It seems only appropriate that tornado warnings were swirling during my recent tour of the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. After all, this official property had experienced a devastating tornado a while back, and my group was here to see the new garden designed by P. Allen Smith, as part of the first annual Garden2Blog event.
As P. Allen Smith and First Lady Ginger Beebe explained to our group of bloggers and writers from across the nation, a fierce tornado in January 1999 destroyed many of the gardens and old trees on the eight-acre property.
Tornados swirled around us too. Here is the Google weather alert for the night we arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas. During dinner, we were evacuated to the ballroom for safety reasons, until a storm passed.
Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated and we ended up having a wonderful event over the next two days. The storms, however, gave us a scary glimpse at some of the deadly weather this state can have, especially as the region was experiencing one of the most deadly twister outbreaks in history. But back to gardening…
During the design process to rebuild the garden, it was clear from the start that this official space in Little Rock’s historic Quapaw Quarter District required plenty of room for public functions, as well as private places for the governor’s family.
The Parterre Garden is a large outdoor gathering area, where twin pergolas embrace a center fountain, making a perfect, photogenic setting for events. Surrounding pathways form a diamond pattern to salute the shape found in Arkansas’ state flag. The formal pattern of the pathways and beds give the garden its “parterre” name. While ‘New Dawn’ roses and American wisteria adorn the classic structures.
You can’t have a big garden at this governor’s mansion without roses. After all, Little Rock was known as the “City of Roses” in the 19th and 20th centuries, and is home to several heritage rose varieties. Even the governor’s mansion is sited on the “Rosewood” property of Arkansas’ last territorial governor, William Fulton, who was also its first U.S. Senator.
Kids of all ages can’t help but fall in love with this miniature mansion. This colonial-cute garden ornament leads the way to the organic vegetable garden.
Fresh vegetables from the organic garden provide ingredients for events and gatherings at the governor’s mansion. Enclosing the raised beds is a reproduction of the original picket fence seen at Rosewood in the early 1800s. Today, the Pulaski County Master Gardeners grow the garden vegetables and flowers used by the mansion’s culinary staff.
Peas, carrots and leafy greens are just some of the spring organic produce growing in raised beds at this orderly kitchen garden. Along the east fence are ‘Gala’ apple trees espaliered into a cordon pattern, in tribute to Arkansas’ state flower, the apple blossom.