The Bosque plant shop looks to give urban dwellers a chance to grow

Michael Lanier, who owns The Bosque, often gives visitors advice on plant care amid keeping up with the shop. (Becky Brisley/DD)
Michael Lanier, who owns The Bosque, often gives visitors advice on plant care amid keeping up with the shop. (Becky Brisley/DD)

Phoenix summers often evoke memories of heat, concrete and, inevitably, dying plants. But an oasis of a business opened up on Roosevelt Row this summer in the form of The Bosque.

The shop, which officially opened at MonOrchid in July after a soft opening at the end of June, specializes in indoor plants. Different and colorful varieties, from succulents to ferns to pitcher plants, reside on both antique and metal shelves of the space.

But the shop, while it has some native desert species, doesn’t quite resemble an arid landscape like some of the plant nurseries in town.

“I actually deviated to the exact opposite,” said Michael Lanier, who owns and presides over the plants. “So many nurseries — not that I have anything against it, it’s awesome — focus on what can grow in Arizona. I like the desert, but you need like a reprieve. We tried to do everything that would live indoors. I really like anything kind of tropical or stranger.”

Lanier said these types of plants, ones that might live in rain forests, temperate zones or mountains, are capable of thriving here — it just might mean keeping them indoors part of the year. With an urban setting and so many apartments, he said, indoor plants can give people an opportunity to grow.

“Everything here is an outdoor plant somewhere, except for here,” he said.

Kallen Schmerler, who lives a few blocks away, stumbled upon the shop with a friend for the first time.

“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I think that, as a person who really loves plants, this is a really great place to come buy a house plant. I go to the nurseries and stuff, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Amid the plants are also different relics — old cameras, postcards, books, an ant farm. Lanier said he wanted to tie a bit of the city’s history into the little shop as well.

“There’s a lot of unwritten history here,” he said. “Everything I sell that is old or antique kind of has a story. We try to just tie it in so the people that come here can experience a sort of nostalgia.”

The Bosque is the fruition of Lanier’s booth at the Phoenix Public Market, where he began selling his plants in March.

“We did that for about two months, but it was only for five hours on a Saturday, so I felt so bored all the time,” Lanier said.

That’s when he saw the space in MonOrchid and decided it was time to expand. Wayne Rainey, who owns the space, said The Bosque fits well there.

“We’re really trying to create a culture of independent businesses that work well in an urban walking environment,” Rainey said. “I can’t think of anyone doing anything more innovative or personal that what Michael has done with his shop. The Bosque is more than just a plant shop, he really kind of curates for his clientele, and that’s a rare thing to find nowadays.”

But The Bosque grew out of more than just a booth at the Public Market — Lanier went to school for botany and sociology at Central Arizona College, which followed a passion developed in high school.

When he graduated high school, Lanier wanted to leave. He grew up on the arid, rocky landscape of the Goldmine Mountain area, where he said despite its beauty, “there was nothing green to lay in or play in.” He wanted to get out of the desert.

“Freshman year of college I took the semester off and went to Denver and I saw how green it was, but it didn’t feel like home,” he said.

Lanier came back to Phoenix for school, eventually getting an internship at the USDA Arid Land Agricultural Research Service. But this wasn’t his cup of tea either.

“I didn’t like working in the lab, it was so repetitive,” he said.

Lanier ended up packing his bags again and heading to Boston to pursue a real estate license, and though living in Boston made him realize he wanted to be in an urban environment, he managed to gravitate back to Phoenix — and plants — again.

“I think it feels like home,” he said. “Phoenix is the kind of place where you can make something, it’s always growing.”

Lanier has found that sense of home in the Garfield neighborhood, where he presides over his own garden and brings ideas to life in his shop. He hopes to start classes at some point too, involving herb gardening and growing fruit trees.

“I tell everyone in the mean time that advice is free,” he said.

Lanier also hopes to expand the shop at some point, hopefully somewhere with lots of light. No matter where The Bosque ends up, though, it seems Lanier found a city that feels like home.

“I’m not in this to get rich, I just love it,” he said. “I’m doing this as a way to be here for the community.”

Contact the reporter at Rebecca.Brisley@asu.edu