Lindsey Muscavitch: One Random Botany Class and the Rest is History
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
I met Lindsey Muscavitch on one of our first Zoom calls for the newly formed Women in Hort Chicago group. When she mentioned her connection to horticulture as a plant buyer at Lurvey's Home and Garden in Des Plaines, Illinois, specializing in seasonal color product lines for annuals, veggies, and outside tropicals, I thought we all should know more about this career. Lindsey’s passion for plants and her approach to her work she calls "behind the scenes" clearly show a strong interest in fully being herself and bringing to her field her unique and authentic skills and talent.
Thank you, Lindsey, for your honesty and openness and for sharing your life story with us.
AP: Please tell us a little bit about your educational and professional background and how you found your way to your current career?
LM: I went to Northeastern Illinois University for Biology and Secondary Education. I realized that it was going to take too long to do both. Since I really just wanted to work outside, I focused on the Biology part, and started figuring out my niche by networking and volunteering. I really had hoped to go into field work and conservation in Ornithology. I had some really cool experiences with sandhill cranes and other bird projects! It took one random botany class and a conversation with a classmate in Metalworking Jewelry class to set me on the path that I'm on now. From there, I worked on the nature crew that took care of the bird and butterfly sanctuaries for the Chicago Park District, overwintered at The Field Museum helping with vPlants (a virtual Herbarium of the Chicago region), spent a few seasons as assistant horticulturist for one of the downtown median contracts, and spent a few years at Garfield Park Conservatory in many roles, before accepting a position as the buyer for a landscape company. I have been a buyer now for 7 years, this will be my 4th at Lurvey's. I miss the hard work. I'm not nearly as dirty at the end of the day!
AP: What do you enjoy most with your current work? Any aspects of it you would like to work on changing or improving?
LM: I have the capacity to fuel my curiosity and enthusiasm for plants and share my passion with others. While I spend most of my time paying attention to trends and sales numbers, I still get to dig into the science of it all. I'm able to incorporate the nerdy things that excite me into what I do every day. This part of the industry is pretty far from the conservation science that I had originally wanted to be a part of. Companies that we work with are working on recycling plastics and using sustainable packaging. We try to incorporate any kind of choices like that into our purchases. I'd also love to get a chance to have our own greenhouse for growing, maybe another location.
AP: Please tell us about your curiosity about and quest to find cool plants and what these translate to in your personal and professional life.
LM: I never stop IDing plants and talking about interesting things that I've learned (mostly plant related). It doesn't matter who I'm with or where I am, I've taken in my surroundings and have fun facts to share! My friends have fully accepted that when we are backpacking in the mountains, hanging out in a park, or even watching a movie that I will be looking at the plants. They usually don't mind taking a plant break when we're trekking up a mountain. I especially love to take in new ecosystems and compare them to the one I live in.
Two photos of Lindsey backpacking in Colorado surrounded by beautiful scenery.
AP: What are some common misconceptions about your work? What are some ways the industry you're a part of can highlight the importance of your work?
LM: It's a job that is kind of behind the scenes, so I feel that in many parts of horticulture, people don't really think about how plants get there. Smaller businesses or institutions might not have a specific buyer. I don't think that it is something that gets brought up in horticulture or landscape design classes in school. Many people think it's easy and fun, and sometimes it is. It also requires a lot of understanding about plants, weather, math, data collection, and there's major emphasis on building relationships with growers and customers. The industry moves hard and fast during our peak season. Good relationships can make or break a "plant crisis".
AP: What advice would you give to women who consider working in your field or in horticulture in general?
LM: The best job opportunities come when you are willing to work for free (to start). Get your face and name out there! Almost every opportunity I have had, and every job that I have had in this industry is because someone I'd worked with heard of an opening and reached out to me to see if I was interested. Most of them were women in the industry. We need to continue to foster growth in others and support each other.
Work your butt off, ask questions, and chat interesting people up! Also, be who you are.
Things are changing, but I do not look like the typical landscaper, horticulturist, botanist type... At first impression I am fully aware that I look a certain way, and present as a bit of a goofball. I have definitely had occasional setbacks because of it. People can interpret me however they want, but if they have a chance to get to know me, they can see I'm in the position that I am for a reason. I'm especially lucky to be where I am now because they like that I'm a bit of a goofball!
Lindsey sports a bindweed gown while doing restoration work at Rainbow Beach.
A huge thank you to Lindsey Muscavitch for being our Featured Horticulturist and to Ayse Pogue for interviewing her!