Meet Nikki Melin, sales operation manager, Midwest Groundcovers
Nikki Melin is sales operations manager at Midwest Groundcovers, the Illinois nursery that celebrated 50 years in business in 2019. In addition, Nikki joined the Illinois Green Industry Association’s board of directors last year.
How did you get started in horticulture?
I went to college for horticulture at University of Illinois. And I did a couple of internships in public gardening. I did internships at Morton Arboretum and at the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park in Chicago. It was interesting, but not really what I wanted to end up doing. So in talking to my advisor, he said ‘Why don’t you try and go work for like a large nursery?’ I ended up with an internship at Midwest when I graduated, and I’ve been here ever since.
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
My favorite thing is probably the fact that I get to work with both plants and people. I really love managing people and helping people build careers in our industry. But I’m also a huge plant nerd. Especially with perennials. I always tell people I feel like I’m living my dream job where I basically get to talk to people about plants all day, which is a pretty amazing thing to do.
What’s it like working with Peter Orum, Christa Orum-Keller and Gary Knosher?
I think all three of them, whether it’s Christa, Gary, or Peter, they all are very invested in their employees and in helping them reach their career potential. I wasn’t really sure exactly where I wanted my career to take me here, and Christa was so flexible with me. I think I’ve worked eight jobs in my 14 years here. A new job would come open and I’d be interested in it, and she’d say, “Let’s give that a try for a year or two.” It helped me get a really well-rounded view of the company.
What’s your favorite plant?
I really like shade gardening, that’s one of my favorite plant palettes to work with, so I really like hostas, heucheras, brunnera. I’m really more into colored foliage than flowering plants. Shrub-wise, I would say cotinus. Even from college, it has been one of my favorite shrubs.
What do you like to do on a day off?
Mostly hiking and birding. There are a couple of really cool places here in the Chicagoland area that are big hotspots for migrating birds. One in particular is Nelson Lake over in Batavia and this spring I was super lucky and got to see three whooping cranes. They’re endangered and there are not that many left in the U.S. It was just by chance and it was incredible.
What was your favorite vacation?
I’ve been to quite a few of the national parks, my favorite being Rocky Mountain National Park. I love the outdoors, and pretty much all the vacations I take are hiking vacations. The best trip was when I went to Rocky Mountain National Park, then the Grand Tetons and then Yellowstone and hiked 65 miles over five days.
How did the ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ (in the Power of Plants)’ video happen?
We love doing spring kickoff videos here. We thought ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is such a song that everybody knows no matter how old you are, what stage of life you’re in, it’s one of those songs everybody likes. Allison Westbrook, who’s on our sales team, actually wrote the lyrics for it. She was the singer. We wanted to use it to showcase what we do, but also to just have a fun kickoff video this spring. We’re already brainstorming about what our 2023 video will be. [See their version of "Don't Stop Believing" here: https://bit.ly/PlantsRock]
For more: midwestgroundcovers.com