About Our Instructors

VBGA is proud to host a wide variety of talented instructors. Each brings a unique perspective in their teaching and this enables us to offer an array of fascinating classes, walks and workshops. Browse by class category to find out more.

  • +Botanical Art

    Melissa Clark
    Melissa H. Clark has devoted a lifetime to the visual arts.  Her technical skills and creative ability are well recognized – she has collections in Holland, U.S.A., Australia, and Canada. She has received many awards from local shows and the National Gallery of Canada listed her as a promising young artist. Melissa continues to develop her knowledge of traditional methods and thrives on self-exploration.

    Since 1997, Melissa has been the owner and operator of Acorn Art and Image. This home-based business incorporates fine art portrait photography with calligraphy. Of her many accomplishments, Melissa is most proud of organizing the biannual Langley Outdoor Art Exhibition (1998 – 2009). Melissa also holds a Kwantlen College Visual Arts diploma and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Arts and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of British Columbia.

    Katharine Dickinson
    Katharine Dickinson has a postgraduate degree from The Slade School of Art, London, U.K. She has worked as a professional illustrator and artist for twenty years.  Katharine has expertise in a variety of traditional media. She paints portraits by commission and landscapes for exhibition.

    Teaching art is a passion; Katharine works with Vancouver and Burnaby Art Galleries, in public and school programs. She strongly believes in the power of education and drawing as a method for understanding the world. Her classes are engaging, emphasizing seeing and the principles of drawing from life. Students have fun while learning the necessary skills to develop their own artistic vision.

    Leanne Hildebrand
    Leanne majored in Music Performance and graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 1996. She is passionate about art and handmade paper. She has collected handmade paper from different countries.

    Leanne has 8 years of experience making handmade books, which were sold at the Suho Memorial Paper Museum in Taipei. She started learning to use Japanese hand-dyed paper (washi) to make pictures about 14 years ago in a Japanese art form called Chigiri-e, studying under several masters in Taiwan. She has had three well-received exhibitions of these pictures in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and Vancouver. In 2018 and 2019, Leanne entered the West Vancouver Harmony Art Festival Group Exhibition with her Chigiri-e pictures. View examples of her art here.

    Amanda Langerak
    Amanda is a self-taught florist and gardener, shaped and inspired by her parents and their passion for gardening. In 2015, she created a local flower and plant business called forage&BLOOM. Amanda has cultivated her small business that showcases the seasons through growing her own flowers and designing for special events. She has a uniquely wild style. Her goal is to leave a tiny footprint by using sustainable practices within this business.

    She became hooked on learning the art of kokedama and loves creating these unique moss balls. Her desire is to seek to connect with the natural world around her as well as enabling others to discover new experiences. Teaching has become a passion – sharing knowledge and inspiration, and connecting with her participants in a hands-on, immersive way.  She endeavors to highlight the beautiful layers in nature while nurturing the world that surrounds us.

    Dana Mulder
    Dana Mulder works as an elementary school teacher with the Vancouver School Board. She has worked in children’s programming and education outreach at VanDusen Botanical Garden since 2011.  With a special interest in capturing the beauty of nature through working with natural media, Dana practices natural dying, mineral pigment painting, and seaweed pressing with her young students as well as adults.

    Dana completed her graduate studies in UBC’s Urban Learner Program. Her thesis, To Dwell in the Surf, is an inquiry into a practice of dwelling in the places we live with reciprocity, with a focus on place-based making.  Always aware of the ethics of sustainable harvesting, she is keen to share her passion for the wonders you can create from your own backyard.

    Susan Pearson
    Susan is an established Vancouver artist and illustrator loved for her cheerful artistic style, inspiring lessons, and patient and supportive teaching style. Susan’s work has been chosen for city banners, posters, t-shirts, and for promoting urban events such as the Bike to Work Week and the Dragon Boat Festival. She recently published her first illustrated book, “Anna May’s Cloak”.

    Angela Stearns
    Angela Stearns is a member of VanDusen Botanical Garden’s horticulture team and is a freelance photographer.

  • +Botany and Ecology

    Sharmin Gamiet 
    Dr. Sharmin Gamiet is an experienced mycologist who has led several mushroom identification tours across the lower mainland of BC.

    Jeremy Gordon
    Jeremy Gordon is an experienced birder that has been a long-time instructor of bird watching here at the garden.

    Ben Keen
    Ben Keen is a skilled birder living on Bowen Island. You can check out his birding photo collection here.

    Sam Sivertz
    Samantha has an honors degree in Evolutionary Biology from UBC. She helped prepare the UBC herbarium and fossil collections for the opening of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. She has been working at VanDusen as the Plant Documentation Technician since 2009. She teaches classes on plant identification and poisonous plants for the Vancouver Botanical Gardens Association at VanDusen and gives talks for outside organizations such as local garden clubs, the Vancouver Tea Festival, and MOSAIC.

    Brian Campbell

    Brian is a Certified Beemaster and beekeeper, very involved in pollinator conservation issues in the Lower Mainland and around BC. Brian became immersed in the rich and amazing world of bees while he and his four kids spent many a glorious day observing the curious activities of bees, noticing the bees’ consistent patterns, collective activities, and the surprising comparisons to our own human patterns and behaviors.

    Brian has been an instructor at VanDusen Botanical Garden for the 15 years, is one of the founding teachers of the Kwantlen Farm School program, and is Beeologist in Residence at the UBC Botanical Garden, helping the Garden develop a pollinator conservation plan and research bumble bees. He is a former President of the Richmond Beekeepers Association and a BC Association Master Gardener. When not chasing bees and wasps, Brian is product manager at West Coast Seeds maintaining and updating the company’s catalogue of vegetable, flower and herb seeds.

