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Jesse Gleeson with his plants in Calgary on April 26, 2021.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Jesse Gleeson has transformed his 600-sq-ft. apartment into a jungle oasis in the heart of Calgary. Mr. Gleeson, who has worked at skateboard shops for the past 11 years, spends most of his free time researching, tending to and expanding the plant collection that has overtaken his tiny space and is now growing out into a business.

Mr. Gleeson’s love of plants started when he was a child and his family would be tasked with taking care of his grandmother’s plants. According to Mr. Gleeson, plants connected him to his roots when he moved from his small hometown of Sundre and eventually landed in Calgary in 2014.

“From living in a small town and then coming to the city and being surrounded by apartments and towers, it made me feel more connected to where I came from, having plants around me,” he said. “It started with that and then it just went out of control.”

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According to Mr. Gleeson, it was about five years ago when things “went out of control.”

“I brought home a fiddle leaf fig and was like ‘wow, this looks so good in here’ and just wanted to expand on it,” he said. “So, I did just that, in a very large way.”

Mr. Gleeson holds his rare Anthurium Ace of Spades.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

The collection, which Mr. Gleeson estimates at around 90 plants, is strictly tropical plants. The rarest is likely to be his Anthurium Ace of Spades which he estimates to be worth anywhere from $500-800.

“Sometimes you can’t find a plant anywhere and then they get mass produced and the price drops significantly, so it’s sometimes a cycle of time.”

As the pandemic hit, people have been investing in their homes, buying plants to create more habitable living spaces. Mr. Gleeson, who has been sought out by people curious about how to take care of their plants, has gained an Instagram following of over 21k since he started his account in 2017.

“I think it’s nice for people to have something at home to care for.”

Mr. Gleeson shares that, during the pandemic, people have honed in on plants specifically for creating more comfortable spaces.

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Mr. Gleeson began filling his tiny apartment with plants about five years ago after purchasing a fiddle leaf fig and realizing how good it made his space look.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Gleeson holding his rare Anthurium Papillilaminum hybrid.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

“It’s nice to have greenery around you when you can’t go anywhere or do anything,” he said. “It’s funny, I’ve got skateboarder friends that are starting gardens in their apartments, growing herbs and stuff. Even that’s cool. Growing a plant, whether it’s a tropical, herb or a succulent, it’s rewarding.”

Combining his love of plants with his love of retail, Mr. Gleeson decided to open his own plant shop after a few successful popup shops around the city.

Mr. Gleeson was preparing to open a store last March when the pandemic hit.

It was definitely not a good time to start a business but the past year has given him extra time to get organized.

Mr. Gleeson got the keys to the business he called Sunday Shop in early March and hopes to be ready for business at the end of this month.

Mr. Gleeson hopes that the store, which will be filled with a variety of rare and classic tropical plants, locally made goods, candles, pots and branded totes, will become a hub for community.

He would also like to be involved in collaborations with local makers.

“I can’t wait to see what kind of a community is built around it.”

A display case featuring Mr. Gleeson’s rare tropical plants.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Gleeson’s rare Monstera Esqueleto.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

Mr. Gleeson holds his Alocasia Baginda 'Dragon Scale' plant.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

A biker rides past the storefront of Sunday Shop in Calgary on April 26, 2021.

Sarah B Groot/The Globe and Mail

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