Sky-High Planting in NY! Notes From BH&G Stylemaker 2018…

Ah, autumn in New York—there’s a reason Billie sang about it. Especially those first few crisp days! It’s a feeling you wish you could bottle up and uncork all year long as needed, like, say, when the February snow won’t shovel itself, or when you’re only halfway through the sweatiest cookout of all time.

So it’s fitting that Better Homes & Gardens’ annual Stylemaker conference takes place during this most energizing season. We look forward to it every year! It’s a gathering of bloggers and social media personalities from across the wide realm that is lifestyle, from food to fashion and interior design to, ever increasingly, plants and gardening. It also features BH&Gs smart, passionate editors, who are so generous with their ideas while also telling wild stories over cocktails.

This 2018 session was the third for The Horticult, and it was extra special because this blog’s own Ryan Benoit was FEATURED on a PANEL.

*Record scratch* *Freeze frame* Yup, that’s Ryan. You’re probably wondering how he ended up in this situation. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

The topic? Success stories about blogs that birthed marketable products, moderated by Deputy Home Editor Amy Panos. His panelmates were: Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita, whose blog became an interior design biz and a book; Amanda Reynal, whose interior design journey began in NYC and led to a lucrative studio and shop in Des Moines; and Grace Mitchell of A Storied Style, who will have a new show on TV next year.

And what’s Ryan’s product? More on that in a minute…

In contrast to the herbal rusticity of last year’s Brooklyn location, this year’s BH&G Stylemakers event was held at the Public Hotel, a slick and arty space on the Lower East Side.

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

We also had breakfast and coffee on the roof with some stunning city views.


Our horticulture clique assembled, with friends Amanda Thomsen of Kiss My Aster (left) and Rochelle Greayer of Pith + Vigor (center).

Ryan and his botanical bro Kevin Espiritu of (San Diego-based!) Epic Gardening.

Any flower that comes loose from a display, I’m sticking it behind my ear, end of story.

After the BH&G editors gave us all a hearty welcome, the panel kicked off. Ryan talked about our book, How to Window Box, and his new project, which will turn the floating clay pots you might remember into a trademarked and patented retail product, a new take on container gardening. Yes, he brought pots. Yes, he demonstrated them stacked and hanging. He even took a vote on what the name should be, out of three candidates, using the marquee lightbox all the guests received in advance. The winner: Sky Pots.

From left to right, Amanda Reynal, Paloma Contreras, Amy Panos, Ryan Benoit, and Grace Mitchell.

Next, the digital editors of BH&G got us up to speed on the latest in social media and SEO. Using Google Trends to spark new content—that was a major takeaway; in fact, I searched “plants” just now to learn that “viper’s bowstring hemp” is having quite a moment as a hot search term. (And here we were just calling it a snake plant or sansevieria!)

From left, Heather Champion (Meredith Technical SEO Lead), Melissa Chavez (Social Media Manager, Parents), and Karla Walsh (Associate Digital Food Editor, BH&G) shared the latest strategies for standing out in this bursting digital landscape. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

The panel was fascinating and the room was rapt. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

Just as the clock approached noon, it was time for a drink. And one of my favorite bloggers for years, Marie Viljoen of 66 Square Feet (Plus) lead the room in making a fall foraging-inspired Yuzu Sumac Cocktail. Learning about sumac was a treat in itself; it’s the only only tree/shrub that’s native to the contiguous 48 states! Across various species of the Rhus genus its bright red fruit clusters are blazing this time of year, ripe for being ground up and mixed into the “sumac-ade” we spiked with Tito’s vodka.

Every table teamed up to make its own large batch and we sipped while looking at all the surrounding rooftop gardens.

Alongside Senior Food Editor Maggie Glisan (right), Marie Viljoen (left) shows us how to make her Yuzu Sumac Cocktail while wearing a pristine white top. LEGENDARY. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

After lunch (where a standout was the Royal Basmati Kalettes Salad), we learned how to pose with aplomb in the Get the Shot workshop, featuring Beauty and Fashion Editor Erica Metzger, photographer Annie Schlechter, Maybelline social media manager Sarah Mendelsohn, and The Kachet Life blog founder Kachet Jackson-Henderson. Kachet looks effortlessly stunning in her photos, so we were here for everything she had to say.

Tips included the magic of moving while you’re being snapped, maybe putting some music on, and meeting with your photographer (if you’re hiring a new one) ahead of time, to establish a rapport. Oh, and learning how to not care what passersby think when you’re serving lewks in public places. For Kachet, representing her beloved Sacramento is essential to her blog, so the city setting is important. So shrug off the looky-loos!

We also got to try on the newest shades from Maybelline’s SuperStay 24 Liquid Lipstick and fill in our brows with Maybelline’s Tattoo Studio brow tint pen. And yes, Ryan and Kevin got in on the bro-brow action; as soon as I can track down the footage, I’ll update!

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

Krystal C. Mack gives the brow pen a go. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

And finally, there was the keynote. Whew. (Hang on a second while I fan myself.) The keynote guest was the inimitable Carla Hall, chef, restaurateur, and author of the new Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration. You might also know her from Bravo’s Top Chef and ABC’s The Chew!

BH&G’s editor in chief Stephen Orr interviewed her, in a conversation that was both dishy—pun intended?—and deep. He kicked off the session with Carla’s Lewks, a collection of gorgeous shots from her modeling days in Europe. We learned about how her catering business was born from her thinking on her feet (someone asked, she said yes and named it on the spot), the lessons she learned from her shuttered Brooklyn restaurant—like never losing sight of the day-to-day operation, when you’re tempted to start thinking about the next place, and where the brand is going…

On a personal level, I was heartened to hear how she became more outgoing, more like herself, the older she gets. And that she first found her tribe in theater, where being called weird was a compliment.

Editor in chief Stephen Orr and chef and TV personality Carla Hall. (Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

(Photo by David Keith Photography)

I just had to ask Carla about what she learned from her Brooklyn restaurant adventure. (Photo by David Keith Photography)


Followed by…of course, convos and cocktails <3

We finished the evening with drinks and hor d’oeuvres on the roof, surrounded by the glowing skyline. Good-bye hugs included promises to visit each other’s city.

This season certainly started on a high note.


Photos by David Keith Photography: