Dane has a passion for advancing the Garden’s mission, and for preserving Ruth Bancroft’s ethos and legacy. He's an avid plant collector who practices place-based, climate appropriate gardening at his current Diablo Valley home and previous residences ranging from the dry-climate Sacramento Valley to wetter regions in Humboldt County and the Big Island of Hawai’i. Dane devotes his life work to helping lead social enterprise nonprofits that combine a charitable mission with business enterprises, much like the Garden, Events, Nursery, Design Services and Educational Programs that make up the Ruth Bancroft Garden. He's the former executive director of Challenge Day and deputy director/COO for the California Film Institute and the Youth Leadership Institute. When he's away from the garden, Dane hones his chef skills (calling it “heirloom chow”), binges on plant collecting, and travels throughout the West, Southwest and internationally with his partner, always visiting public and botanical gardens as a centerpiece of the journey.
Brian 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. Brian 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 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 and Horticulturist Ryan in plant records management. She now manages and facilitates the Education Department and Volunteer and Intern Programs at the Garden.
Design Services Director
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.
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
Assistant Nursery 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.
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.
It was living in urban spaces where Becky started her passion for low water gardens and design. While transforming her own “blank slate” garden in San Francisco, she experienced the immediate impact of greening her neighborhood through street tree plantings and doing tree care as a volunteer. Before joining the RBG team, Becky was a researcher and did garden maintenance and design. She believes designing with climate adapted plants sets clients up for success and ground gardens with a sense of place. Becky has an AA in Landscape Architecture from Merritt College, and a BA in Media Studies from the University of San Francisco.
Nikki is a landscape designer that specializes in creating beautiful, functional spaces that feel lush but use low water. She also has extensive experience in fine gardening and aesthetic pruning. She enjoys working on plant-focused designs, learning what clients want out of their garden, and developing creative, sustainable solutions. Prior to this, Nikki spent many years in the nonprofit sector, providing fundraising, marketing and creative support. She has an AA degree in Landscape Architecture from Merritt College and a BA in Communication Studies from UNCW.
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.
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.
A true nomad at heart, Anne has put down roots in a lot of different places. Born in California, but primarily raised in Portland, Anne grew up with passions for theatre, martial arts, Shakespeare, music, genealogy, travel, and animals. A Theatre Arts major from the University of Oregon, Anne lived and studied in London her Senior year, which was quickly followed by an internship in Dublin at the Gaiety School of Acting. Her professional experience ranges from Administrative Assistant and Office Manager in a variety of companies, to her most recent work as a Support Specialist for a non profit company that supports adults with Autism. She is thrilled to be back living in California, and is grateful for the opportunity to work for such a special, magical place. She looks forward to what the future will bring at the Garden.
Julia is originally from Guatemala but relocated to the East Bay with her family when she was 5 years old. When the pandemic hit, she quickly found a lot of time on her hands and found solace in plants and gardening. In between volunteering and mastering her home gardening craft, she started a small business, Baller Planter, where she repurposes basketballs and turns them into hanging planters. During her off time, Julia can be found either in her garden or on a quick getaway near a body of water with her partner and Rottweiler Paxton.
Tawny was born and raised in the Bay Area and has spent the last several years working private events in the hospitality industry. She graduated from Los Medanos College in 2018, completing 2 Liberal Arts Degrees with a focus in Social/Behavioral Science and Arts/Humanities. If not at the Garden, you will usually find her reading, spending time in nature with her partner, playing in the dirt with her plants or hanging out with her tuxedo cat, Charles Darwin.
Sarah is a Bay Area native who is passionate about design and plants. Her journey to the garden was a winding one; Graduating with a BA in Psychology and English at UC Davis, becoming a Nanny, a Behavioral Therapist, and then a Preschool Teacher before finally deciding to go back to school and make a large career pivot. She jumped into her new role in Marketing as she earned her MA in Graphic Design and Digital Media at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Sarah runs PseudoSarahLetters selling modern embroidery art and when she’s not designing at the Garden, you can find her stitching, going for long walks while listening to true crime podcasts, and spending time with loved ones.
Monica joined RBG as a Nursery Intern and has become involved in many aspects, helping out with private events, the Nursery, and marketing. As a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California with a degree in Global Business, she loves being able to combine her appreciation for sustainable gardening with an international business perspective. Prior to working at RBG, Monica studied abroad in Florence, Italy, worked at a nursery in her hometown of Modesto, and interned for a tech startup. When she’s not at the Garden, she enjoys shopping second-hand, practicing her film photography, and trying new recipes.
Jacki has been bridging the world of special education and advocacy for many years, all the while volunteering and managing volunteers for various community causes. Jacki first fell in love with the Ruth Bancroft Garden many years ago, when she took her own kids to its fabulous children’s education programs. Since then, she has been chasing a similar dream as did Ruth Bancroft - surrounding herself with all the beautiful colors, textures and forms found in plants. When Jacki is not out in the community, she can be found in her own garden, watching the birds, whispering to her kitty, or joking around with her family. Jacki's role as the Volunteer Coordinator at RBG is the perfect marriage of her love of volunteerism and horticulture.
Nursery General Manager
Kiosk Associate & In House Artist
Daniel is a deep-rooted East Bay native with an admiration for succulents and cacti. He received an Associates in Science in Agriculture Plant Science and a Certificate of Achievement in Plant Science and Horticulture from Diablo Valley College. He also has two years of experience as a student worker for DVC's Horticulture unit, working in the nursery and teacher assisting with classes. In his free time, Daniel enjoys designing succulent dish gardens, tending to his edible plants, and hiking with his dog.
Shanna grew up in the Bay Area, then moved up to Oregon, where she attended Willamette University, majoring in Psychology and Communications. She played soccer her whole life and continued to play for her university team. She became interested in plants and nature living up in Oregon. She worked as a legal assistant at a nonprofit law firm after graduating, then decided to move back home to California to learn more about horticulture and is now taking classes at Lake Merritt College.
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Rada grew up in Walnut Creek and began his journey into plant science after attending classes at DVC shortly after high school. He eventually transferred to Humboldt State University where he graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science - Ecological Restoration with minors in Botany, Geospatial Analysis and Watershed Management. Following his strongest passion, he worked as a botanist conducting vegetation surveys across the Western U.S. with a focus on assessing the effectiveness of ecological restoration efforts. Most notably, he has surveyed alpine plants and lichens in the Rocky Mountains, plants in the rugged sagebrush steppe across the Great Basin, and plants in dynamic dune systems along the Northern California Coast. He's usually found traveling throughout the western states backpacking, botanizing, tending plants or hanging with his dog.
Dish Garden Goddess
Raised in New England and Santa Cruz, Sarah moved to the East Bay where she raised her three sons. She got her education in college and the school of life. Passions include cooking, the ocean, gardening and family. Her goal is to someday return to the coast and have a manageable size plot to tend!
Staff portrait photos by Ashlee Urmson of Zella Urmson Photography, and other photographers.
Banner photo by John Ricca