P. Allen Smith, the award-winning designer and gardening and lifestyle expert, breezed into Charlotte last week for a little-publicized exhibit opening that featured his landscape paintings at Allison Sprock Fine Art (www.allisonsprockfineart.com). The Arkansas native is host of two public television programs, “P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home” and “P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table,” plus the syndicated show “P. Allen Smith Gardens.”
He’s also the author of nine best-selling books, including the recent cookbook, “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden.”
An intimate group of his fans flocked to the gallery at 600 Queens Road, where they purchased many of his charming, small paintings and clung like flowering vines to every word he spoke in a distinctive Southern accent.
In between sips of red wine and chatting with his admirers, he talked with the Observer about how he became a sought-after professional artist and about what’s hot in gardening and entertaining.
Q. When did you become a professional artist?
I have been painting since I was young. It’s something my mother encouraged me to do. The first time I visited an English country manor, I saw a collection of Turner paintings (by the famous 19th-century British landscape artist) and it was an influence. Painting really helps me. I usually do plein en air paintings inspired by my farm, and I can turn out several a day. It’s a meditation for me in this fast-paced world. I decided to share them after I was approached by Sotheby’s to participate in an exhibit in 2009 titled “The Art of Farming.” I did 18 paintings and almost all of them sold.
Q. Do you have ties to Charlotte?
While I was here I visited the Mint Museum to see a painting in their collection that’s by an ancestor of mine, the landscape artist William Garl Browne, who immigrated to America from England in 1837. It’s meaningful for me that this is an interest that goes back seven generations in my family.
Q. What’s a hot gardening trend?
Container gardening. People tend to mix different plants in containers, but I like for each container to have one variety. To get that mix, I group three containers together. In one container, I like to have something tall. In the middle one, something lush and full, then another container with a cascading plant. I call it having a thriller, a filler and a spiller.
Q. What’s your favorite gardening tip?
Take a piece of fabric you love to the garden store or greenhouse with you. That way you can pick out plants in colors that match what you’re drawn to.
Q. How do you prefer to entertain?
I like people to be relaxed and feel at home. I usually entertain in small groups and we cook together. I like for everyone to get a glass of wine and we go into the garden and walk around and sometimes pick what we’re going to eat. Many times after dinner we’ll gather around a bonfire with live music. I love good bluegrass music.
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