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.
Volunteer and Program Coordinator
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 and care since 2015. She will help the Garden continue to develop the Adult Education and Volunteer and Intern Programs at the Garden. Alice’s roots in the horticulture world are long and strong! After graduating from UC Berkeley in Forestry and Music, she worked first as an intern at the New England Wildflower Society’s “Garden in the Woods” and then at the Arnold Arboretum as an apprentice in Boston. Next she spent time in Southern California working at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada, followed by several years as a botanic gardener at Lyon Arboretum at the University of Hawai’i. There she helped maintain the plant collections and wrote grants and edited articles for the Arboretum newsletter.
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, theatre, 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 Design Consultant
Cricket joined the Garden in April 2017 after being a member for several years. One of her favorite parts of working at the Garden is helping customers find the best water wise plants for their gardens. She is a strong proponent of idea that gardens can be lush, beautiful and sustainable if you use climate appropriate plants. Cricket has a has an AA in Landscape Architecture from Merritt College, 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
Garden Events and Marketing Manager
East Bay native, Stephanie is excited to be a part of the RBG team. She was first introduced to the garden by her dad in 2003 when she bought him a membership for Father’s Day. Stephanie has worked as a pastry chef, real estate transaction coordinator, hairstylist and makeup artist for 23 years before taking time off to be a full-time mom to her two daughters. During this time she was very involved with the PTA holding several different positions including PTA President. She was instantly drawn to the excitement of problem solving during event planning, managing projects, balancing budgets and fundraising. When it became time to return to work, Stephanie happened to drive past the Garden and decided to explore opportunities there. Her personality and skill set aligned favorably with the Garden Events and Marketing Manager position and she started working in October, 2019. When not at the garden, Stephanie enjoys traveling, cooking, riding her bike, hiking and hanging out with her husband, two daughters and their pitbull Vince.
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.
Banner photo by John Ricca