If you’re a regular browser of plantstagram, you may be already familiar with Christopher Griffin—or at least with their alter-ego, Plant Kween. A botanical dreamscape featuring countless shades of green, Griffin’s Instagram feed is basically a solid wall of plant parent goals. But their space is also so much more than that: It’s a Black queer femme wonderland where joy comes first every day. Just about every post features an image of one of Griffin’s lush "green gurls," Griffin’s beaming face, or both. I defy you to scroll through their profile and not feel a newfound zest for life as a result.
Griffin's life as Plant Kween may date back less than a decade, but their feeling of kinship with nature has been a part of their life for as long as they can remember: As a child, they would follow their grandmother around her thriving garden, soaking up her plant-based wisdom. If anything, Griffin’s biggest revelation since taking up the Plant Kween mantle has been their deepened understanding of the importance of self-care. Griffin is big on routines, ranging from morning smoothies to evening alone time. It’s this predilection for consistency that led them to their current partnership with Health by Habit, a brand committed to sustainable, vegan, and non-GMO sourcing. On a recent Zoom call, Griffin discussed their collab, their relationship to gardening, and the truth behind the term "green thumb."
You’re from Philadelphia originally, right? When did you move to Brooklyn?
Yup. West Philadelphia, born and raised. [laughs] I moved to Brooklyn in 2012, actually, for grad school. I did grad school, and New York grew on me in ways that I didn't know she would grow on me, and so I'm here nine years later. I think the reason I enjoy Brooklyn is that it is very transient. It’s like a temporary permanence, which is weird—it’s temporary, but you stay here for a long time. For me, wherever my professional journey takes me, that's probably going to lead me in the direction of my next home. I’m open and flowing with the wind.
Speaking of being rooted, I want to know about your relationship with gardening. What was your relationship with greenery like before you started keeping plants of your own?
It started with my grandmother. She was the original green goddess in my life. She provided me with an opportunity to see her creating her joy, and that was in the gardening space, so it was just really beautiful to witness. I’m so blessed that she shared that sacred space that she had created with me as a young child. Growing up, I always knew I had a deep connection, a very therapeutic and healing connection with nature.
What made you start your journey as a plant parent?
I got to a place where I was working full-time. I wasn't a student anymore, and I was looking for something, and I rediscovered gardening. I dove into that, remembering my grandmother and all the lessons she taught me, and I was like, I think it’s time to go on that journey myself. I was living with two roommates at the time, and bless their hearts because they let me get away with a lot with these plants. I bought my first Pothos plant, and she was struggling, and I was like, If I make this plant survive and thrive, then I have something on my hands. Six years later, I think I have 221 green gurls. It’s been a beautiful journey, both on and off Instagram, and I’ve kind of turned Plant Kween into this Black, queer, nonbinary femme botanical wonderland where I romanticize my journey. My goal is to share the things that I find joy in and things that I have learned that had been helpful for me, and I like to make sure that they’re accessible, fun, humorous, and digestible for folks.
What does it mean to you to keep your botanical life accessible?
I don't believe in the green thumb. It’s rhetoric that was created in a time of kings and queens. There was a king that enjoyed this particular fruit, and he had his subjects pick the fruit for him, and it would leave this green residue on their fingers. So, to have green thumbs meant that you picked the most of this fruit, and you were going to be rewarded by the king. It has nothing to do with taking care of plants.
I don’t like the binary of green thumb versus black thumb. I have two Black thumbs, and they are healthy and wonderful. [I’m all about] getting away from that language and understanding that welcoming plants into your life is a journey. It's a muscle, and it's something that you can grow and get better at over time. And throughout the process, you're going to learn something about yourself that will allow you to be a better person, a better plant parent, and hopefully better be able to take care of yourself and others.
I had no idea about the green thumb thing. That’s crazy.
