A Primer for Urban Gardeners

Text by Lisa H. Speidel
Two black pots potted with green plants. There's a brick wall that has been painted gray in the background.

The Seaport container from Domani. Photo courtesy of Winston Flowers.


1. Living large: plants for lofts

Emily Bradley at Niche has three go-tos: birds of paradise (“these love bright indirect light, and as they get new leaves, they billow out a bit, giving them distinct and lovely shapes”); dracaena canes (as they grow in height, they don’t get too wide); and parlor palms (more forgiving in a space with lower light).

A tall gray container with a green plant. In the background is a white sofa.

Vertical ZZ plants work well in small spaces.

2. Beyond the fiddle leaf fig
The fig is still super popular, but a cool alternative is the Chinese money plant, says Bradley. Matt McKenna, creative director of garden design at Winston Flowers, suggests placing a sculptural container on top of a pillar. Filled with trailing rhipsalis or something taller, like blue star ferns, he says, “it achieves the same height and scale that a tree would.”

3. Small-space stunners
Small spaces often equal lack of light. So, think snake plants or ZZ plants, says Bradley. “They are both funky plants that don’t get too wide.” Pothos work well, too, she says. “Their vines trail, which is beautiful.” Air plants are also gaining ground, says Jordan Ford of Jordan’s Jungle. “No soil, no mess. Place them in a basket, hang them from a rafter, and just spray with water a few times a week.”

A pothos plant in a gray container that looks like tree bark. The container is on a white-washed table.

The trailing vines of the pothos.

4. Rooftop recommendations
“There is nothing greater than a giant elephant ear on a roof deck,” says Ford. “With dozens of amazing varieties, they instantly add a tropical jungle feel!” Other hits? In full sun, McKenna suggests sedum angelina, asparagus fern, and star jasmine. And, when the temps dip, he turns to blue star juniper, thunderhead pine, and dogwood.

5. Chic containers
Winston Flowers has partnered with Belgium-based Domani to create a collection of frost-proof containers—aptly called the Boston line and named after local neighborhoods. “They’re perfectly adaptable to any urban space—think front stoops, terraces, and balconies,” McKenna says. The folks at Niche give a shout-out to Vermont-based potter Christopher Vaughn for his handsome planters.

Resources
Niche, Cambridge and Boston, nicheboston.com
Winston Flowers, various New England locations, winstonflowers.com
Jordan’s Jungle, Pawtucket, jordansjungle.net

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