Meet P. Allen Smith and see his work on Lexington garden tour

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comMay 16, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    Northside Neighborhood Association Historic Home and Garden Tour

    What: Self-guided tour of about 16 houses, gardens and buildings in one of Lexington's oldest residential neighborhoods.

    When: Noon-5 p.m. May 19

    Where: A map and list of tour sites will be distributed with tickets but also is available at Bit.ly/ZQ1WfF.

    Tickets: $15 adults, $5 ages 4-17. Tickets are available in advance at Northsidelex.com and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. May 19 on Elsmere Park, at Transylvania University's Old Morrison Building on Third Street between Market and Mill streets, and at West Sixth Brewing, 501 W. Sixth St.

    Learn more: P. Allen Smith's website, Pallensmith.com

Garden enthusiasts have a rare chance to chat with noted designer, television host and writer P. Allen Smith in an oasis that he designed on West Third Street.

A last-minute scheduling shift allowed Smith to take part in Sunday's Northside Neighborhood Association Home and Garden Tour. He will be at the home of Jennifer Braddock and Robert Sanders during the tour, noon to 5 p.m., answering questions and signing his books.

The self-guided tour includes about 16 houses, gardens and buildings in one of Lexington's oldest residential neighborhoods. Proceeds benefit the neighborhood association.

Braddock said visitors are in for a treat because Smith, a friend of the family, has a passion for horticulture and design and is "linguistically brilliant."

The garden Smith designed at 424 West Third is in keeping with the Italianate house built in 1882, she said. The goal was creating separate garden "rooms," each with a unique feel. There are sculpted hedges, lush roses and even a lemon tree.

Braddock said choosing her favorite part of the garden is difficult, but she especially enjoys the view from the second floor of her house overlooking her backyard.

She said that like a composer who can move a note or two to create a completely different song, Smith can move a few plants and transform a space.

"He just has a gift," she said.

Creating just the right views was part of the challenge of the project, Smith said. The Northside is home to a diverse population and a variety of architectural styles. To maintain the illusion of privacy and emphasize the depth of the large back lot required special attention to how things are seen, so as to direct the eye appropriately.

Smith said he designed the garden, which includes a pool a pool house and a garage, to echo the "beautifully restored home that retains its Old World charm but has modern amenities."

Smith, who lives outside Little Rock, Ark., has designed landscapes all over the country for a range of clients, including Hollywood celebrities and the Rockefellers. His background in England, studying garden history, prepared him for a wide range of designs, from small neighborhood gardens to expansive estates.

For the West Third Street project, as with all of his efforts, he said he first got to know the owners and talked to them about how they really wanted to use the space. He said the same is true for anyone planning to landscape their property. "You have to have an end in mind," he said.

Because gardens are ever-changing, he said, it's not unusual for him to be involved in a design for more than a decade. It's been about that long since Braddock met Smith at a Nashville antiques show. Braddock and Sanders have a business, Environmental Landscape LLC, that did work for Smith. They asked him to design the garden in 2006 and have remained friends.

Braddock said it usually doesn't take much convincing to get Smith, who speaks all over the world, to come to Lexington. Over the years, he has become a fan of the Lexington food scene, especially breakfast at Stella's Kentucky Deli and the pork chops prepared at Jonathan at Gratz Park.

"He's a good eater," she said, laughing.

Smith, who also has written a cookbook, Seasonal Recipes From the Garden, said, "I love to graze across the country."


IF YOU GO

Northside Neighborhood Association Historic Home and Garden Tour

What: Self-guided tour of about 16 houses, gardens and buildings in one of Lexington's oldest residential neighborhoods.

When: Noon-5 p.m. May 19

Where: A map and list of tour sites will be distributed with tickets but also is available at Bit.ly/ZQ1WfF.

Tickets: $15 adults, $5 ages 4-17. Tickets are available in advance at Northsidelex.com and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. May 19 on Elsmere Park, at Transylvania University's Old Morrison Building on Third Street between Market and Mill streets, and at West Sixth Brewing, 501 W. Sixth St.

Learn more: P. Allen Smith's website, Pallensmith.com

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: Bluegrassmoms.com.

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