Garden closes early Dec. 8-10 at 4 p.m. With Last Admission at 3 p.m. Due to Las Noches De Las Luminarias.

Meet Our Instructors

Kristen Battafarano

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

In 1996, Kristen Battafarano was invited to help a new found friend at his three acre organic farm—she was hooked. Since then, Kristen has managed five organic school gardens throughout the Phoenix area and co-organized two local food festivals to promote sustainable agriculture. Kristen’s 17 years of horticultural experience includes landscape supervisor, landscape designer, florist, and plant biologist for the National Park Service. Kristen brings her expertise to the Desert Botanical Garden as an instructor specializing in organic, edible landscaping. Her own yard is an urban farm, designed to teach and inspire sustainable garden living.

Martha Burgess

Teaches: Cooking and Wellness and Explorations in Natural Sciences

Ethnobotanist and artist Martha Ames Burgess began her career in the sciences, studying desert ecology, geology, archaeology and tree-ring dating at University of Arizona. Martha was “adopted” by a Tohono O’odham elder who fostered her learning of the traditional uses of our Sonoran Desert plants, their names in the Native tongue, proper collection and preparation for food and medicine, as well as how to grow indigenous crops. Martha has founded the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s field study program and has worked with the conservation organization Native Seeds/SEARCH since its inception. She uses watercolors as well as words to express appreciation for the desert’s flora and habitats.

Maria Cano


Chef Maria Parra Cano is owner of Indigena. Indigena focuses on traditional and ancestral foods from the southwest region including self-care products such as traditional rebozos, salves and herbs.  Inspired by her mother to learn the indigenous cuisines of central Mexico, Maria developed a lifelong love of cooking at a very young age. As a graduate from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu in 2006, Maria has been working with local community groups to expand their knowledge of ancestral and traditional food customs. Maria received her B.A. from Arizona State University and has recently completed her MBA from Grand Canyon University. Maria is a mother, wife, sister, aunt and student of life. She enjoys learning, cooking, camping, exploring nature and spending time with her family. Maria demonstrates her love of cooking traditions at the Garden providing students with exceptional experiences on how to use traditional foods.

Pierre Deviche

Teaches: Explorations in Natural Sciences

Pierre Deviche is a professor of environmental physiology in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Liege, Belgium. Pierre has studied odonates (dragonflies) in Arizona since 2005 and traveled widely throughout Arizona to find, identify, and photograph them. Pierre is the author of the website on Arizona odonates. He has extensive experience teaching various audiences and leading field trips. Pierre’s interests also include birding and wildlife photography.

John Eisenhower

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

John Eisenhower is the owner of Integrity Tree Service in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborist®, Master Gardener and Certified Tree Care Safety Professional. He is a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists, Past President of the Arizona Community Tree Council and holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. John enjoys working with trees and teaching others how to care for them. Facilitating adult classes at the Desert Botanical Garden is a special pleasure, because of the high level of student interest and commitment to proper tree care and sustainable landscape practices.

Jack Gilcrest

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Jack Gilcrest found his vocation in environmental sciences and landscape architecture—a perfect blend of his interests in nature, art and engineering. With undergraduate degrees in Environmental Studies, Landscape Architecture and a master’s in Environmental Resources, Jack is impacting our local environment. His thesis received an American Society of Landscape Architects National Merit Award and his study helped gain support to establish the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. Jack received international recognition from World Landscape Architecture for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Jane Rau Interpretive Trail. He is an associate faculty member at ASU College of Design and has been a member of the Desert Botanical Garden for nearly 30 years. Jack enjoys sharing his knowledge of preserving, designing, constructing and managing Sonoran Desert natural environments and hopes to inspire his students to create more appropriate and sustainable landscapes for our urban environments.

Gay Hendricks

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

A lover of cacti and succulents, Gay Hendricks has been growing them for more than 15 years. She is intimately familiar with their growing habits, light and watering needs, as well as their tolerance of the extremes of our Sonoran Desert climate. Gay particularly favors aloes—she grows more than 120 varieties in her own garden, as well as a variety of other cacti and succulents. She is a member of the Central Arizona Cacti and Succulent Society and enjoys sharing her years of experience and love of growing these unique desert plants with her students.

