When Jesse Gleeson was a child, he often helped his grandmother with her garden, growing vegetables and produce that they’d enter into the agricultural fair at the school he attended. His love of both indoor and outdoor plants continued to flourish. In 2016, he bought a Fiddle Leaf Fig and started collecting indoor plants.
“I realized after purchasing the Fiddle Leaf Fig and doing extensive research on how to keep it alive, that tropical plants, specifically, were quickly going to become a big interest of mine,” says Gleeson. “Most of these plants grow on the jungle floor, which is quite the opposite of Calgary so there is a learning curve.”
Gleeson has collected more than 100 tropical plants, documenting their growth on his Instagram account, @plantfilledapartment.
You live in a 600-square-foot apartment that is filled with greenery. What makes it an ideal space for your plants?
I’ve been living in this particular apartment for about three and a half years now. I moved to Calgary in the winter and didn’t have any plants at all. I started picking up a couple plants to have around – once I got that Fiddle Leaf Fig I was hooked. This small space is a little bit easier to work with when you’re trying to boost humidity for the plants. I have two humidifiers going at most times in here and the humidity level hovers around 60 to 65 percent.
You live in Zone 4a. What does that mean?
Zone 4a is a growing zone that relates to climate of the area. It helps you learn what plants can grown in an area naturally. One way of understanding it is thinking of it as a rating of how tropical an area is. For example, everyone’s favourite plant, the Monstera Deliciosa, will grow outdoors in places like Mexico or Florida because that plant is suited for those growing zones. Some places in Mexico are rated 11, which is very different than Calgary. In the end, growing zones can be used to tell which plants will be able to live outside, all year round, relative to weather and humidity among other things.
How many kinds of plants do you currently have in your home?
Right now I have around 100, which is the most I’ve had in a long time. A lot of them belong to the same family which is called an Aroid. Aroids are plants that you’d see in the jungle along the floor or climbing up trees looking for light. This group includes plants like Monstera, Philodendron, Anthurium, Pothos, Zamioculcas, Dieffenbachia, Alocasia, along with many others. It is quite a diverse group.
Have you had any challenges with certain plants?
Mainly just humidity. Calgary has a dry climate and that is a bit challenging with some of these plants that traditionally grow on a jungle floor. It doesn’t mean that the plants will be killed every time but the leaves come out warped or damaged because it’s too dry and the leaves don’t unfurl properly.
What is your favorite plant?
My absolute favorite plant is a Philodendron Gloriosum. I just got back from a road trip to Portland where I finally found a big one for sale. The leaves on the Gloriosum are all green with white veins. They have a velvety touch and shine to them as well, when they catch the right light. They’re perfect. I’m pretty sure that the border patrol thought I was insane because I crossed the border with 23 new plants in my car.
Where do you like to shop for plants locally?
I have been a pretty loyal customer to Plant over in Inglewood for a long time and for a good reason: it has a very genuine feeling there and you can tell they have that shop open because they love plants. The staff are always super happy to help and the plants are always fresh. They do a great job of having a bit of everything for everyone as well. The best part, is that they have two shop dogs named Lake and Clyde. However, if I’m running errands around Calgary, I’ll go to Golden Acre, Greengate or Bluegrass Nursery as well.
Where do you seek out inspiration?
I get inspired by a lot of the spaces I see on Instagram, but I truly love getting out to nurseries and shops. It is inspiring to see how plants are displayed in shops, even if the plants are just for decoration, not for sale. It is cool to see people trying to make our environments a bit warmer and inviting using plants.
I also volunteer in the Conservatory at the Calgary Zoo. Working in a place like that gets so many wheels turning in my head. I’m also very lucky to have a very creative set of friends around me who keep me inspired.
What do you want your next plant purchase to be?
I’m trying not to think about it since I just came back from Portland with so many new plants. I was able to find plants that I’ve been wanting for a very long time and have no space left. But if I could have one plant right now it would be Philodendron Elegans also known as Skeleton Key. Maybe one day!