Gretchen joined the Garden board in 2006 and became the volunteer co-executive director of the Garden with fellow board member and long-time Garden volunteer, Billie Hopper, in 2012. Prior to her service at the Garden, Gretchen served as Director of Development and Parent Relations at The Seven Hills School from 1995 to 2012. At Seven Hills she directed two successful $5 million dollar capital campaigns for building projects, from 2000-2002, and then from 2008-2011. Through her 17 year tenure at Seven Hills she also steadily increased volunteer involvement, annual giving, and the school’s endowment. Gretchen also brings 19 years of experience as a secondary public and private school level educator to her current role as Executive Director of the Garden.
Chief Operating Officer
Tracy Fletcher grew up in Kansas City and joined Verizon Wireless at a very early age. She worked through the ranks moving from state to state with the company including Iowa, Georgia and finally ending up in California. After almost 30 years of service she felt it was time to leave the corporate world behind and pursue her true passions: animals and gardening. Tracy is an avid animal activist and has volunteered for various rescue groups and shelters. Her business experience and love for gardening makes her a great fit for The Ruth Bancroft Garden. She started out as Office Manager, then Event Manager, Sales Director and now COO. She loves that each day is a new adventure and allows her to meet so many great people. One of her dogs is frequently by her side when working at the garden which allows her to combine her two favorite things.
Brian Kemble has been at The Ruth Bancroft Garden since 1980. He is highly regarded in the horticultural world and is a prolific writer and lecturer on botanical topics, especially relating to succulent plants. Kemble has a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College, and he began concentrating on succulents soon after moving to San Francisco in 1971. Brian's work for The Garden has included hybridizing aloes, agaves, gasterias and some South American cacti. Brian has traveled extensively in Mexico, Madagascar and southern Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats. His gardening column “On the Dry Side” appears in several newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his photos have been published in numerous books on succulents.
Walker joined the staff at RBG in January 2012 and since then has come to function as custodian of the Garden’s aesthetic. He acts as point person in the collaborative process of preserving, renovating, and rejuvenating Mrs. Bancroft’s beds, taking particular joy in sculpting undulating mounds and arranging rocks in the Garden to form a unifying backdrop and compositional foil to the Garden’s plant collection. Along with the curator he propagates rare succulents from seed to be used in the Garden and manages care of the private collection. His most significant contribution to the plant palette has been the donation of a cycad collection, which he has used as an intermediate texture connecting the garden’s collection of radially symmetrical rosettes with its softer drought-tolerant herbaceous perennials.
Martín Viveros is the senior gardener, having worked at the Garden since 1990. He moved to Bakersfield, California from Mexico in 1984, where he began to work in vineyards there. His cousin first introduced him to the Bancroft's in the late 1980s and he soon moved to the Walnut Creek area to begin work in Ruth’s garden. He did not know much about cactus and succulents at the time and Martín said at first he did not enjoy working with the especially spikey cacti. He wondered how Mrs. Bancroft could handle them without wearing any gloves. After six months though he began to really enjoy the job, though he does wear gloves when working with cacti. He currently divides his time between Mrs. Bancroft’s private gardens and the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Martín also has his own landscaping business, and enjoys cooking for a special event catering business he created called “Tacos Michoacanos” providing signature dishes for weddings and other private gatherings.
Alice’s roots in the horticulture world are long and strong! After graduating from UC Berkeley in Forestry and Music, she has worked at the New England Wildflower Society’s “Garden in the Woods,” Arnold Arboretum, Descanso Gardens and Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawai’i. Alice joined the Garden staff in February 2016 from the volunteer ranks of the Garden, where she had been assisting Curator Brian Kemble and Horticulturist Ryan Penn in plant records management. She now manages and facilitates the Education Department and Volunteer and Intern Programs at the Garden.
Melissa moved from Southern California to the Bay Area in 2006, taking a hiatus from her professional career in marketing with DIRECTV, to focus on raising her three children. However, not one to stay idle for long, Melissa immediately began volunteering in her sons’ schools where she has put her marketing and management skills to work chairing various PTA committees and fundraising events. With one son now in college and her two younger sons in high school, it was time to go back to work and she was so happy to find this wonderful opportunity to utilize her marketing skills at the Garden. In her free time, Melissa enjoys vegetable and flower gardening, theater, and the outdoors. She is currently redefining curb appeal by cultivating an ever-expanding raised bed vegetable garden in her front yard,, since her backyard is too shady. Melissa has a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an MBA in Marketing from UCLA.
