Allison Pillar - Chicago Botanic Garden

How does a soon-to-graduate student with a degree in Biology find her way to a career working with plants, when “...horticulture wasn’t even on my radar when I was applying for jobs”?  The journey is a bit like a plant growing from a small seed. Allison Pillar, an Assistant Grower at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBC), found her way to the green-collar career she loves by first accepting an internship in plant propagation at CBC. She quickly learned how critical plants are to the future of the planet.

“Plants enable our life on the planet. Plants would be fine without us, but humans and other animals rely on the ecosystem services provided by plants. Caring for plants (responsibly) is an important part of being good stewards of Earth so that in turn we can continue to live here.”

Allison now works full-time in the plant production department at CBC. She grows a wide variety of plants for display and for programs all around the Garden. CBC is unique in that it is a public-private partnership, owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County and operated by the Chicago Horticultural Society. The Garden contains 27 garden areas and 4 natural areas, and has a strong commitment to plant research, conservation, and education.  That’s what Allison tells us she likes about her job - 

“I love watching the whole journey that a plant goes through from seed to mature plant ready to go out on display. It’s also amazing to be able to enjoy the displays that the plants we grow become a part of. I think that is the unique experience of working in a public garden that grows a majority of their plants in-house- you get to see the fruits of your labor!"


When asked what advice she would give to someone just starting out who is looking for their first internship or job, Allison had some “sage” words - 

“I think it’s important to broaden the scope of your search and imagine a few different paths you could take, especially at first. Horticulture wasn’t my radar as a career path when I was applying for jobs at the end of college. The plant propagation internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden really appealed to me and opened a window into the world of horticulture. I’m really glad I found this path because it feels perfect, and I also know that there are a lot more jobs within horticulture that I would enjoy doing.“

Through all of her efforts learning about and working with plants, Allison now knows exactly why she got into working with plants in the first place.  When Seed Your Future contacted her to let her know she’d been nominated as one of our Plant Champions, she shared those reasons - 

“I love my job! It’s active, fast-paced, rewarding, fun, challenging, and beautiful. At this point, I can’t imagine not working with plants. Spending time with plants is good for us physiologically and emotionally. I think more people would be excited to get involved in horticulture if they knew about the wide range of opportunities that are out there.”

It's green-collar pros like Allison who will ensure the future of our planet!  She's a Plant Champion and inspiring more champions every day.



- Every day, the plant world is quietly led by horticulture heroes and plant champions who make an enormous impact on our lives and the future of the planet. Seed Your Future aims to share their stories, promote horticulture, and inspire more people to pursue careers working with plants. If you would like to recommend someone to be featured, submit their story!
-Interested in other Horticulture Heroes and Plant Champions?  Read all of their stories on our Seed Your Future Horticulture Heroes and Plant Champions Page.
Photo Credits: Allison Pillar