Jeff Ho


Jeff Ho is a native of Arizona and has been gardening since the age of five. During his high school years at Chandler High School, he was active in the National Future Farmers of America. He went on to study Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Cornell University, earning both B.S. and M.S. degrees. His research included developing a software algorithm to optimize greenhouse plant production by precisely controlling light and carbon dioxide levels. After graduating, he returned to Arizona where he continues to garden in his spare time, focusing mainly on fruits and vegetables. He also operates a nursery business, providing the local community with berries, vegetables and herbs. Jeff is a vital part of the Garden’s landscape and gardening programs teaching a variety of classes such as how to grow berries in the low desert.

Elaine Hultgren

Teaches: Photography and Art

Elaine Hultgren graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, four-year program, with a major in painting and a minor in printmaking. Elaine’s interest in scientific illustration and art led her to complete the program in Botanical Art and Illustration at the Desert Botanical Garden. Illustrating and painting plants make the perfect marriage of right and left brain activity for Elaine. It allows her to combine her extensive drawing and painting skills with her lifelong curiosity about all things botanical. She lives her dream illustrating plants at the herbarium at the Garden and also teaching botanical drawing, painting, nature sketching and journaling with a special emphasis on Sonoran lizards and beetles.

Erin Hutton


Erin Hutton is a landscape designer and owner of Rocket Garden Landscape Design, LLC. A space and science enthusiast, Erin earned a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona, and worked as a network and software validation engineer in the telecommunications industry for 16 years.  Embracing the opportunity for a career change, Erin received a credential from the Desert Landscape School at the Desert Botanical Garden in 2009. She currently serves as President-elect of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) Arizona Chapter. Erin enjoys sharing her passion for design and the desert’s unique and versatile plant palette. At the Garden, she provides training for the Desert Landscape School Design Certificate program as well as providing a multitude of design classes such as Sketch Up and designing your own meditation garden.

David Jarvinen


David Jarvinen has been a contractor for over 25 years, with a large body of work that included residential tile installation. In 1998, he became involved with clay artists with the Empty Bowls Project, which created public mosaic art installations around Phoenix. David’s career grew into mosaic artistry, and he has used this passion to facilitate classes and workshops since 2002. He enjoys creating unique artisan projects and developing new learning opportunities. His mosaic programs at the Garden are extremely popular and he strives to create a fun and creative experience for students.

Shari Keith

Teaches: Photography and Art

Shari Keith is a collector of junk extraordinaire. She creates jewelry and art from found and discarded objects, and her work has been featured in galleries throughout the United States. Her unique way of using discarded items to decorate her home has been featured in several newspaper articles, and almost all of the clothing she wears is recycled. Shari Keith holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a M.A. degree in Education. She works as a teaching artist and shares her passion for the environmental and artistic benefits of creating with scrap with students of all ages. Her students know her as The Junk Lady.

Cindy Kovak

Teaches: Photography and Art

Cindy Kovack is a mixed media artist who found her creativity despite adversity, or perhaps, because of it. Coming from a large, economically challenged household, young Cindy lacked funds for her creative projects. Determined to express her inner artist, she would hike to the local dump where she would reclaim pieces and parts to create her art. By the age of ten, Cindy taught herself to paint using what she had on-hand, leftover house paint and brushes from her brother’s model airplanes.  A child of the ‘60s, Cindy fused her love of painting, collage and upcycling into a way of life. Teaching at the Desert Botanical Garden enables Cindy to use natural, dried botanicals in her works. She also enjoys the “zen-like quality” the Garden brings to the teaching environment. Through her creative classes, Cindy hopes to share her values of recycling, upcycling and respecting the Earth with her students.

