When I received an assignment from Dwell to write about a special Los Angeles house, I felt like it was a story meant for me. The house was in one of those impossible, only-in-LA locations: a secret canyon in a very dense neighborhood just across the river from my house. It was the home of two very creative souls, Andrew Avery and Laura Gabbert, and was designed by the very talented folks at Standard Architecture. And since the article was for an entertaining issue, the story was to be set at a party they were throwing to celebrate spring (any chance to incorporate day drinking into my work schedule is always welcome). And one more thing, my editor said—they donate part of their seven-acre property to an urban farmer who grows flowers there.
Flowers! With a mom who’s a floral designer and avid gardener, I could not be more at home in a story. But I don’t really think I was prepared to roll into their driveway and see this: Not just a garden, a massive flower farm tucked into the Glassell Park hillside.
The farm, or “growing ground” is the work of the awesome Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms, who sells the blooms at the Hollywood Farmers Market and also runs an awesome CSA (where you can get a “flower share”). Andrew and Laura let her use the land for free in a model I’d like to see more homeowners adapt. Can you imagine Beverly Hills estates installing acres of flower farms instead of those rolling hills of unused grass?
Each week, with her team of volunteers, Tara harvests the blooms and tucks them into these beautiful custom-made carriers that make her stand the prettiest in the entire market. Enticed by her beautiful displays, I’d been buying Tara’s flowers for years.
Case in point: Easter arrangement from 2009. Those are Tara’s! And who would have ever guessed they were grown a few miles from my house in this hidden canyon.
I spent a few hours wandering the growing ground in the bright spring light, marveling at the colors and variety.
And I soaked up plenty of inspiration. I think I had the best time trying to match the flowers to my dress.
After my morning in the garden with Tara, I stayed for the party, as Andrew and Laura’s friends and family streamed into the house for a hearty lunch by Heirloom LA and delicious signature cocktails they dubbed the Gabbert Gimlet—a version of which I’d been introduced to in college by my Minnesota friends.
You can read more about the house, the party, and the growing grounds in my article for Dwell: “American Pastoral.” The whole issue is devoted to entertaining and they’ve even compiled these entertaining tips from contributors featuring my Tomato Pie recipe. Thanks to my awesome editor Jamie Gillin (pictured here snapping photos of the food) for helping such a fun piece happen.