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AnnaMaria Stephens | Photo: Robert Benson | December 24, 2013
La Jolla’s accidental gardeners gain mega status.
Talk about a growth spurt. Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit have reaped a cult following—and landed a huge spread in The New York Times—with their haute garden-and-lifestyle blog, The Horticult. The married duo covers everything from plant trends and botanical-inspired fashion to the do-it-yourself transformation of their backyard in Windansea.
“Entertaining gave us the idea,” says Gordon, a former Vogue staffer who is shopping around her first novel. “We’d throw parties and make cocktail garnishes from herbs we’d grown.” (This winter’s special? Persimmon-infused Champagne with fresh rosemary. )
The couple’s modest bungalow, a block and a half from the iconic La Jolla beach, barely hints at what’s out back. The two have turned a neglected lot into a stylish outdoor haven replete with a kitchen, a movie screen and a vintage Preway fireplace. “It’s our s’mores and scotch corner,” says Gordon.
Benoit, a port engineer by day, built the yard’s bespoke modern-industrial furnishings, like a mobile bar table made from stepladders and a wood-plank coffee table with a sunken center. He sources most materials from a surplus shipyard in National City, repurposing them in unexpected ways.
Gordon fills the space with what she calls “rough-and-tumble” greenery and pops of color, from fleeting blooms to lush ferns and jade trees. And forget about conventional containers. Herbs spill out of old ammo cans, and flowers fill a 3-foot ship horn.
Neither was a design aficionado—or had a green thumb—when they met. “His style was well-intentioned bachelor,” laughs Gordon. “And mine was coastal-cottage.”
Then they discovered California modernism during a trip to Palm Springs. “We’ve been honing our shared aesthetic ever since,” says Benoit, who shoots photos for The Horticult alongside his fashionista wife, who is the site’s writer and resident model.
Not that they don’t have their differences. “I love an overgrown aesthetic like Grey Gardens,” points out Gordon. “He loves clean lines.”
“Yeah,” agrees Benoit. “But we’ve found a pretty great balance.”