Urban Plantscapes

Brownstones, high rises, squat pubs, thrift stores, and coffee shops dot the landscape of Boston. A film of greenery covers many an exposed brick wall with climbing ivy—a reflection of our own lives as we prepare to ascend the career ladder. Our city seems both big and small at the same time—long Uber rides home from nights of socializing find us creeping up sprawling streets, winding and endless. At 3:00 a.m., our little Emerson seems so far away, but when dawn breaks over the city, its demeanor changes. Old buildings shrink down to their daytime stature, unassuming in quiet decay. The North and South Ends, not so far apart, are connected over the miles of highway by a web of silent, green friends. As always, the Prudential Center governs over city shrubs and city people alike, a beacon, ready to guide us home from wherever we are.

Metropolitan areas like Boston generally bring to mind visions of chrome and steel, brick and mortar. As we trudge the blocks between work, class, T stops and apartments, we are acutely aware of the mood set by architecture—but on another plane of existence dwells a population parallel to ours. Plants are a much bigger part of our lives than we realize. Not only do they nourish our bodies and purify the air we breathe, but their presence actually makes us happier and reduces stress.

Even when we aren’t outside in nature, we can still benefit from the calming effects of vegetation. Succulents are undoubtedly the most loved plants on the college scene, jostling for space on top of books on dorm room desks, kitchen counters inside apartments, on nightstands and coffee tables; wherever sunlight, a little water and fresh air are found, plants will prosper.


Art-student instagram accounts flooded with posts of succulents gathered in window sills vouch for their popularity, and it’s easy to see why. Taking care of any houseplant requires a watchful eye on soil moisture and the health of leaves, but they incur far less responsibility than a dog or a cat. Talking to them, playing music and surrounding them with positive vibrations nourishes them the same way they nourish us—a symbiotic relationship you won’t hear about in most textbooks. There is a special satisfaction that comes with seeing our leafy comrades grow greener at the tips as a result of of our efforts.

Even those with less time to spend tending to indoor gardens can still benefit from the presence of plants. A bouquet of roses gifted after a show only last a week or two at most, but enjoying their bright, fragrant blooms over morning coffee makes for a positive start to the day. Once all the petals have wilted, a walk through the Public Garden on the way to class can fill us with a healthy sense of wonder.

As city dwellers, we are luckier than we think. We have the best of both worlds—in the heart of the city teaming with business and trade, we are only ever a short walk or T ride away from oases of nature like the Arnold Arboretum and the many parks and playgrounds boasted by the Parks and Rec. Department. So, I say to the people of Boston: when the grind of city life gets too grating, there is always an escape to the woods.

Text by Margeaux Sippell

Photography by Allison Nguyen