On May 1-2, I attended the P. Allen Smith Garden2Blog event in Little Rock, Arkansas with 23 other garden bloggers from around the country. Over a non-stop 48 hours, we visited gardens, talked about new garden products with PAS sponsors and partners, and networked with each other. I’ll be doing a series of blog posts on the event.
On the second morning of our Garden2Blog experience, we all gathered early (7:30am) in the lobby of the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, mingling with each other in casual, pre-caffeinated conversation. I walked up to a group and introduced myself to Steve Hutton, president and CEO of Conard-Pyle, one of the sponsors of the event. The conversation I walked into was on the topic of roses.
If I’d read my G2B booklet the night before, I’d have realized that Conard-Pyle is the company that developed the ubiqitous Knockout® series of roses. Instead, I proceeded to interject into the conversation a story of my meeting a representative of another major rose breeder, who had said, “Knockouts are great plants, but they’re not roses.” Steve graciously allowed me to escape the conversation, ignorance in tact, and load on to the bus to Moss Mountain Farm.
After a 20-minute coach ride, we arrived at the Garden Home at Moss Mountain Farm. Stepping off the bus into the shade of a large oak tree growing in front of Allen’s Greek Revival home, the first thing I noticed wasn’t the home or the hills behind it. It was the Sunny Knockout® roses blooming prolifically near the front porch. They stood nearly six-feet tall, covered in butter-yellow blooms that faded to white.
After a delicious breakfast of quiche and pancakes, Allen gathered us to visit the newest garden at Moss Mountain. Cut into the trees and down a steep slope from the house, the rose garden blends naturally into the surrounding landscape despite its formal walled exterior.
At the top of the hill, Allen explained the history of the rose garden and how he has partnered with Conard-Pyle to help promote roses as great plants for the American garden.
Down near the main gate to the rose garden, Steve Hutton and Kyle McKean talked with the group about the history of Conard-Pyle, rose breeding in general, and new introductions on the horizon. It was obvious from the presentation that the industry is focused on developing roses that are great garden plants for a mixed border, not the traditional specimen rose of the past.
After the presentation, we had a chance to spend a few minutes enjoying and photographing the rose garden. While roses are certainly a mainstay in this garden, it beautifully and seamlessly incorporates many other plants. I loved the architecture of these variegated agave in elevated urns.
A rose garden wouldn’t be a rose garden without — well — roses. The roses were a bit past the first flush of spring bloom; the early spring experienced in most of central part of the country didn’t miss the Little Rock area.
My favorite vistas in the rose garden were the mixed border areas, where annuals, perennials and shrubs intermingled with roses. While I’ve grown a variety of shrub roses (including several in the Knockout® series) in my own garden for years, I garnered a new appreciation for how to use them in the landscape. Since returning from Little Rock, I’ve added three new roses to our driveway border and will be looking for ways to incorporate more into my home garden.
In full disclosure, Hortus, Inc. covered travel and lodging costs as well as provided food during the event. While the bloggers in attendance are sure to share the experience with their readers, there was no expectation or requirement that we do so.