Crystal Brinson is a green inspiration


Avary Amaral

Various house plants under grow lights.

Surrounded by the luminous glow of grow lights and saturated greens that fill the studio, Crystal Brinson, the owner of Star Garden Studio, a store specializing in the care and retail of house plants, greets me with an excited smile, her brown hair cropped and held with a barrette. She stands behind the cashier table, meticulously tidying up the surface in front of her. Immediately as you enter her store, the happiness and positivity that resides there encompasses you. Towering palms extend over the casement windows, shelves carry local trade goods like incense, terracotta pots, wind chimes, and acrylic prints set the scene. 

When asked about how she would describe her shop, she said, “I focus on easy-care houseplants and an eclectic assortment of things that I really love, everyday items that are geared for personal time, like teas and cups.” She tells me that her newly acquired Smith tea from Oregon which she sells in packets is her favorite item for sale. “I grew up drinking tea with my mom. So it’s always been part of something I do. So I really, really love tea.”  

Focusing on creating a level playing field for plant owners, she encourages the image of being a welcoming store  “I want people to realize that plants are not that intimidating. So I really want people to know that they can come here with any question they have plant-related and I’m here to answer their questions. I enjoy the success of someone buying a plant saying ‘this worked.’ And then they come back and buy another plant.”

Crystal grew up in Connecticut, getting inspiration from the nature around her and her grandmother, she said, “I grew up around plants. I spent most of my time between home and my grandmother’s house. And she was an amazing gardener, so we spent a lot of time with her in the vegetable garden. That was her pride and joy.” 

In her 20s, she took the passion she had for plants from her childhood and became involved in landscaping, she said, “I did interior landscaping and I’ve done retail garden centers. So it’s pretty much been my whole life.” 

Crystal also happens to be an avid reader, she tells me of the authors that stimulated her appeal to horticulture, which she considers a major turning point in her career. “I heard a talk by Paul Stamets, and he was promoting his book called ‘Mycelium Running’. That really opened up my mind to the role that fungi and plants play. The other person that really inspired me was Douglas Tallamy, he’s an entomologist and he wrote a book called Bringing Nature Home. Those two people actually really changed my perspective on what it really is to garden, approaching it chemical-free.” 

Crystal has been participating in A.H.A night for three months with artists who have had their studios open, despite past construction that has been taking place at the mill indefinitely,  she said, “There was a lot of foot traffic in which I thought was nice along with having artists showcase. I predominantly show works that are nature-inspired. The one advantage I do feel that this building has is that during the winter months, you’re able to walk inside.” Although the Kilburn Mill is home to many new businesses, “The disadvantages are location, because we are not downtown. I feel sometimes too that weather plays a big part in it. If it’s rainy, people don’t want to necessarily drive down.” 

When I asked Crystal if she had future plans for her shop, she told me she’d like to support the different culinary profiles in the area, she said, “I really would love to be able to offer different vegetables because there’s a lot of different ethnicities of different cultures in our area. I also don’t want people feeling intimidated or like they can’t come in and buy things. So my price points are geared for everyone. I have a wide range, which is inclusive.”

By the end of our interview, it was clear to me that Crystal was right where she was supposed to be and wanted to be, an educator with a green thumb and a whimsical soul open to anyone curious enough to venture into her store. “This is a great mill. It’s a lot going on. It’s known that great things take time.”