Garden Home. http://www.pallensmith.com/ (accessed November 16, 2016).
Smith, P. Allen. P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home: Creating a Garden for Everyday Living. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2003.
———. P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home Journal. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2004.
Nancy Hendricks Garland County Historical Society
Last Updated 12/7/2016
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