Houseplants have become one of mainstreams most prevailing cultural trends—one leisurely scroll through Insta and it seems everyone is growing green, going green, or both. In a time where the self image is curated, where identity is meticulously crafted piece by piece, it’s refreshing to see a genuine individual who values effortlessly emanate from within. Maryah Greene is the real deal when it comes to plants, and she puts her money where her mouth is. Founder of Greene Piece, this Plant Bae has taken her love for the natural world and transformed it into full-fledged operation, using her extensive botanical knowledge to match the right plants with the people & places—sans the outrageous prices. Adding an ethos and a profoundly human touch to a highly saturated sector, Greene serves as a brilliant demonstration of the beauty that ensues when an individual turns their passions into their vocation. Read below.
If you were a plant, what plant would you be and why?
I’d without a doubt have to be String of Pearls because they need attention but they’re also pretty self-reliant. They only need water once every three weeks and the only time I see them unhappy is when someone gives them too much water too often and not enough light. I find that I’m constantly balancing my need for support from others with my independence and desire for my own personal space.
What lesson could we as the human race learn from nature?
Patience is everything. I love when my plants go dormant and stop growing for a season because it reminds me of the importance of rest and recharging. In a society that values production, I often get wrapped up in trying to overwork myself until I feel a sense of value or self-actualization. Nature, particularly plants, can remind us that we can work as hard as we want but without rest, exponential growth isn’t possible.
One memory that instantly makes you smile?
I used to teach summer school for 8th graders in Washington D.C. 6 years ago and the term ended a few days before my birthday. I remember having a conversation with one of my students and we realized we had the same birthday. This was a student who wasn’t too excited about learning or anything that wasn’t related to basketball. On the last day of summer school I brought in some NBA merch and I could tell it made his entire summer. Days later, I received a random call on my birthday and it turned out that this student had searched for a directory to try to find my number so he could send me birthday wishes! I had to immediately hang up after saying thank you so that I didn’t get into any legal trouble, but it meant the entire world to me that a student who absolutely despised school and teachers took the time to acknowledge what that summer meant to him. It was the greatest gift.
In the context of your work, how would you define energy?
Energy is the feeling of comfort, empathy and compassion that I bring to a new client’s home when I first meet them. It’s what I hope to drape over them as we discuss their previous plant care issues, questions or concerns. Simply saying the words, “It’s not you, it’s just not the right plant for your lighting or space” often meets clients with a sense of comfort and relief that they have not experienced in years since bringing a plant into their home. This energy is what I hope to bring to every interaction, whether it’s teaching in a classroom or teaching a plant parent about the best way to care for their houseplants.
What is your daily wellness ritual?
I make every effort to stay off of my phone when I’m on the subway. I found that its so easy to use the train as a time to catch up on emails, texts etc. but a lot of the time, it’s the only period when I get to sit down during the day. My commute from Brooklyn into the city can be 30-45 minutes so I’ve made a habit of enjoying that time to reset and be present.
Who or what inspired you to become a plant designer?
I don’t know if any one person inspired me to become a plant designer since it wasn’t something I decided to be when I woke up one day. However, I will say that I’m inspired by the abuelas and elderly people within my community that have been taking care of their plants before it became a “trend” or “hobby”. Plant parenting has become instagram’s newest obsession and I find it heart-warming that people have been caring for their plants way before it was cool to hoard 50+ and take a picture with it for a funny caption. I’m inspired every time I walk past a brownstone and see someone’s mother, father or grandmother watering their plants. I can tell that they do it simply to keep their plants alive and for no other social or expressive reason. It’s a beautiful sight and it warms my heart to see it transcend generations.
What is the importance of access, and what role does it play in shaping our visual & cultural landscape?
Access means everything. I’d also add that OPPORTUNITY means everything. Both are the reason why I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, to get my own apartment, to own my own business etc. Without access and opportunity, I don’t think I’d be in a position to teach others what I know about caring for houseplants, let alone running a business.
Photography Courtesy of Alex Bandoni
When life gives you lemons, you…
I’d likely spend so much time trying to ask people if they prefer their lemonade sour or sweet and would end up running out of time to make it in the first place! I tend to prioritize others’ needs and desires before my own… I probably wouldn’t even have enough lemonade left over for myself.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received came from a very close friend of mine when I was having a hard time prioritizing work, school, social life and everything else. She told me to always remember to water my plants first. I tell myself this at least 3 times a day when I’m feeling overwhelmed with everyone’s expectations of me or when I’m trying to make my way down a never-ending to-do list. It means prioritizing myself even when everything else is telling me that isn’t a priority.