Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications
‘More Is More’: Administrative Assistant Shares Ethos Behind Vibrant, Verdant Space
Photos by John T. Consoli
To someone just hurrying past, the thriving little oasis in the Plant Sciences Building could pass for a researcher’s greenhouse or even a meditation room.
Aaliyah Flores ’19, administrative assistant for the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA), keeps about two dozen plants in her office, a warm space—literally—that keeps her flora happy and makes visitors from graduate students to Facilities Management employees to researchers feel welcome.
“Plants are beautiful, they brighten your mood, and they’re the best cheap décor you can get,” said Flores.
The animal sciences graduate started her collection from a dozen she purchased from the Institute for Applied Agriculture’s annual sale as a student. Flores talked to Maryland Today about her maximalist aesthetic, her most treasured greenery and how she keeps plants thriving indoors.
Sort-of stained glass
Flores added peel-and-stick film to create the multicolored effect on her indoor windows, pictured above, which face the building’s entrance.
“The maximalism vibe is, like, more is more, and I love it,” she said. “I grew up in a house with all white walls, where we weren’t allowed to paint or do anything. So when I was an adult and could do what I wanted, I was like, let’s do everything!” As a student, she even painted her entire room pink—though of course, she restored it to its original white when the lease was up. “I got away with that one!”
The window collection
“This pothos is my favorite,” said Flores, gesturing to the leafy, hanging vine. “This is my baby. I almost killed her like three times, but she’s here!”
The window collection also includes a cactus grown by department Chair John Erwin’s decorative plant company, in a head-shaped pot picked out by Flores’ 1-year-old daughter Araceli; a carnivorous pitcher plant owned by PSLA facility manager Sean Faulkner, who helps out with watering over breaks; and a money plant that Flores’ husband, Jorge, bought her from a flea market when they started dating five years ago.
“It was our last $10 that day, too! I’ll never let it go. It’s been through four moves already,” she said.
“This was here before I got here,” said Flores, who started in her role in August. The long, prolific succulent is likely a hybrid that includes the colloquially named mother of millions (or thousands). “You can’t move it without destroying it, and it’s just taking over this entire window.”
Propagation station and Opal the cat
Thanks to an entomology lab clean-out, Flores was able to get a ton of test tubes that she plans to use to propagate her plants, though she suspects she’ll have to move them to a sunnier spot. (She’s also excited about an incubator she got in the same haul, which she and colleagues will use to raise chicks for the department’s Maryland Day station.)
Each night before Flores leaves, she unscrews the LED bulb in her lamp and replaces it with a one that ensures her tropical dragon trees and mass cane can properly photosynthesize indoors. Erwin helped her and several other staffers, including those in windowless offices, pick out one from an overwhelming array of options online.
“I bunch the plants under the light and say, ‘Don’t you die tonight!’” she said with a laugh.
This is part of an occasional series offering a look inside some of the most interesting faculty and staff offices around campus. Think you have a cool workspace—or know someone’s that you’d like to recommend? Email email@example.com.
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