She plays a political gladiator on <i/>Scandal</i>, but there's nothing scandalous about the way Darby Stanchfield spends her off-set hours. You'll find her gardening around her Los Angeles home and loving every minute of it.
Like every character on her hit show, Scandal, Darby Stanchfield, who plays sassy White House press secretary Abby Whelan, has a dirty little secret. This one, though, involves actual dirt. Turns out the gorgeous redhead has a major green thumb.
Darby's patio garden kicks out a bumper crop of veggies, tomatoes, and herbs, which she tosses into huge green salads that are a source of envy at work. "I'm known as the brown-bagger on the Scandal set," she says.
Credit the practicality to her Alaska upbringing. Dad was a commercial fisherman (think Deadliest Catch), and Darby and her sister foraged for morels and salmonberries. Fresh produce was scarce that far north, so visits to her grandfather's Washington state garden made a big impression. "From a very young age, I had that experience of those explosive flavors," Darby says. Now just about any fresh flavor she wants is right outside her door, ready to star in her latest salad creation.
Toss romaine with persimmon wedges, avocado chunks, chopped dill, and a handful of raw, unsalted pistachios. Drizzle with the juice of half a Meyer lemon and extra-virgin olive oil and toss. Sprinkle sea salt and cracked pepper to taste.
She plays a Q&A pro on TV. Now it's time for the actress and ace gardener to field a few of our questions.
Day Job: "Currently, Scandal, a massive game of pretend while wearing designer clothes for 15 hours straight with people I adore."
I Start My Day By: "Watering my vegetable garden."
Personal Style: "Strong lines, simple, and clean -- with a killer shoe."
Can't Live Without: "Phone calls with my mom and sister."
Favorite Decor Source: "Anthropologie. Not only do they have great home goods, but their store decor installations are inspiring."
Words I Live By: "You can do anything if you set your mind to it."
Favorite Trend: "Wallpaper. I love that it's made a comeback. My bedroom has an incredible champagne string wallpaper with a palm leaf. It has a very old Hollywood Regency vibe."
What I'm Reading: "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield."
I Get Inspired By: "The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a nonprofit dedicated to propagating old tree species before they disappear."
Favorite Escape: "Yosemite National Park."
Best Entertaining Tip: "Bake something. It makes your guests feel special."
Hidden Talent: "Organizing."
Oil and Vinegar: "These put a yummy twist on my salads." Rosemary Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar, $19 each; laquintaoliveoilcompany.com
T-shirt: Classic yet chic, in organic cotton with low-impact dye. Perfect Cap Sleeve Top, $28.50; alternativeapparel.com
Hat: "I'm a big hat person, especially when I garden." Gold Coast Lifeguard Hat, $19.99; ebags.com
Candle: "I burn one every evening." Voluspa Saijo Persimmon, $8; anthropologie.com
Music: "I love to unwind and cook to Cesaria Evora's rich, vibrant voice."
Sweet Treat: "My day isn't complete without dark chocolate." Endangered Species, $2.99 each; vitacost.com