Master gardener Ellen Kellich, left, shares her expertise with graduate students.
Frank Wojciechowski
‘Princeton Plant Life gave me this wonderful hobby that I’m now in love with’

A popular pandemic hobby has taken root at Princeton’s graduate school, and no, it isn’t baking sourdough bread.

This summer, Student Life Coordinator Ellen Kellich and Assistant Director of Residential Life Kevin Fleming hosted monthly gardening events under the hashtag #PrincetonPlantLife, bringing vibrant plants and social opportunities to the graduate-student community.

A certified master gardener for Mercer County, Kellich has offered workshops on houseplants, succulents, terrariums, and more. At one recent event, students re-potted and learned to care for windowsill herb gardens.

MPA candidate Kantheera Tipkanjanarat *22 said she enjoyed the program, calling it “one of the few events where I get to socialize with other students.” She also appreciated the chance to get gardening tips from an expert.

“I grow basil at home, and it was a little yellowish and dry, so I asked her for advice,” she said. “Ellen was very knowledgeable.”

Ph.D. candidate Kimberly Hassel told PAW that the series has sparked a long-term interest in plant care.

“Princeton Plant Life gave me this wonderful hobby that I’m now in love with,” she said, happily describing her recent acquisitions: a peperomia, a monstera, and a fiddle-leaf fig. “I’m now a plant mom,” she joked.

Hassel also spoke of the psychological benefits of gardening.

“Seeing something natural and alive in your space has been so important for my mental health — the mindful practice of watering, repotting, even just touching the leaves,” she said. “My mental health has improved significantly since starting plant care as a hobby.”

Kellich agrees. “Plants are a great stress reliever for the students and a really awesome way for them to have a positive impact on their well-being and feel a connection to nature,” she said. “It’s also a way for them to put some style into their living space.”

She added that while fall is a busy time for her office, she hopes to continue the program into the winter, potentially trying out indoor activities “like pickling.” With up to 80 students vying to attend each event, #PrincetonPlantLife is unlikely to wilt anytime soon.