ONTARIO – Laura LeBoutillier and her husband Aaron are your neighbors in Malheur County. Maybe you’ve never heard of them, but about half a million people from all across the country follow them online.
The LeBoutilliers run Garden Answer, a gardening video blog on YouTube. With Laura in front of the camera and Aaron behind it, they produce how-to videos for home gardeners from their house in Ontario.
A year after they began in 2014, Garden Answer started to get so popular that sponsors came knocking. The LeBoutilliers quit their day jobs and jumped into making videos full time.
Now they’re producing a new video almost every day.
“We found a niche,” said Aaron.
There are a lot of gardening how-to videos online, he said, but Laura’s take combines aesthetics with know-how.
“The goal for me in the end is inspiration. Education is second,” said Laura.
Her parents own Andrews Seed Co. in Ontario so she grew up surrounded by plants.
When you walk into their garden you forget you’re in a high desert environment. They’ve planted a sprawling oasis: hedges of hydrangeas, birch trees that shade purple fountain grass, bushes of hot pink climbing roses that trace the front of a chicken coop. Off to the side, blotches of white blooms line what looks like a sliver of Versailles.
A snapshot of the LeBoutillier’s garden.(Submitted photo)
Their viewers have watched nearly every step of the way.
“It’s like a hobby you make money off of,” said Aaron.
Take a recent video, “Summer Garden Cleanup.” In it, Laura spruces up her garden as her toddler trails behind her. It’s almost meditative. Maybe it’s the music or the sped up footage of her methodically trimming back plants. It is hard to stop watching.
Four hours after it was posted, the nearly 20-minute clip had already fished 11,000 views.
It’s this dedication from their viewers that has attracted sponsors like Espoma, the organic fertilizer and potting soil brand, and the plant brand Proven Winners.
In Garden Answer videos, Laura shows viewers her projects and gardening successes – the viburnum tree that’s flowering, the Russian sage that’s standing tall. But she also shows you the tired-looking hosas and the trees filled with dried branches.
“I think that’s what makes me a little more relatable to people because I do mess up and I show it,” said Laura.
When the LeBoutilliers started selling merchandise a few years ago – simple T-shirts with “Garden Answer” printed on them – they weren’t sure how many shirts they should produce. One hundred? Three hundred? They’ve sold a couple thousand.
In June, a volunteer event organized by some followers from Utah brought 67 people from across the country and Canada to Ontario. Laura and her fans spent a day planting a garden and setting up a playground at Project DOVE, an organization and shelter for survivors of domestic violence in Ontario. Tickets for the event sold out in three minutes.
“You don’t expect people to be interested,” said Aaron. But they are.
One year, their videos pulled in 350 million views.
The couple is test-driving something new: they’ve sent some videos to be translated into Spanish. As long as people continue to click and watch, Garden Answer will continue to put out videos.
So in a corner of their green oasis, you’ll spot a simple set up – camera, tripod, and microphone – waiting for them to press record and start rolling.
Reporter Yadira Lopez: 541-473-3377 or [email protected]