A study of the symbiotic relationship between humans and the gardens they tend to.
At ORCA, our work begins by understanding that it doesn’t end — a landscape is an ongoing dialogue, shaped by seasons and in response to our environments. Plants + People is an ongoing exploration of what it looks like to plant roots, to honor cycles, to inhabit space, and to accept impermanence through the perspectives of individuals we admire.
001 jenni kayne
region: santa monica mountains
plant community: coastal sage scrub
landscape design: christine london ltd
photography: justin chung
Jenni Kayne’s name is synonymous with a specific expression of undone California ease. At once beautifully considered and intrinsically relaxed, her eponymous brand is centered around what it feels like to live well. As the inaugural installation in our Plants + People series, we visited her expansive Mandeville Canyon garden for a conversation on how her philosophy extends to and is influenced by her own backyard in the Santa Monica Mountains; how she envisions the sustainability of her surroundings; and how the rhythms of nature inspire a deeper connection with the definition of home.
Describe how your garden: feels, smells, sounds, tastes.
My garden feels serene, quiet, natural, peaceful, and in harmony with the seasons. At any moment you'll hear the leaves rustling, animals making noise, water running from fountains—everything is in rhythm with nature and the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains. You can also always catch the scent of ponies and horses, but in the best way possible.
What plants remind you of your childhood?
My mother's garden is and was stunningly beautiful, but she prefers a more manicured look. I have a totally different energy and approach, which I think is influenced by my days spent immersed in nature as a child. I grew up riding horses in Topanga with beautiful oak trees, just like the ones we have here on our property. I always wanted to have animals at my house, so now with two dogs, two goats, rescued mini horses, a mini donkey, and chickens, my garden definitely reminds me of those long days at the barn.
“At any moment you’ll hear the leaves rustling, animals making noise, water running from fountains—everything is in rhythm with nature.” Jenni Kayne
Native to California, this evergreen perennial has fragrant silvery white leaves and clusters of white flowers with a hint of lavender. Salvia apiana attracts pollinators and loves a sunny, dry slope
Describe your garden now and where you envision it in 5 yrs?
My garden is still so young—it’s only a year and a half old, so it’s just getting its legs and finding its way in the world. This is its second spring and I can already see how it’s growing and maturing. In five years, I think it will feel as if it has always been here.
Do you use plants medicinally? What is your plant routine
I always look to nature whenever possible, whether it’s with essential oils, beauty products, or herbs. We actually planted a lavender and sage garden so I could make my own essential oils. We also have 40,000 bees on the property and are hoping to harvest honey later this spring. I love to use honey to help combat seasonal allergies—I’ll have it on toast or in a cup of tea, or I’ll use it as a face mask.
What has a consistent application of care for your taught you about the role of seasons or cycles in everyday life?
I just love seeing our evolve season after season. Watching the leaves drop in the fall and suddenly become vibrant in the spring reminds me to slow down and live with the constant, easy flow of nature.
What’s currently thriving in your ?
All of our grasses, sycamores, and oaks are full and green right now. My wisteria, roses, and citrus are blooming as well, which gives my a complete spring feeling.
What is your first or earliest memory of being in a ?
I remember being in s and nature since I was tiny, so I can’t necessarily pinpoint one memory. I spent a lot of time in my mom’s growing up and out in Topanga riding horses, so I think those are two of my strongest memories that are tied to the outdoors.
Where did your ing sensibility come from? Is it something you’ve learned through careful cultivation? Or have you had a sensitivity to the living world that makes this more possible?
I think it has evolved and grown as I’ve grown. When I was in my early 20s, I used to only want plants that were green year-round, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowed down and learned to embrace living seasonally. These days, I look forward to the deciduous moments where everything is cozy. I think the outdoor scenes in autumn and winter are equally as beautiful as spring and summer, but it took some time to cultivate that eye.
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’
(Snow Flurry Mountain Lilac)
Snow Flurry Mountain Lilac is a fast growing, evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and white flower clusters that make a showy appearance come spring. It is great as a hedge or screen. Ceanothus thyrsiflorus is drought tolerant, native to California, and attracts bees and butterflies. While it thrives particularly well along the coast, it does do well inland when grown in part shade.
What plants do you use for cooking or healing?
We have pots of herbs in the yard off of the kitchen that I use almost daily while cooking. Our chickens also just started laying eggs, which is so exciting.
What’s in your garden shed?
Right now we actually don’t have a garden shed. Our tack room by our barn is where I store some of my necessities—like this beautiful woven basket filled with all of my favorite garden tools. I’m a Virgo and love to spend time out in the yard weeding.
Do you have any garden traditions that you’ve inherited or learned and plan to pass on?
My mom has always loved a beautiful garden. I grew up going on garden tours with her, supporting the Robinson Gardens, and just watching her in our yard. I always love to have florals inside the house that I’ve picked from my own garden, which is definitely something I learned from her.
I also love to collect any snails that we have found in our garden and release them in public parks or areas where they’ll have a chance of surviving and won’t eat my plants! I learned that from my sweet Southern mother who used to collect them all and drop them off at a nearby park
Elaeagnus x ebbingei
Ebbinge’s Silverberry is an evergreen shrub with a silvery sheen foliage. Fragrant, creamy white flowers open in fall, followed by rust colored berry-like fruits. Drought tolerant, hardy, and nitrogen-fixing. Elaeagnus pungens makes a great hedge or screen.
A deciduous, rounded shrub that makes for a wonderful accent planting in the garden. The elongated, cone-shaped white flower clusters mature to pink and the dark green, oak-shaped leaves turn red in the fall and winter. Hydrangea quercifolia grows best in full sun to part shade.
"My garden is…just getting its legs and finding its way in the world. In five years, I think it will feel as if it has always been here."
This small to medium-sized tree with heart-shaped leaves is low maintenance and has clusters of white pea-like flowers on display in the spring. Cercis canadensis is deciduous and does best in full sun to part shade.
A native, deciduous tree with a large trunk and sculptural branches that twist and spread. The Western Sycamore can reach up to 100+ feet in height. Its bark peels, revealing a marbling of white, pink, and cream. Leaves turn yellow and orange-brown in the fall, and fallen leaves act as a great natural mulch. Platanus racemosa prefers full sun.
(Coast Live Oak)
An evergreen, native tree that can reach up to 75+ feet tall. Quercus agrifolia has a rich green hued foliage, large spreading branches, and produces reddish brown acorns. Order trees are often protected by local tree ordinances. Quercus agrifolia attracts birds and butterflies. This tree can handle full sun but prefers to have its roots shaded, surrounded with smaller native plants and mulch.
Cistus ladanifer ‘Blanche’
Drought tolerant and perfect for a dry garden. This upright shrub has narrow, aromatic green leaves and bright white flowers. Grows best in full sun.
(Purple Three Awn)
Aristida purpurea is a species of grass native to North America. This is a perennial grass, growing erect to under a meter in height, and the flower glumes often assume a light brown to reddish-purple color.
Common Rush is a clumping, evergreen grass that has narrow, upright foliage and produces reddish brown flowers. Juncus effusus prefers full sun but can tolerate part shade.
Sweet Bay is a slow growing, evergreen tree with aromatic leaves that can be used in cooking. Laurus nobilis has slender, leathery dark green leaves. It is drought tolerant, works well as a hedge, and prefers full to part sun.