Photos: Ruthie Darling/QNS
Take a peek inside this Astoria secret garden.

Canadian plant enthusiast Olesia Plokhii moved to Astoria two and a half years ago with her husband and has turned her apartment into a living, breathing secret garden in a concrete jungle. After an exciting career as a journalist, taking her to far-flung places such as a Cambodia, Plokhii came to New York to start working in public relations, and she settled down in Astoria.

Walking into her serene pad, I asked Plokhii what she loved so much about sharing her home with so many plants.

“Growing, cultivating, learning about the plants and having something alive in your apartment is an amazing thing,” she told me.


“When you see a new leaf, it’s the best feeling, especially when you see a new orchid spike. If you’re interested in growing your own plants, now is a great time to start because it’s getting sunny; the plants will really thrive.”

The majority of Plokhii’s plants are situated in her sun-lit bedroom. On the window sill sits her orchid collection.


“Orchids are tricky,” she mused. “One of the things I learned is that they need a cold spell to bloom. I do have one guy who’s blooming over here though.”

On the other side of the room, an antique dresser is host to an enormous array of tropical and non-tropical plants.


“I have a Chinese money plant, Cuban oregano, a cactus, an African violet, a peace lily, a fiddle leaf fern, a monstera plant, hoya, a string of pearls,” she said, and above all of this, an air plant looks on. She also has a few succulents dotted about.

“Succulents are great as a starter plant,” Plokhii suggested. “You only need to water them once a month and provide them with plenty of sunlight.”


As well as the plant life, the apartment is furnished with vintage furniture and art picked up locally in Astoria and from Plokhii’s travels to Africa and Mexico.


“The coffee table is a Craigslist find; I think it cost $60,” she said. “It weighs over 100 pounds! We filled it with various trinkets, like seashells from Cape Cod, roses that my husband bought for me, some religious iconography and old keys.”



Plokhii loves to indulge in some do-it-yourself home projects like a stool she made out of an Ikea table covered in fabric bought at a local favorite, Lockwood. On the wall hangs a piece of pressed flower art. This piece was bought locally, but Plokhii told me that she is inspired to create a piece of her own as her next project.


I asked Plokhii for some tips for starting your own indoor garden and she told me, “I water all of my plants on Sundays; that’s what most people do in the flower community. Sunday is water day. It makes sense to water plants on the same day each week — that way you can always remember when you’ve done it and don’t over-water. You can grow plants anywhere as long as you have light. It’s trial and error. My suggestion is go to Home Depot, buy 10 small plants and start there.”

And if you’re serious about cultivating your own green space, you can definitely find support from others who are doing the same.


“There’s a real community of plant hobbyists out there,” she said. “I now belong to something called Keiki Club. A keiki is essentially a new baby plant that grows off of the stem of another plant. It’s a perfect genetic replica of the mother. It’s quite rare.

You can take that keiki, cut it and gift it as a new plant. In Keiki Club, plant lovers in the city gather twice a year and bring their cuttings to share. It can be from any plant as long as it can root and you can replant it and grow it. You exchange them. My monstera plant was grown from a cutting from Keiki Club.”


In the kitchen, plants line the window sill — and not all in pots.

“I got this from Keiki Club,” she said of one of her plants. “I put it in this champagne glass with water and in a few days, when it has some more roots, I will plant it. This process is called propagation.”



She doesn’t just meet other plant lovers in the Keiki Club; there’s also a thriving online community.

“I also belong to a Facebook group that exchanges cuttings in the mail,” she said. “I just did an exchange with a guy in Philadelphia. There are 50,000 people in my Orchoholics Anonymous Facebook group!”

Now that the weather is starting to warm up, it’s likely that not everyone wants to be stuck indoors, and not every apartment is equipped for such horticultural expression.


Green-fingered Plokhii has a solution for that.

“I am also a member of a community garden called Two Cloves, here in Astoria,” she explained. “I have a plot there where I grow vegetables, It’s on 30th Avenue. There is a wait list right now, but we are currently experimenting with a new way to give away plots, so you may be in luck!”

And if you can join a community garden, Plokhii recommends it.

“What’s lovely about a community garden is that you get to indulge in your growing passion,” she said. “I’m not an expert by any means, but you can find peace, quiet and meditation. The other benefit, of course, is that you also can grow produce. This year I’m growing lots of herbs, but also tomatoes, eggplants, green peppers and beans. It really is a community. You meet new friends. You really cultivate a sense of self.”


If you’re feeling inspired, check out local store Petals and Roots or take a walk through the beautiful Astoria Park this week. Remember, the park is also host to NYC’s oldest and largest outdoor pool!


As the poet Gary Snyder once said, “Nature is not a place to visit, it is home.” For Olesia Plokhii, that certainly seems to be the case!

Scroll down for many more photos of Plokhii’s apartment (and her adorable dog).










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