Lisa Langell


Lisa Langell is a national, award-winning professional photographer from Scottsdale, Arizona. Known for her evocative wildlife photography that creates both a visual and emotional connection for the audience, her work has been published in magazines such as Arizona Highways, Ranger Rick, Phoenix Home and Garden, Images Arizona, Arizona Wildlife Views and more. Lisa is equally passionate about providing excellent photography instruction. As a former educational psychologist, Lisa worked for years to help children with special needs. She now weaves numerous research-based instructional techniques and best practices into her photography classes at the Garden and nationally. She believes learning should be fun, engaging, discovery-based and interactive. Her signature approach offers learners a vibrant, sincere and supportive approach as they progress in their own journeys with photography.

Jeff Lee

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Jeff Lee has been putting his knowledge of landscaping and irrigation to use since the 1980s. Jeff is also certified in central control hardware and software. He worked at Rainbird, helping distributors, contractors and homeowners troubleshoot their irrigation issues. Since the late 1990s, Jeff has worked with a number of local government agencies and municipalities to help conserve water, including ADOT and the City of Mesa. He has worked with the City of Gilbert Water Conservation Office since 2006. Jeff enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with homeowners and professional landscapers to help them better manage their landscape water use and to conserve our precious water.

Liz Lonetti


Liz Lonetti always had an interest in edible plants, and with a B.A. in architecture, she incorporates edibles into her own garden design and is passionate on how to transfer this knowledge to students. She is a certified Permaculture designer, Maricopa County Master Gardener and received a credential from the Desert Landscape School at the Garden. Liz loves to bring her practical knowledge to Garden programs, and her excitement shows with students. She enjoys sharing her experiences that include raising chickens, composting, raised beds, container gardening, aquaponics and urban fruit orchards. An avid experimenter, Liz currently has a beautiful crop of yerba mansa and Tilapia growing in her dining room. In addition to gardening, she is an award-winning artist, writer, culinary ninja and board member of the Arizona Herb Association and Maricopa County Master Gardener program.

Jake Mace


Jake Mace has been a student of the Martial Arts since the age of eight. With over 20 years of experience teaching Chinese Martial Arts, he is passionate about sharing his knowledge of this ancient practice. At the Garden, he trains students on one of the most famous, effective and beneficial martial arts traditions—Tai Chi. His Sunrise Tai Chi classes are the perfect way to start your day, using moving meditation to improve breathing, reduce stress and stimulate the mind. He tells his students “being consistent with your routine of meditation, deep breathing, Tai Chi or fitness, even just for five to ten minutes a day is key to health and wellness.”

Robert McBride

Teaches: Photography and Art

Robert McBride is an award-winning photographer whose photographic experience runs the gambit—from weddings to commercial, from studio to portrait. But, his passion has always been “bringing the natural world into focus.” His images of nature are found in numerous magazines, calendars, books and have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. Bob receives immense satisfaction sharing his experience and passion for photography with students. “Teaching at the Garden provides the ideal environment for sharing my love of nature and photography. I want every student to leave my classes with both an enhanced appreciation of photography and an insatiable desire to create their own extraordinary images.”

Scott McMahon

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

An ISA Certified Arborist®, Scott McMahon currently serves as manager of the Desert Botanical Garden’s world-class cactus collection. He holds a Bachelor of Science and M.S. degrees in Plant Protection from the College of Agriculture, University of Arizona. Scott’s professional experience includes more than 25 years of experience in landscaping and maintenance in the Phoenix area. A native Arizonan, Scott has been collecting cacti and succulents for over 30 years. Scott is a past president of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society where he still serves as an active contributor.

Maggie Norris


Chef Maggie Norris graduated with a B.S. from Vanderbilt University, but realized shortly after graduating that her true passion was cooking. After graduating at the top of her class from Le Cordon Bleu, Scottsdale, she moved to Manhattan and worked at the popular Food Network channel. Maggie returned to Phoenix and was the culinary instructor at Cooking with Class as well as the regional chef for Dacor Appliances. Maggie moved into sales, but continued providing private cooking lessons. It was only after her neighbors asked her to teach them from her home, she established her Whisked Away cooking school in 2009. Being part of the Garden’s Cooking and Wellness programs provides Chef Maggie the opportunity to discuss the interesting plant backgrounds of the ingredients she uses, such as the cacao plant in chocolate. Maggie is a regular on Your Life A to Z on Channel 3 and frequently featured in many blogs as well as in the Food and Drink section of The Arizona Republic.

