Some of the most forward thinking living arrangements are the handiwork of Baylor Chapman, author of The Plant Recipe Book. I happened upon her shop, Lila B. Design, springing from a shipping container in a space shared by The Stable Cafe, a center piece of the Mission District of San Francisco. It was a fortuitous moment.
I had just discovered a treasure. Life in the city in the shape of succulents, floral design and all things green with a wonderfully authentic, modern appeal. This is Growing What You Love.
My next moment of fortune came when I met with Baylor, in my mind, “Lila B.” Who is this person?
Here is some of what I had to know. Question and Answer with Baylor Chapman:
What is one of your formative gardening experiences?
My mom had a garden. We lived out in the country, in Illinois with a driveway a mile long and she grew every vegetable imaginable. There’s something about walking outside, plucking a vegetable from the earth and eating it — right there and then. YUM!
Was there a singular event compelling you to do the work you do now?
I spent several years in New Mexico working with non-profits in anthropology. When I ended up buying a house it was from a landscape architect who had tended his garden with care. He walked me through the basics and I was hooked. I spent my weekends in the garden, took organic gardening classes, permaculture and more. I worked side by side with an experienced gardener who taught me tons.
Eventually I moved to San Francisco and went corporate. When the economy tanked I took it as a sign and went back to school for landscape architecture and garden design. I said, “I’ll try it for one semester,” and again, I was hooked.
How would you describe your work?
I like to create things that draw people in, making people come closer to a plant and wonder what it is. Crafting designs that are question provoking with a twist, where curiosity meets beauty. Such as living centerpieces that rival the style and bounty of cut floral arrangements but last longer.
What is your go-to plant at the moment?
Begonias. I just love them. Rex Begonias, Tuberous Begonias… and their beautiful, crinkly leaves. I know I should say succulents but at this moment it’s begonias. It could change tomorrow! There are so many goodies.
Who or what inspires your work?
I was lucky enough to work on an eco-friendly private estate with some talented folks. Del McComb and Emily Morris were two people that really taught me a lot. They both have such creative and horticultural talents and were a huge initial influence on me.
Oh, and books with photos of gardens by Piet Oudolf make me joyous!
What projects do you have planned or dream of doing?
I love teaching, giving demonstations, and getting my hands dirty with groups of plant design and flower enthusiasts! I’m in the process of scheduling workshops, such as the one coming up in October at Wing Haven in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But right now I’m traveling and soaking in information and inspiration from Thailand (I met with Baylor the day before she left for Bangkok). Their floral and plant design is different than what I do. Much more contrived and manipulated than my wild and woodsy look. I’m thrilled to learn more about it and how to incorporate some of their techniques and ideas into my work.
What do you listen to while driving?
Oh gosh, I wish I could say I blast disco, hard rock, or something a bit more fun but I usually listen NPR. Their programs like RadioLab, Fresh Air, and Science Friday keep me curious. And I love the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.
What book(s) are you reading?
A book on Feng Shui, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and my friend’s amazing manuscript about agaves, mescal, and Oaxaca adventures!
Learn more about Baylor and Lila B. Design at her website: http://lilabdesign.com/
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