Boston-based Potted Up Creates Gorgeous Gardens, Scaled for the City

January 24, 2018


Text by Kaitlin Madden

A bustling metropolitan lifestyle isn’t typically seen as one that fosters an easy connection to nature. Yet that’s exactly what Boston urban gardening pro Ed MacLean sets out to do for his clients every day.

MacLean’s business, Potted Up, works exclusively with residential and commercial clients in Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods to create beautiful, intricate, well-designed landscapes out of decidedly city-specific outdoor spaces. “We start with the belief that no space is too small or too unique to become an urban oasis,” explains MacLean. “Whether it’s a rooftop, a rowhouse garden, a window sill, or a front stoop, we can transform it into something that gives our clients an escape from the grind of city living. We’ve done everything from creating simple window boxes for the front of a home, to landscaping 10’ x 10’ front courtyards, to designing a 6,000-square-foot roofdeck atop a condo complex.”

At the outset of a project, Potted Up’s approach to landscaping is not all that different from what you’d expect from the architect of a sprawling suburban lawn: MacLean starts with the consideration of the indoor-outdoor connection, drawing on elements of a home’s interior design to create an initial direction for the exterior living space. “We start by doing an interior assessment, taking in color scheme, overall style, and architecture, along with assessing the view from the inside of the home to the outside,” he says. “While our clients are usually looking to make their outdoor space an extension of their home, because Boston is a northern climate, for part of the year their experience with their outdoor space is viewing it from the inside.”

After an initial design direction is chosen, MacLean and his team get a sense of what the homeowners hope to achieve from their outdoor space and how they plan to use it. But that’s where the similarities between Potted Up and a traditional landscaping firm usually stop. It’s during MacLean’s talks with his clients that the challenges endemic to city living begin to crop up: perhaps there’s an air compressor smack in the middle of the roofdeck, or a client wants to block an unsightly view or harsh nightly glare from a street light outside the window. Maybe an air conditioning unit puts off heat that creates a micro-climate on a back patio.

“A lot of the work we do is re-imagining how a space can be divided or arranged, and editing the client’s views from their home,” explains MacLean. “With an air compressor, for example, we might move it completely and screen it with lattice, or put it under a custom-made bench so the space becomes usable in that way. To screen out a view, we’ll often do large trees, evergreen hedges, and vertical gardens.”

The challenge MacLean most often faces is, of course, space, but his years of city gardening experience have taught him a wealth of tricks for deceiving the eye and making even the tiniest of terraces appear open.

“If a space is particularly small, for example, “instead of having a solid wood table and chairs, we might explore incorporating a glass table or open metal wire furniture to allow more air and light into the garden and maintain a more open feel” he explains. As for the plants themselves? MacLean can visually maximize space by taking a tailored approach and using a repetition of plant materials throughout the garden. “If you stick to two of three primary plants it makes the space look uncluttered or more open,” he says.

If you’re looking for something a bit more ornate, just say the word. MacLean says Potted Up’s clientele hails from every neighborhood in the city, and have tastes that range from classic English gardens filled with evergreens to sculptural, contemporary designs that incorporate water features and trellises … and everything in between.

Perhaps the most appealing part of Potted Up’s services, however, is that the firm offers full-service, year-round maintenance. Meaning not only that the Bostonians MacLean works with don’t have worry about preserving a rooftop garden in the dead of New England winter, they also don’t have to find a place to stash bulky pruning tools, hoses, and fertilizers in their surely limited closet space … something any city-dweller can appreciate.

To find out more about Potted Up’s City Gardening services, visit

Potted Up

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