Kim Pegram

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Butterflies fascinate Kim Pegram. She enjoys working at the Garden as Insect Ecologist and Exhibits Specialist. Kim earned her Ph.D. in Biology from Arizona State University. Butterflies and their interactions with the environment have remained the focus of her research for more than ten years. Kim enjoys providing classes related to butterflies, moths and other insects. She shares her enthusiasm and knowledge of butterflies with visitors and students at the Garden’s Butterfly Pavilion.

Pamela Perry

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Pamela Perry started gardening at a young age—she remembers planting tomatoes with her mom when she was only three. Her passion for plants continued as she grew. Wherever she went, Pam enjoyed working with all things green. She became an Advanced Master Gardener and worked as a grower at an herb farm. When she moved to Arizona, Pam discovered a love of desert skies and the new palette of plants available. Today, she shares her enthusiasm for gardening in the desert with others. “I enjoy teaching at the Garden because it reaches so many folks who share my love of plants. I find satisfaction helping folks who are passionate about growing the food they eat and who want to learn more about all that is possible [to grow] here.”

Chefs Jason Wyrick and Madelyn Prior

Teaches: Food and Well-Being

This husband and wife team loves to share their passion for healthy, good food with others who are interested in the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Co-author of New York Times Bestseller 21 Day Weight Loss Kickstart, Jason Wyrick was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-20s and was told he would have to be on medication for the rest of his life. Instead, Jason became vegan, reversed his diabetes in eight months and lost more than 100 pounds over two years. Jason left his job to become a chef and help others learn how to eat healthy, compassionately and well. He became the first vegan culinary instructor at Le Cordon Bleu -Scottsdale Culinary Institute and founded the world’s first vegan food magazine, The Vegan Culinary Experience. Though he has catered for prestigious organizations and has been featured on local and national television, what Chef Jason enjoys most is sharing how to make good food. Madelyn Prior started her career as a chef when she decided she would much rather teach people how to make delicious food than teach psychology. She joined Jason’s magazine, The Vegan Culinary Experience, and began catering and teaching cooking classes across the nation. She created a vast library of recipes. When asked what her specialty is, Madelyn often replies, “Easy recipes for life, because I love creating the perfect recipes that people turn to after work, for parties and for events. For me, food and helping others create it is my life’s work.”

Lynn Reves


Lynn Reves is passionate about bringing nature to life through art. As a florist for many years, Lynn transformed a love for flowers into a career as an artist. She is a Certified Botanical Artist and Illustrator and has been providing classes at the Garden for over nine years. She is committed to her students and is always coming up with new and interesting topics from watercolor to succulent fairy gardens. She believes “anybody can learn to create art. It is a systematic process; you have to learn and practice. Learning what tools to use and how to use them is instrumental in getting a good finished project.”

Felicia Ruiz


Felicia is a natural foods chef and traditional herbalist of Tiwa, Tewa and Mexican descent.  She has been working with Native American plants and foods for over 25 years, applying knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Most notably, she has worked with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, promoting indigenous foods as models of nutrition. She loves sharing her knowledge with others on ways to incorporate more plants as food and medicine into their daily lives for health and healing. At the Garden, Felicia is a regular in the Cooking and Wellness programs, specializing in traditional cuisines with a modern twist.

Steve Sheard

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

To say Steve Sheard has a passion for growing roses might be a bit of understatement. Born in Zimbabwe to British parents, Steve remembers his father fervently planting and tending roses. When Steve moved to Arizona as a young man in 1980, he quickly planted 20 rose bushes. Eighteen died. Still, his passion drove him to persist. When he built his new house a decade later, Steve used his skills as an engineer to design his landscape around his love of roses. He joined the Mesa East Valley Rose Society and through the society, enjoys tending Mesa Community College rose garden with more than 9,000 specimens. Steve’s own garden now has more than 150 rose bushes. He enjoys sharing his expertise of growing roses with others who are passionate about growing roses.

