Moving to a Crown Heights Apartment Allowed Her to Nurture a Green Thumb

Jacqueline Baird really wanted her desk to be a work space, but plants have taken over.

Arrange dried flowers and leaves such as eucalyptus, baby’s breath and strawflower in rows on top of the desk. Along the adjoining wall, a passion fruit vine creeps up, which is strung over a velvet painting. “I threw some passion fruit seeds from a cocktail I was making in a pot,” he said with a shrug, “and it soared.”

Here, Ms. Baird, 30, cozinesses the “front room” of her garden apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with her eclectic selection of plants and mostly thrift artwork at various stages of life. Don’t pay attention to the large windows that let the light flow through, and you’ll think it has a great selection of plants.

But out the window is her pride and joy: a large garden that was the big attraction when Ms. Baird, an operations manager for a luxury travel company, was searching for a bigger apartment to share with her boyfriend, John Beulance, a bartender. “The two previously lived in a small East Village studio,” said Ms. Baird, pointing to their front room, “and they were desperate to do something bigger, ideally with an outdoor space where Ms. Baird would spend her time with her.” Could feed green. Thumb.

Their garden is lush and surprisingly spacious, with added privacy thanks to raspberry and grape vines, which are currently embroiled in a turf war over the chain-link fence that demarcates the property.

Previous tenants installed a variety of plant beds, including a pair of bathtub planters (currently empty, on the to-do list for next spring); A heated box created by placing a vintage magenta-painted wood door over a raised bed; and a small wooden bed in which Ms. Baird tried to plant the carrots before the caterpillars reached them. The last raised bed is filled with herbs like spearmint and parsley, and a basil plant that reaches up to your waist. The dense bushes of wild hydrangeas are bursting with green and pink; Ms. Baird is testing them out by the drying process she hopes to sell at local flea markets to use in bouquets.

$2,500 | Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Profession: Operations Manager for a luxury travel company.
Her favorite flea market: “Meadowlands Flea Market in New Jersey is where I get all my rugs, but you have to get there early—before 10 a.m.”
Her plant buying advice: “All the plants I bought at Trader Joe’s are dead. Nelly, on Broadway in Brooklyn, is good, but I swear they doubled their prices during the pandemic. Most of the houseplants I buy are from bodegas in the East Village.”

One of Ms. Baird’s most beloved plants still lives in a plastic pot, though she spends most of her time outside: an avocado tree she propagated in Costa Rica a few years ago. She moved there from Los Angeles to care for her father in 2017 after he suffered a lavish warehousing, and ended up living after his death. After arriving in Costa Rica, she found a remote job on Craigslist, working for a small travel company in Toronto that paid enough to cover her expenses.

While there, Ms. Baird learned to propagate plants. “In Costa Rica, everywhere I lived there were mango trees and all kinds of fruits,” she said. “You can publicize anything, but it was especially easy there.”

She would visit friends’ houses and comment on a particularly exquisite plant; Most of the times she would go home with the clippings. His garden began to grow.

She began studying plants and their medicinal properties, creating a mixture of dried plants such as eucalyptus that could be added to a rolled-up cigarette.

Ms. Baird has always been a hobby. She started selling vintage clothing in college, when she volunteered for the Salvation Army, and found a beautiful 1920s shirt that fit her perfectly. Soon, her siblings were asking to buy her pieces, and their purchases paid off her bills. Over the next decade, she developed an impressive collection of vintage items, which she shipped to Costa Rica, where she opened a shop. She also moonlights as a costume designer.

In January of 2020, Ms Baird returned to the United States, and landed in New York. He eventually found a small studio in the East Village that cost $1,950 a month. It was big enough for her, but when she started dating Mr. Beulance who fell out and he moved in, it became uncomfortably small.

She lost her job after the pandemic shut down the city, and she was working from home. “We needed a door,” said Ms Baird. “I was working all day, and he was scrolling through Reddit, and I would listen to bits and pieces of video I watched for three seconds. It would drive me crazy.”

On top of that, living in the East Village didn’t seem worth it when they weren’t comfortable going to bars and restaurants.

This summer, Ms Baird put her foot down. She decided they would move, come hell or high water, and found the Crown Heights apartment through a listing project. She admits she was one of over 100 applicants, but she won because she bonded with the landlord over her love of plants and the apartment’s ample garden. The couple received the keys on July 21 and left four days later.

Now Ms. Baird has room to spread her crafts and vintage pieces, and Mr. Beulance enjoys entertaining in the backyard; He recently bought a smoker. The apartment also features several original built-in accents, including a pressed-tin ceiling and cabinets in the bedroom where Ms. Baird keeps her treasures, dried plants, and a charming collection of cloth dolls.

Right after moving in, Mr. Beulance played tennis on a nearby court and met someone who helped him get a bartending job at an Orthodox steakhouse in Manhattan.

Ms Baird saw this as a sign: “This place is a portal to good things,” she said.

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