Chile, language, we just create it every day. It’s always living, growing, and evolving, and as humans, we get to reapply meaning to things. This doesn't need to be an anxiety-provoking adventure. It should be fun—it should be something that folks enjoy. My biggest piece of advice is to lean into this journey with a sense of curiosity and wanting to learn. Each plant is a classroom. Each plant is a book of knowledge that you could probably research forever.
I want to go back to that idea of taking care of the plants being reflective of your relationship with yourself. Can you talk more about that?
One of the things I wasn’t expecting throughout this plant parent journey was how much I learned about myself and how the way I take care of my plants mirrors how I care for myself. When some of my green gurls aren't doing well, I'm probably not doing well, right? It's like a physical manifestation of how I’m caring for myself. It’s provided me with the practice of being patient with myself and understanding that growth comes at unexpected times. Sometimes my plants are not growing, and suddenly, they sprout, and I will be like, Where did this come from? It’s been about understanding that that can happen within my mind, body, and soul, as well.
What are some of the things you’ve learned about yourself?
The main thing I've learned is that I tend to be an over-nurturer when it comes to others—whether it's my plants, my students, my family, or my friends. And over-nurturing plants looks like overwatering, right? So I understand that sometimes it's important to allow for space, for patience. I've also learned that I would rather take care of someone else or something else rather than myself, which is a problem. One day, way back when I was just starting to build my routine of caring for my plants and making a day out of it, I was watering my plants, and I was like, I'm thirsty, I'm hungry, and I'm miserable. What am I doing? I’m giving my plants water, but I’m not feeding myself the things I need. I was like, "Gurl, get it together so that I can engage and enjoy this process."
I’ve learned sunlight is really important to me and my body, so whenever I’m looking for an apartment or a new office, the first thing I’m looking at is the direction of the windows. I’ve realized doing assessments for the plants is also good for me because I know how the sun enters my space directly impacts my own body.
Also, as we’ve been experiencing this pandemic, I’ve learned that while I’m a gregarious extrovert, I also enjoy my solitude. I can truly enjoy my own company—which is important to me. My plants provided me with an opportunity to explore that because I didn't feel alone because I had something to take care of, but I was still just with myself.
What are some of the routines and rituals you do to make sure you’re taking care of yourself?
I am a person that finds comfort in routine, so I'm a creature of habit. My mornings look the same every day, and I find such comfort and joy in them. My morning routine is very consistent and probably one of my most important routines. I enjoy going into the day very slowly. I have my alarm that goes off. I always make up my bed, open up the curtains, let the light in, play a little bit of music, light some incense, and fix a cup of tea. I always shower in the morning, and then I take my vitamins and my dietary supplements. And then I make myself a little breakfast. I most likely will have either a juice and some toast or a smoothie and some toast. So that's my morning. No matter where I'm at, I’m trying to replicate that, even when I’m on vacation.
Were vitamins part of your routine before you started working with Health by Habit?
Yeah. I've had the chance to work with brands, but I'm very picky about the brands I work with because I just want it to feel authentic. Health by Habit reached out, and I already took vitamins, so I was like, "Yeah, send me these vitamins and let’s talk!" I’m also a bit of a hypochondriac, so I’m one of those people that is always looking online and trying to see what kind of illness I have. So, the partnership just really made sense and was in alignment with everything that I was going through in the present moment.
What are some of your other favorite routines?
I enjoy biking, so I bike a lot. And then I've gotten into the habit of being very mindful of how much news and social media I consume. We just get lost in it. Sometimes it's fun and distracting, and that's what you need, and other times it's just not healthy. I have a period in the evening where I'm not on my phone. I’ll call my dad, tell him, "I’m taking a break from my phone, so goodnight, I’ll call you tomorrow," and then I’m reading a book or I’m painting or meditating right before I go to sleep.
Honestly, I think routines are really about consistency, which directly relates to indoor gardening. I think you need that level of consistency, and you need to be intentional in where you're putting your energy. It's also just helpful to have a plan. I have a little mental plan of how I care for my green gurls, and I realized that I need my little plan for myself as well and that I’d be doing myself a disservice if I wasn't intentional with how I care for myself.