Christa Nuzzo and Mari/River Rooney — a rising junior and senior in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences — are proud plant parents.
Rooney’s botanical exploration began after their family received an orchid as a gift. During quarantine, the passion quickly grew, and now 17 orchids fill their Connecticut home along with succulents, jade plants and basil. Nuzzo said that she turned to plants at the start of the pandemic to find joy.
Now the pair head their own new “virtual community garden” project on Instagram, featuring plant parents from the BU community.
Plants of BU — @plants.of.bu on Instagram — is also a place for plant lovers and queer and BIPOC populations to “showcase joy” and connect with others, Nuzzo said. Nuzzo added that creating a safe space surrounding plants was the main goal.
“We really just wanted it to be a community, a space to connect, just an uplifting community space for really unapologetic joy,” Nuzzo said, “especially for BIPOC, LGBT+ folks, those at the intersections of both who don’t often have those spaces.”
The page features plant tips and spotlights on follower’s plants, and the creators hope to promote in-person events in the fall. Plants of BU also connects BU plant parents with plant sitters in the Boston area.
The pair posted their first feature on @plants.of.bu on April 20, only a week after they began talks of launching the page. The page now has almost 300 followers and 8 posts, including a weekly “#plantmememonday” post.
Rooney said they chose their launch day to honor the social justice movement behind marijuana legalization, adding that the date “meant a lot” to Rooney. The pair is social justice-oriented outside of Plants of BU — Rooney is involved in the CAS Anti-Racist Initiative and Uprooted and Rising Boston University, a food sovereignty group on campus.
Nuzzo, who is active within the Queer Activist Collective, said creating a space to have fun and promote self-care through the page is valuable work, especially because of her work as a social justice activist.
“With [Rooney] and I being activists doing really important work, but it can be really heavy and draining and not always leave time for joy,” Nuzzo said. “We really just want to create a space for this joy for the BU community faculty, staff, and students.”
Nuzzo and Rooney said they are interested in partnering with local businesses and have already begun planning to collaborate with a women-owned plant store in the North End.
“Especially with women-owned, POC and queer-owned businesses, I want to make sure that whatever we’re doing is good for them,” Rooney said. “I would want it to be like a mutually beneficial relationship.”
In creating the account, the pair took inspiration from @plantkween — a Black queer femme plant expert based in Brooklyn whose Instagram page has 333,000 followers — Nuzzo said. She said the account inspired her to begin her own plant journey, from adopting plants to creating community through @plants.of.bu.
Nuzzo said she turned to plants last year to bring her joy during the uncertain time of the pandemic.
“Last year, I felt a lot of joy in taking care of my plants during a time when it was really hard to find things that brought me joy,” Nuzzo said. “A lot of my usual pastimes and self-care and stress relief activities were no longer accessible because of the pandemic, but taking care of plants was really something I could do for fun and it’s really stress-relieving.”
Neha Sachdeva, a rising junior in CAS, was the page’s first “#plantsofbu feature.” Her African violet, cyclamen, rosemary seedling and wax begonia all introduced themselves with a speech bubble graphic. Sachdeva said the Instagram page helps show appreciation for the plant world.
“Being able to see new life, it reminds you that we still are humans on this Earth and our COVID pandemic, the way we live now, isn’t a forever thing,” Sachdeva said. “There is still a lot of beauty in this world to really appreciate, to take a stop and look at.”
Sachdeva said plants also have helped her focus on her mental health and remind her that “it takes time to bloom.”
“Having something to take care of gives me a little more purpose to my day,” she said. “Sometimes it can be a little hard to get up every day, but one of the things that used to really help is knowing that I have to water my plants or knowing that my plants are waiting, for me, to be watered.”
Rooney said they hope the account gives a platform to underrepresented voices while also creating a safe space for self-care and expression.
“Activism is so important and can be so powerful and uplifting, but it can also really take a lot away from you,” Rooney said, “so you have to practice modes of self-care, and that’s what the plants are for.”