For some, going green is a lifestyle choice. For others, it’s about making a positive impact on our environment. For Kendra LaRoche, going “green” might just have saved her life. Now a 25-year-old with a burgeoning business that’s equal parts art and plants, she has turned her passion into purpose.
LaRoche owns Loft & Leaf, a container scape and plant design business newly opened along the Emerald Coast. Although she has a commercial space in Santa Rosa Beach, most of her work with clients is done — no pun intended — in the field.
“Once I found my passion for plants, that was it. I felt like nothing could stop me from getting to this point,” said LaRoche, whose first project involved a combination of greenery and shells. “It completely took off.”
LaRoche was born in Jacksonville and lived in a lot of different states throughout her childhood. Like many, she headed off to college and discovered it wasn’t for her. She followed her dad to the Panhandle to take a break and figure out her next move. You might call it serendipitous.
“I actually had a friend I met here and she had, like, a thousand house plants. Before meeting her, I really didn’t have any interest in plants or ever really even noticed them,” she said. “But, I got to hanging out with her and she kind of inspired me to start my own collection. I saw her interior and I was like, ‘Wow, this is beautiful. I want to do something like this.’ I fell in love with the process, fell in love with getting to learn about every single plant and their care.”
Her next move, it turned out, was applying for — and securing — a job at a local nursery. As she perfected her craft, she welcomed more plants into her personal space: Shade and foliage plants, ferns, Monsteras and Fiddle-Leaf Figs. While she was getting along famously with the greenery, a tinge of doubt was creeping in from her circle.
“My family didn’t really understand. You know, it was kind of a hard upbringing for me and I struggled with addiction when I was younger, so people were like, ‘What is she doing?’ This wasn’t my first ‘crazy’ idea,” LaRoche recalled. “So, everyone was kind of reserved and kind of life, ‘Give her six months. She’ll change her mind.’ But, I just knew, the second I found plants, I wasn’t going back. I was going to do everything I could to make this happen.”
That’s not to say LaRoche didn’t do her homework. At the nursery, she started playing around with container scapes and being mentored by those with more experience. She started selling her shell arrangements at local farmers markets. And, she pursued a container scape job in south Florida.
“I did that for a year and ended up taking over their container scape and maintenance programs,” LaRoche said. “And, that’s where I really learned. I got to mentor under some people who have been in the field for 50-plus years.
“They knew going into it that this was temporary for me. I really wanted to learn and bring that knowledge back to the area and have my own business. And, they were completely open to that and preparing me for all the things I needed to have a successful business. The owner was super into helping other women rise and grow businesses and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”
LaRoche officially opened her own space in the summer of 2021. She offered numerous services including creating container scapes of all sizes; meeting clients and potential clients for consultations in their home; custom arrangements for gifts or centerpieces; and, both container and arrangement maintenance on weekly, biweekly or monthly schedules. She works in all price points, from budget-friendly to more elaborate projects, whether you want one plant or a house full of them.
“Working with me is an experience. I really like to involve my clients and just bring their vision to life,” she said. “I want to bring people back to nature because even though they may not think they’ve thought about plants, once we start talking, they have given it thought in the small things they notice around here, the foliage around the lakes, what they like on vacation. Those are the special things I really like to incorporate and personalize someone’s plan with.”
Asking LaRoche about her personal favorite plant is like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite; she couldn’t pick just one, but settled on Plumosa ferns, orchids and Anthurium stems.
“I think about what’s around me and how much we get from plants and that drives me. I want people to see that,” she said. “When I found plants, I literally found every single part of myself.”