A graduate of University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign’s Advertising program, Lucy has broad experience in event planning, sales, corporate contributions and community affairs programs including organizing numerous black-tie dinner dances and large outdoor cultural festivals, as well as providing event planning, event management and diplomatic protocol expertise for corporate clients and major donors in support of high-level national and international delegations to the Bay Area. As a writer, Lucy landed a 7-page cover story assignment of a highly-regarded international economic journal and had bylines of her articles in several poker publications. When off-duty from The Garden, Lucy keeps busy by planning events for the Northern California Chapter of the NFL Players Association and organizing monthly 100+ player golf outings at private golf courses throughout Northern California. Fine arts being her passion, Lucy loves visiting museums and art galleries and has worked as a volunteer for the Oakland Symphony for many years.
Raised in the Bay Area, Kim has been volunteering with local non-profits since she was a teenager. Joining the Ruth Bancroft Garden staff in early 2019, was a perfect fit. Kim wears many hats at the Garden, when taking a quick break you may see her feeding the Koi at the Pond, a perfect reset button during a busy day. When not at the Garden, Kim is busy with her family, volunteering for her son's local school and the Walnut Creek Libraries. She enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, hiking, and traveling.
Landscape Designer and Nursery Operations Manager
Plant centered design is the focus of all of Cricket’s work at the Garden. From designing gardens, to giving workshops, from writing about plants in the newsletter to ordering plants for the Nursery, educating people on the beauty, diversity and sustainability of regionally appropriate planting is always her goal. “Your garden should look good, feel good and do good. If we’ve accomplished those three things, then we’re successful” Cricket has an AA in Landscape Architecture from Merritt College, a BA in History from UC Santa Cruz, and an MA in Broadcast Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from NYU.
Jenny grew up just outside of Columbus Ohio and always dreamed of moving out west to work in the television and film industry. After graduating college, a friend invited her out to Hollywood to intern at a production company. After a few stressful years in the industry, she decided she needed to take a “small break” to clear her mind and set her intentions. She thought that working at a botanical garden might be just what she needed and soon began working in Visitor Services and then Membership at Ganna Walska Lotusland, a botanic garden in Montecito, California. From this experience, Jenny developed a passion for donor engagement and fundraising and she has never looked back. Her career includes fundraising at UC Berkeley within the Engineering Department and most recently at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Her three years at UCBG include being the Membership Manager and most recently the Development Associate. Jenny is always driven to fund raise for institutions that she feels make a difference in the world. She understands the importance of what public Gardens like Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery bring to a community. It is a place to inspire, learn and grow from, in addition to being a safe space for all.
Children's Education Manager
Marie joined the Ruth Bancroft Garden as a member when she first arrived to Walnut Creek 3 years ago. She became a garden docent and also guided school classes. Marie has, while she stayed at home to raise her kids, been on the boards for an HOA, a MOM's club, PTA and PTO as an officer. She is a graduate of University of Uppsala and has also studied psychology at College of the Canyons. Marie has a passion to learn new things and to share her knowledge with others. Marie believes that we learn by using all of our senses and will strive to incorporate sensory experiences into the children’s education programs. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, jewelry making and printmaking
Nursery Sales Manager
Jennifer Stanworth is a native to California. She began studying Horticulture full time at Diablo Valley College (DVC) in 2018 and joined the Garden staff soon after. Outside of school, Jennifer also works at the DVC Nursery, tending to the wide selection of plants while also guiding Intro Horticulture students. In her down time, she enjoys volunteering around her community, assisting with preservation at botanical gardens and supporting Relay for Life. You’ll often find her looking up plants or reading a new book.
