Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center



Rick J. Lewandowski is the 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 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 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.

  • Peggy Paige
  • Environmental Educator
  • Wanda Woods
  • Environmental Educator


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.

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.

  • Julie Dial
  • Gardener
  • Melissa Fairchild
  • Gardener
  • Susie Freuden
  • Gardener
  • Christi Nelson
  • Irrigation and Pest Management Technician
  • Lindsey Nelson
  • Gardener
  • Leslie Pierce
  • Gardener

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.

  • Nicholas Keng
  • Greenhouse Technician
  • Miranda Raymo
  • Greenhouse Technician
  • Downtown Campus
  • Gerardo Rico
  • Gardener, Team Leader
  • Willie Goodwin
  • Gardener
  • Hilario Moreno
  • Gardener