Photos courtesy of The Horticult
Tucked away in one of La Jolla’s quiet seaside neighborhoods, you may not have known about The Horticult’s “secret garden” but as you approach, the secret is out for sure, or should I say up? Just before entering you can see vivid chartreuse passion flower vines climbing up toward the sun along Horticult co-founder, Ryan’s recently created copper trellis. A look to the left and you’re met by the massive Feijoa Guava Tree branches that are almost in bloom. But when you finally walk through the gate to glance at The Horticult’s lush expanse, your jaw literally drops, mine still does- every single time I visit!
Chantal and Ryan, co-creators of The Horticult have managed to conscientiously maximize every inch of their backyard garden– Ryan has a penchant for getting vertical with several new plant installments growing up along the walls. Chantal says the garden is her perfect oasis after long hours at the office.
Please welcome friends and design-duo, Ryan and Chantal to Garden Eats!
Garden Eats: Chantal, your writing has been featured in many wow-worthy publications- I love the witty titles and headlines you think up! Has writing always come naturally to you? Did you always plan on becoming a writer?
The Horticult: Chantal: Thanks — I’m a sucker for the plant puns. I am a writer by trade, but I wouldn’t say writing comes naturally to me. It’s always challenging to write something that strikes the right balance between playful, concise and interesting. So I try to turn off the filter in my head and ask myself why what I’m writing about is fascinating, how it enhances/expands our lives, and write the answer to that, like it’s in a journal. I’m a chronic over-thinker, but gardens are great at reminding you to live in the moment.
Ever since I wrote my first story, I’ve wanted to be a writer…so, since I was a kid! But I think I’d planned on writing being more of a secondary thing — for a large chunk of my life I wanted to be an astrophysicist. (Then in college I was pre-med for five minutes…) From planets to plants! You could say The Horticult is how I get my science fix.
GE: As creatives, what inspires your intersection between design and nature?
The Horticult: Ryan: We were first inspired by trips we had taken together to luxury hotels while Chantal was working for Conde Nast and Riviera magazine, and botanical gardens while researching plants for writing projects. Back in 2009 we would come home to an empty backyard (the amazing fruit trees notwithstanding) and crave those incredible design and botanical experiences. That inspired me to start building living tables that fit our newfound design aesthetic. At the same time, we started collecting and experimenting with plants to fill our yard…And those plants grew and inspired us to build more rooms and nooks in our yard in which we could engage with the plants. Since launching the blog two years ago, we have more exposure to garden design and are inspired by the designers and spaces that we explore for the stories that we produce.
GE: When sourcing materials, whatever they may be, how do you keep up with sustainable practices?
The Horticult: Many of the materials we work with in our yard are re-purposed, materials that could otherwise end up in landfills. Also, the succulents we plant in our living tables are drought-tolerant, so they only require the occasional watering.
GE: It’s no secret that gardening offers a myriad of health benefits- how have your lives changed since you began spending so much time with plants?
The Horticult: Both of us work full-time jobs in offices that, for the most part, don’t have a lot of plants. So on stressful days it’s nice to come home and relax in our garden. Noticing small changes in plants from one day to the next is very rewarding. Even garden chores such as watering or pruning give us peace, and let us detach from the previous eight hours of our day. We often spend entire weekends without leaving the neighborhood or sometimes not even leaving the yard. In a way, we’ve built our own retreat.
GE: Have the two of you found any creative uses for succulents? Medicinal uses? Otherwise?
The Horticult: For us, succulents provide living sculpture to the garden — which can be both soothing and exhilarating. It’s hard to imagine a garden without succulents. If we ever move below Zone 9, we can envision designing an indoor winter home for our succulents. Succulent walls inspired Ryan’s living succulent tables. Other than our aloes for the occasional burn relief, we haven’t yet explored them medicinally…But we bet there are and would love to learn and share!
GE: We love helping restaurants and home owners create space-saving solutions with edible vertical gardens. Any pre-fab vertical designs in the works?
The Horticult: We’re a bit obsessed with vine trellises in our garden right now. We recently built a copper pipe trellis to extend our passion fruit vine (Passiflora edulis) another 10 feet above the fence. Not only is passion fruit our favorite fruit, we love the vine’s leave structure and the flowers are out of this world. Not to mention we love the look of the lush green leaves against the weathered copper. This trellis is very easy to make and we’ll be doing a DIY soon. Since these vigorous evergreen vines can fill a wall very quickly we look forward to a very passion filled summer and fall.
GE: Ryan, you’re an engineer by day and furniture designer by all other hours. Are they really the same thing? You seem to be a natural problem solver- have you found that your passion for problem solving influences how you make overall decisions in life? Does your work extrapolate to your every day modus operandi?
The Horticult: Some engineering jobs can intersect design and creativity, but I manage ship repair and I haven’t been able to find that intersection yet. The problem solving carries over a bit in all aspects of my life but the lack of a creative outlet (during the first eight hours of my day) drives my passion for photography, gardening and furniture design when I get home and on weekends.
GE: I invited you guys here today because I admire the lifestyle you’ve created together. To pour one’s heart into their passions is a thing, but to pour it together as a couple, that’s something else. So, what is it? Some couples could not possibly bear to work together. How do the two of you mutually accentuate one another’s creativity?
The Horticult: Surprisingly, blogging has been an incredible bonding experience! Discovering things together and being creative about it are always great things to experience as a couple.
It’s fun sharing the same nerdy obsessions. Plus, building The Horticult has helped us appreciate each other’s talents. We’re often working on photo editing and writing at the same time and in the same room, sometimes the night before we post, which can be stressful but we try to have fun with it. We both encourage each other’s work and the final product (a blog post) is something we’re proud of. In some ways it’s a personal journal through our lives. We’re happy to share our adventures in this gardening world that has been so welcoming to us from the beginning.
C H A N T A L Aida Gordan and Ryan Benoit are the co-creators of the backyard oasis and popular garden blog, The Horticult. We could not have chosen a better time to catch up with these two- we’re so thrilled that this week they’ve been named one of Better Homes and Gardens top ten blogger award nominees! Show them some love by voting here now and watch for the gardening category to be featured the week of March 23rd!
A slightly adapted version of this story appears at Christine’s modern lifestyle blog, Reaching Beyond Now here.