Nursery Floor Manager
A passion and love for plants, especially cacti and succulents, first brought Teddy to visit the Garden in early 2020. He became a Member and then joined the Nursery Sales Staff team shortly thereafter. Prior to Covid, Teddy worked professionally as a member of the stage actors union, performing locally as well as internationally. In his free time, you'll likely find Teddy working in his own garden with the reliable help of his rescue pup, Dweebs. Other hobbies include mushroom foraging, disc-golfing, upcycling, and backyard birdwatching. Teddy received his MFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University, and a BA in both Psychology and Musical Theater from CSU, Chico.
Assistant Kiosk Manager
Analisa is an East Bay native and has always loved plants and the outdoors. She has a Bachelor's in History and Museum Studies from San Francisco State University. Prior to joining the RBG staff, Analisa worked with the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy in San Francisco where she gave talks about their history, wildlife and restoration efforts; lead volunteer programs and discovered her love for working with native plants. She has also worked at the Sill, where she gained knowledge of over 50+ indoor plans that greatly influences her home life as a plant parent. When not hanging out with plants she is reading, painting, visiting museums, or just hanging out outside on a sunny day.
Associate Landscape Designer
Angela grew up amidst the stunning diversity of flora and fauna of the Appalachian Mountains. Gardening and landscape design occupy her thoughts most of the time. She is creative, active, and always wants to be surrounded by nature’s beauty. Prior to her work with the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery, she worked in a U.C. Davis Viticulture and Enology Group studying nitrate levels in soils. For five years, she managed the grounds of an exquisitely planted historic estate in Davis, CA. She later piloted Colusa County's first Farm-to-School Program, working with students and stakeholders to design and build gardens at area schools. She holds a BS in Horticulture from U.C. Davis, where she benefited from the program's emphasis on sustainability. Angela believes residential and public gardens are a vital component of a healthy world and she is thrilled to be part of the RBG team.
Nursery Operations Lead
With a B.S. in botany and a passion for both the cultivation and science of plants and other organisms, Cailan strives to learn constantly and to share his knowledge and love for plants with other people. Much like the American ethnobotanist, Terence McKenna, Cailan is especially devoted to understanding the ethnobotanical relationships between the plant and human world. "There is much to learn from coexisting with plants, and I will always be in the front row of this classroom!" Cailan's plant species focus includes California natives, cacti and medicinal species; and his education focus has been on plant anatomy/physiology, ecology, evolution, phylogenetics, and taxonomy.
Szymon joined the staff in May 2020, after volunteering at the Garden for a couple of months. He has a Bachelor’s in Zoology from Roehampton University in London, where he also worked as a Research Assistant and Lab Technician. In addition he holds a Master’s in Ecology degree from the University of Brighton. In his free time, Szymon’s all about nature and outdoors: from cultivating cacti and other succulents in his own garden and greenhouse to spending months hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or living off the land in the Rocky Mountains in Idaho.
Event & Marketing Manager
Originally from Lithuania, Diana has been a Walnut Creek resident for almost 17 years and loves the East Bay. She first discovered the Garden about 4 years ago and became a fan and member on her first visit. After graduating with an MBA from Mills College in Oakland, Diana worked in a variety of industries, ranging from fashion retail and tech startups, to non-profits and small local businesses. Event planning and marketing have always been her two main areas of interest and expertise. Diana joined the Garden January, 2021 as the Event and Marketing Manager with a strong desire to create more and exclusive experiences for the local community and keep spreading the word about this special place.
Sue found her way to the Garden after decades in the publishing industry. Wanting a career change to something related to her BS in Environmental Resource Management, she threw herself into the world of botany through volunteering at the California Academy of Sciences and on The Living Roof, where various California native plants are tended to by a dedicated group of volunteers. That volunteer opportunity sparked her interest in gardening, horticulture (specifically California native flora), and habitat restoration, and she is now finishing up a horticulture certificate at a local community college. At the Garden, it’s Sue’s job to assist customers, wrangle the inventory, process invoices, and order plants. In her limited free time, Sue can be found in her backyard pulling weeds and propagating plants, on a trail hiking with her family, on her couch watching an absurd amount of football (aka soccer), or maybe, if she’s really lucky, on some body of water kayaking.
Staff portrait photos by Ashlee Urmson of Zella Urmson Photography, and other photographers.
Banner photo by John Ricca