Carol Stuttard

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Carol Stuttard is an Englishwoman who has found herself transplanted to, and transformed by, the desert. A lover of all things botanical, Carol is a Master Gardener and Certified Desert Landscape Designer. She has been featured in Phoenix Home & Garden magazine, several local gardening shows and writes a regular gardening column for another local magazine. An organic gardener, she takes advantage of Arizona’s year-round growing season, cultivating a variety of vegetables and desert-adapted plants in her own garden. Carol enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for growing things with novice and experienced gardeners.

Ken Sweat


Dr. Ken Sweat is an Arizona native who grew up in a Phoenix neighborhood just a few miles from the Garden. He obtained a B.S. in Biology and Mathematics from Claremont McKenna College and worked for a decade as an endangered species biologist and environmental scientist in the Southwest. During this time, Dr. Sweat earned a M.S. from Arizona State University in Botany, studying the effect of fire on cactus communities. In 2000, Dr. Sweat began teaching Biological Sciences at Arizona State University’s West Campus. While teaching full time, Dr. Sweat earned a doctorate from Arizona State University, researching lichens as monitors of elemental air pollution deposition in Maricopa County and the Grand Canyon regions of Arizona. He is a senior lecturer in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. He is a popular and dynamic instructor at the Garden offering interesting and broad topics related to science and the environment.

Starr Urbatsch

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Starr Urbatsch has been with the Desert Botanical Garden for more than 14 years. She is manager of the Agavaceae, Aloaceae and non-cactus succulent plant collections, including the Garden’s extensive agave collection, which is recognized by North American Plant Collections Consortium.  Starr is a proud native of Phoenix. She received a degree in urban horticulture from Arizona State University and she is an ISA Certified Arborist®. Starr enjoys watching the sense of wonder visitors experience while exploring the Garden.

Joanne West


Joanne West worked as a commercial photographer for General Motors for 21 years. She now works as a freelance photographer for a variety of publications and other clients. Her fine art photography is part of a permanent collection at Western International University and GM Corporation. She has also exhibited her photography at several Arizona galleries and museums. Joanne enjoys the dark desert skies for making star trails and lighting photos. At the Garden, Joanne’s program repertoire spans from animal to landscape photography. A strong supporter of the environment and animal preservation, she is passionate about teaching and inspiring others. “I share these images with you to create more oneness in the world by inspiring you to celebrate every moment, follow your own truth and search for the beauty in everything.”

Ryan Wood

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Ryan Wood grew up on an Idaho dry farm. He moved to Arizona to study applied technology and quickly found work with a software company. When the company he worked at for ten years went out of business, Ryan found a new career path. With his knowledge of technology and farming, Ryan was intrigued by permaculture design. After taking a course in the subject, Ryan discovered a passion for water harvesting. He became a certified water-harvesting practitioner, as well as a Master Watershed Steward. Today, Ryan is the program manager for the Phoenix office of the Watershed Management Group, where he leads workshops and collaboratives with other agencies to create sustainability water harvesting models that others can replicate.

Urban Yoga:  Sebastian Dimond and Emily Stooks

Teaches: Yoga

This team brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion to their practice. When Sebastian first attempted yoga, it was a challenge, but he was so attracted to its strength and mindfulness that he decided to pursue it as lifestyle and a career. Sebastian completed training with At One Yoga in 2008 and has been teaching all age ranges and abilities since. His passion is creating a connection of levity for new yoga students as they follow their yoga journey. With a degree in dance from Arizona State University, a massage license from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and training from At One Yoga, Emily brings dance and healing to her practice. Her classes include breath work, alignment and gentle challenge that accommodate all levels.

Kelly Young

Teaches: Landscape and Gardening

Since 2010, Kelly Young has been an assistant extension agent for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County. Her research focuses on weed control in nursery containers and evaluating non-traditional leafy greens for summer production. Kelly teaches classes to landscape and nursery professionals, Master Gardeners, farmers and homeowners on a variety of topics related to landscape, garden and farm.  A native of Maricopa County, Kelly graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Botany.