Jennifer Lee Segale sees the world from the plant’s perspective.
The Bay Area botanist found her passion for plants through farming, and establishing a landscape design company. Eventually, though—inspired by her own desire for fresh, organic skincare and her love of gardening—she launched, Garden Apothecary, a line of pure bath and beauty products.
Instead of relying on a background in business or even cosmetics, the plant enthusiast draws from her travel through the jungles of Belize and experimentation with potent ingredients from vanilla to wild yam root. And the line represents a labor of love.
Here, Segale explains why getting her hands dirty is the root of her happiness:
Live The Process: What first inspired your evolving interest in botany?
Jennifer Lee Segale: For as long as I can remember (truly), I have been interested in nature. The family joke is that I was caught pruning my grandma’s hedges with safety scissors when I was 5 years old!
She lived in a house in San Francisco with a huge hedge of Meyer Lemon trees. I was always fascinated with poking around the garden and finding the treasures it had to offer. A string of garden-related jobs during my high school years led me to farming, then learning about greenhouse propagation, then starting my gardening company—and so on.
LTP: What inspired you to launch your own line?
JLS: I first started making my own bath and beauty products back in 2008—maybe earlier—for myself and my sister. I wanted something authentic and fresh, and it had to be organic. I had some much access to fresh herbs and knew I needed to do something with them.
My development of and curiosity about the product line led me to travel around the world to study botany. From the beginning, I have applied what I learned and the inspiration from those trips to Garden Apothecary. We have such a limited, unique selection of products because they are solely based on my plant research, mostly in Belize in Central America.
Belize is an incredible country—and cacao theobroma is king there! It’s easy to become obsessed with the main ingredient of chocolate. Turns out, it’s incredible for the skin and body. I travel to Belize about two to three times per year to work hands-on with my grower friends in the jungle (and I have the weird bug bites and scars to prove it!).
LTP: What separates your line from others out there?
JLS: I find that my product line is unique because I create from the “plant’s perspective.” I’m not a business school grad, a cosmetic guru or a skincare professional—I’m a botanist. I learn about the plant first, then develop second.
Luckily, good quality botanicals have so much to offer in the beauty world; I speak their language and translate it into something great for the skin. For example, our Rose Leaf products are not just rose-scented. We use the distilled waxy resin that comes exclusively from the leaf of the rose, and add that to the petal oil. It gives the collection a completely different scent then anything you will find on the market. The leaf offers a fruity fragrance and pairs wonderfully with the rich petal oil. It’s still traditional rose, but with a twist that is hard to pinpoint. It’s like nothing else.
LTP: Is gardening an important outlet for you?
JLS: Gardening on the California coast is my heaven. Half Moon Bay is a special, small farm town that I am proud to call home. We get the buzz and traffic from SF, Palo Alto and San Mateo on the weekends, but, on a night like tonight, the streets are quiet, the fog is rolling in and there is a sea salt mist covering my garden. Only a block down the street, my neighbor (farmer John) is driving his tractor to feed the cows on the east-facing hills that I can see from my bedroom window. I love spending time digging in the dirt in this part of the world! I find that being alone, quiet and keeping my hands busy in the soil is a hugely satisfying chore.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JLS: To me, happiness is that full feeling in your body and spirit. It’s foggy afternoons in the garden with mud in my fingernails and stillness in my mind. It’s spending time with my husband, reading a book and sipping a rich red wine. It’s blending vanilla oils with almond and balsam, and stirring that in giant metal bowls to create my body scrubs.
Happiness to me is living authentically, with intrigue and texture. Happiness is sharing my love of plants with anyone who will listen.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we each do that every day?
JLS: To “Live The Process,” we need to stay authentic to our ideas, feelings, intentions and intuition. I listen to myself often, and I make sure to act. The wholesome and indulgent characteristics of my product line embody how I do this every day.