  • +Gardening and Design

    Jenna Jaski
    Jenna Jaski’s background in environmental science and organic farming has cultivated a love for urban gardening. Jenna works for Victory Gardens Vancouver and has helped many people maintain their garden through coaching and training.

    Jennifer Lipka
    Jennifer Lipka’s enthusiasm and passion for gardening shines in her workshops. She has spent the last 10 years gardening organically at her local community plot and patio, and inspires her students to grow successful gardens all over the city. She shares her knowledge from Kwantlen Polytechnic University on organic gardening, botany, seeds, and harvesting, and is currently enrolled in a Bachelor’s of Environment and Sustainability at UBC.

    Janis Matson
    Janis Matson has brought a plethora of knowledge, education and experience along with contagious enthusiasm to her talks and classes at VanDusen Botanical Garden since 2011. As the owner of Shoreline Landscape Design in Burnaby for over 20 years, she enjoys using her creativity in the challenge of making garden spaces look and feel good.

    Melinda Mennie
    Melinda is a foliage enthusiast and full time plant-mom. Living on Bowen Island, BC, Melinda spends her weekends working in her large garden and greenhouse tending to everything from watermelons and tomatoes to succulents and roses. With a facilitation and communications background, blending her love of plants with her love of learning and teaching makes her an enthusiastic and encouraging instructor from which to learn.

    Justin Schneider
    Justin Schneider is a certified Permaculture Designer and Professional Landscape Horticulturist with the Vancouver Park Board, and is currently the sub-foreman at the 130-acre Queen Elizabeth Park. He completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a diploma in Organic Land Care. With a passion for learning, Justin has also completed several other courses in the realms of leadership, design, and sustainability. He has been working in the horticulture field for over 15 years in Canada, Costa Rica, and New Zealand. He enjoys teaching concepts of resilient gardening and design, and loves to inspire others to follow the wisdom of Nature.

    Yael Stav, PhD
    Yael is a sustainable design professional, with expertise in living walls and urban agriculture in Israel, Australia, and Canada. Her PhD work focused on designing sustainable vertical gardens. She enjoys teaching and advocating for integrating more plants into urban environments. She also enjoys gardening in her domestic micro-farm and in community gardens. Her studio, Invivo Design, located in Vancouver, is involved in educational and design projects related to green infrastructure.

    Casey Werfl
    Casey Werfl was a head gardener at VanDusen Botanical Garden for over 10 years, with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. Currently he is the sub-foreman at Sunset Nursery, where he and his team grow a variety of plants for Vancouver Park Board locations including VanDusen Botanical Garden, Bloedel Conservatory, Queen Elizabeth Park, and Stanley Park.

    Casey holds a Horticulture Certificate from Capilano College and is a certified Journeyman Landscape Horticulturalist. Casey enjoys teaching foundational methods in an interactive workshop setting, aiming to inspire those who wish to enhance their knowledge and skills in the gardening world.


  • +Plants and People

    Ken Ouendag
    Ken Ouendag completed training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides & Training in 2017 to become Vancouver’s first Certified Forest Therapy Guide. He founded Nature Connected Forest Therapy Walks, offering public and private walks that are inspired by the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku. His walks invite people to explore new ways of connecting with nature, while opening the door to the healing properties of forests and other natural environments. Ken currently offers Recreation Therapy programming to older adults living in long-term care.

    Thomas Ulanowski
    Thomas Ulanowski is a chartered chemist and university instructor of plant production and facility management.

    Leonard Williams
    Leonard Williams is an accomplished cedar bark artist and member of the Quatsino First Nation. Born in Alert Bay in 1960 and of Quatsino and Tlowitsis ancestry, Williams was raised in Quattishe (“old Quatsino”) and Fort Rupert by his grandmother and great-grandmother.

    His artistry with cedar bark weaving is a result of the many different perspectives from which he studies his subject. As an archaeological and traditional use study assistant, Williams has had the opportunity to learn the growing conditions of—and variations in—cedar, as well as gather the cedar bark ideal for his creations. His work is also informed by his study of ancestral Quatsino ethnographic objects held in museums around the world. In learning their forms, styles and weaving patterns, he repatriates lost knowledge for return to his People.

    Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, (RH) AG
    Katolen Yardley, MNIMH, RH (AHG) is a medical herbalist. She practices privately in Vancouver and in Port Moody, BC, where she specializes in women’s health and digestive conditions. She is the author of the book “The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal Remedies”, and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to VBGA Education.

    She is the current president of the Canadian Council of Herbalist Associations and past president of the Canadian Herbalist Association of British Columbia (2013-2019). Katolen is a clinic supervisor at Dominion Herbal College where she runs a monthly low-cost community clinic available to the public and is adjunct faculty at Boucher Naturopathic College. Check out her numerous upcoming events including herbal medicine workshops, herb walks and seminars. Learn more about Katolen here.

    Cole Benoit

    Cole is the founder and head bitters maker at The Apothecary Bitters Company, where he specializes in small batch bitters made from all natural botanicals. His passion in this field has led him into teaching others about bitters, often through seminars and events. Constantly experimenting and creating, he’s also active in cocktail and spirit consulting, designing cocktail programs and working with brands such as Long Table Distillery, where he co-created the first amaro in BC.