PRETTY, USEFUL THINGS

Christianne Laing's Boutique Stocks Both.
By Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave

Christianne Laing’s Avid Gardener boutique is devoted to the art of floriculture—and to those who love it. Whether a customer’s been knee-deep in dirt for years or just starting to get their hands dirty, Laing’s got the tools, seeds and tips to create the consummate outdoor sanctuary.

“My business is about helping people learn how to take care of and marry plants. And, almost every item in this shop is more than just a gift or pretty, because it’s useful too,” Laing says of her Cambridge store.

Laing’s inventory is meant to strike that crucial balance between beauty and purpose. Eclectic annuals like mystic dahlias, papyrus plants and corkscrew rush populate the store’s small nursery. And displays include Tula palm hats with a sun protection factor of 50+ and pruning utensils such as herbaceous sickles that help gardeners tend their plots in efficient, comfortable style.

Laing opened the Cambridge store in 2014, but had switched from working in a bakery to working in gardens 20 years before. “Rather than being hot in a kitchen, I realized I could be outside getting a tan,” she says.

“That may have been an unconventional choice then, but now more and more people are seeking ways to grow their own food and restore the earth. From berries to veggies, they want to take control of food production— or create a living landscape by incorporating a natural habitat for pollinators and other wildlife into their gardens,” Laing says.

She encourages gardeners to create plots—or green up their urban balcony—with plants and accessories that reflect their tastes. “Think about what you like indoors and how to achieve that effect outside. Integrate designs that heighten your senses,” she suggests.

Customers can create bold outdoor spaces with the shop’s assortment of outdoor rugs, ceramic globe lanterns and wall planters. Laing also recommends using smartphone gardening apps or surfing the web foradditional inspiration on crafting a welcoming nightscapein the garden.

“Investing in high-quality greenery and productsupfront will bring you lasting and sustainable plantingsfor many years.”

Christianne Laing’s“thinking outside the box”tips for container planting

Use succulents: They tolerate hot sun and infrequent watering so they do great on a deck or condo balcony. Semperviums, echeveria haworthia, aloe and agave are easy to grow.

Incorporate small perennials into containers. Then you can move them into the garden at the end of the season. Huechera, aster, coreopsis and lamiums are great partners to brighter annuals.

Stuck with shade? Mix in houseplants such as Rex begonias, ferns and ivies for interesting textures, height and trailing effect for low-light containers.

Space out. Be sure to leave one to two inches of headroom to accommodate water, so the soil doesn’t spill out when watering the container.

More Space? Laing’s insider tip for those with bigger outdoor areas to mold: “Landscaping trends are shifting to more hardy trees and shrubs rather than masses of perennials and meadows.”

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