Rick J. Lewandowski

Executive Director

Rick J. Lewandowski is the Executive Director of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center and is responsible for providing the vision, leadership, and strategic direction to fulfill Shangri La’s mission. He oversees operations for the administrative, education, and horticulture staff of the 252-acre organization in all areas of programming, garden development, conservation, and audience development with a focus on enhancing the quality of life for residents of our region. Rick has spent over 30 years in the public garden/horticulture field. Prior to Shangri La, Rick was Director of the 587-acre Mt. Cuba Center for 13 years. He oversaw the transition and enhancement of this premier native plant garden from private du Pont family estate to non-profit organization. This included the establishment of collections-based programs, extensive plant exploration efforts, development of an innovative native plant evaluation program, the launch of lifelong learning programming, and creation of a comprehensive conservation initiative. Rick began his career and spent 16 years with the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, eventually serving as Director of Horticulture and Curator of the Living Collection, where he conducted horticultural and medicinal plant research, collaborative plant evaluation, and led several plant exploration trips to Asia. Rick is an experienced environmental horticulturist, plant explorer, and plantsman. He has lectured nationally and published widely in the field of horticulture. Rick is a passionate advocate for the conservation of natural habitats as well as the role that native plants can play in creating more sustainable and attractive landscapes. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Maryland.


Marlene Cox

Guest Relations and Events Coordinator

Marlene Cox serves as the Guest Relations and Events Coordinator for Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. She is responsible for working with groups to plan, schedule, and coordinate garden and Outpost Tours. Additionally, she supports event planning, general guest relations, and oversight of volunteers who provide visitor orientation/interpretation. Marlene has been working at Shangri La since 2008. She has served in a number of capacities during her tenure at Shangri La including Membership Coordinator. Prior to Shangri La, Marlene was in retail for more than 20 years.


Katie Krantz

Director of Education and Volunteer Programs

Katie Krantz is the Director of Education and Volunteer Programs for Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. She is responsible for managing, coordinating and growing the volunteer program. Originally from northwestern Pennsylvania, Katie received her undergraduate degree from Thiel College and dual Masters Degrees in Environmental Education and Park and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University.

Kathleen Nelligan

Environmental Educator

Kathleen Nelligan is an Environmental Educator with Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. She is responsible for curriculum-based outreach program development, organizing educational materials, supporting other members of the education team, and conducting curriculum based-education programming as well as a variety of public programs. Kathleen received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and earned an M.Ed in Environmental Education as well as an M.S. in Park and Resource Management from Slippery Rock University.

Leah Hubbard

Environmental Educator


Jennifer Buckner

Director of Horticulture

Jennifer is the Director of Horticulture and also manages the plant displays in the Epiphyte House, Exhibition Greenhouses, and Children’s Garden. She provides horticultural support for in-house activities that include environmental education, publications, and staff and volunteer training. Jennifer joined the staff at Shangri La Botanical Gardens in 2007 and holds a Master of Agriculture degree in Floriculture and a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture and Entomology from Texas A&M University. Prior to coming to Shangri La, Jennifer’s experience includes working at an independent garden center retailer and a wholesale nursery.

Deb Wiles

Senior Horticulturist

Deb joined Shangri La Botanical Gardens in 2019 as Senior Horticulturist. She is responsible for leading the garden staff in the cultivation and management of the gardens as well as supporting horticultural activities such as seasonal bedding display design and planning, plant selection, overseeing our organic Integrated Pest Management program and contributing to social media content. Deb has over 20 years of experience in horticulture spanning two continents. Her horticultural education includes a Certificate in Horticulture from UCLA and graduation from the prestigious two-year Professional Horticulture Program at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia, PA. Upon graduating from Longwood, Deb worked as a trainee gardener at Great Dixter House and Gardens in the UK then earned a Master’s degree with distinction in Garden History at the University of Greenwich in London, England. Deb’s previous work experience includes managing the garden care division for a landscape design firm in Los Angeles, as Estate Gardener for a world-renowned luxury resort near Washington, DC, Head Gardener for a private estate in VA, and in public horticulture. Deb also holds a BS in Deaf Studies and is fluent in American Sign Language.

Cheryl Farmer

Production Greenhouse Supervisor

Cheryl Farmer is the Production Greenhouse Supervisor for Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center and is responsible for providing annual and perennial plants for the Stark Cultural Venues. Duties also include the design and assembly of decorative containers for seasonal displays and special events, conducting workshops, and mentoring staff greenhouse technicians and volunteers. Cheryl has held the Greenhouse Supervisor position for the last 7 years and been actively involved in plant propagation for 42 years. She attended Lamar University-Beaumont, New Orleans School of Creative Floral Design, and is a Texas Certified Master Nursery Professional with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.

Mark Hines

Superintendent, General Grounds & Maintenance Services

Mark A. Hines is the Superintendent, General Grounds, and Maintenance Services at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center. He oversees daily operations of the garden and grounds maintenance staff, coordinates and directs implementation of landscape planning with respect to sound sustainable landscape practices, and manages irrigation and water quality issues. Mark has 20 years of horticulture experience coupled with a management and supervisory background. Prior to Shangri La, Mark was the Landscape Construction Project Manager directing the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center landscape construction project for Houston based Bio Landscape, overseeing all landscape, irrigation, drainage, and secondary pathway installation. His preceding experience in the nursery and plant production industry in Florida led Mark to Texas. Mark’s certifications include: Texas Certified Landscape Professional with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association; Texas Certified Nursery Professional with the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association; and Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.