NHS Board Biographies
Joseph Abken (2015-2017)
A Northwest native, Joe Abken grew up gardening as a form of sustenance in the small timber town of White Salmon, WA. He credits his grandmother’s love of flowers and gardening for his passion for horticulture. He moved to Kenmore, WA in 2004 and began working at Sky Nursery. When he’s not busy working at Sky Nursery, as the General Manager, he spends his time gardening, cooking and practicing his photography.
Colin Cary (2016-2018)
Colin Cary is the President of Smith Bunday Berman Britton, P.S., a CPA firm located in Bellevue. As a CPA, his expertise is in taxation and financial issues. Having grown up in Seattle as the child of English parents, he always admired his mother’s love for her small garden. As an adult, Colin has learned that gardening is not just something that can be enjoyed by professional horticulturists, but by everyone. He currently lives in Brier where he continues the family practice of maintaining an English garden. Colin was previously on the NHS board where he served as Chair of the Finance committee.
Lynne De Merritt (2017-2019)
Lynne has gardened in one form or other for most of her life. Her earliest recollection of gardening was tending an herb patch at age 3; memorable because she broke the kitchen window with the hoe. In the early 70s, tired of mowing, she removed her mother’s front lawn and replaced it with native plants. Lynne was among the volunteers that built Seattle’s Magnuson Community Garden, and served on its board. Current gardening is confined to a city community garden and collecting plant and landscape books. She feels that NHS educational program of lectures, classes, and tours are an important part of lifelong learning and cultural enjoyment; and there is much to learn. Professionally, Lynne was a research consultant for a local government nonprofit. She retired in the fall of 2014. Lynne joined NHS in 2007. She is a plant sale volunteer, has helped with the Miller Library book sales, and researched the history of NHS in conjunction with our 50th anniversary celebration.
Justin Galicic (2016-2018)
Justin Galicic is a public school teacher by trade but considers gardening an increasingly serious hobby. Ever since he was a young lad he has been fascinated with tropical and subtropical plants and is always pushing the limits of what he can get away with growing here in the Pacific Northwest. He lives in downtown Seattle, but has taken over his parent’s garden in Normandy Park. The immersive garden he has created is home to an extensive collection of exotic plants from all around the world. Justin writes an informative gardening blog GrowingSteady.com and has taught classes for NHS for the past couple of years.
Sue Goetz (2015-2017)
Sue Goetz, CPH is a garden designer, writer, and speaker. Through her business Creative Gardener, she works with clients to personalize outdoor spaces-from garden coaching to full landscape design. Sue’s garden design work has earned gold medals at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show and specialty awards including; the Sunset Magazine award, the Fine Gardening magazine award and The American Horticultural Society award. Writing and speaking are Sue’s favorite ways to share her love of gardening her work has appeared in numerous publications including Pacific Horticulture magazine Seattle Met, APLD Designer magazine, West Sound Home and Garden and Fine Gardening Magazine and she is the author of The Herb Lover’s Spa Book published in February 2015. Sue served two previous terms on the NHS board, where she served as secretary, led tours, classes and opened her garden for the Meet the Board Tour.
Greg Graves (2015-2017)
Greg Graves worked for Burlington Northern Railroad for 24 years and when they moved the Seattle based jobs to Topeka, Kansas he returned to school to follow his passion for gardening. Greg earned a degree in Landscape Design and Ornamental Horticulture in 1998 followed by an internship at the Miller Botanical Garden. A year later he became the head gardener where he worked until June 1st of 2011 when he retired. In 2005 Greg bought 3 acres in rural Pierce county and began building his own garden and nursery along with his husband which they named Old Goat Farm. Greg now continues to work on the garden and nursery. He is currently vice president of NHS and was previously on the NHS board from 2003 until 2009 and was president of NHS 2005 /2006 and 2013/14. He is past president of the board of the Pacific Horticulture Society.
Ellen Hecht (2016-2018)
Ellen became enamored with the Northwest during a Seattle overnight, enroute from her home in New York to an Alaska vacation. After spending many a cold, east coast winter, the lure of perennial gardening almost year round sounded like an opportunity that was too good to miss. So 25 years ago she relocated to Capitol Hill where she soon found a refuge as a volunteer among the amazing tropical plants at the Volunteer Park Conservatory.
Her career in international travel has allowed her to share her passion for discovering nature and gardens in far off lands with may adventurous travelers. It was during her first NHS Meet the Board Tour -and the opportunity to peek into people’s gardens closer to home- that she realized she needed to be a part of this organization.
In addition to NHS, she is an active Master Gardener, volunteering at the Washington Park Arboretum clinic, Magnuson Children’s Garden and other gardens. She credits her great-grandfather, who was a senior gardener at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the early 1900s, for passing on her (mostly) good gardening genes.
Jason Jorgensen (2015-2017)
Born in California, Jason moved to Washington State at the age of seven, and has called the Pacific Northwest home ever since. After more than twenty years in the international shipping industry he decided it was time for a career change. After graduating in 2013 with degrees in Landscape Design and Ornamental Horticulture from Edmonds Community College, he turned his life-long passion for gardening and plant selection into his profession as a landscape designer.
Ray Larson (2017-2019)
Ray Larson was born and raised in Seattle. Although he earned bachelors degrees in economics and history (with a minor in art), his lifelong interest in gardening led him to employment at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture while still an undergraduate. He began working there shortly after graduation and eventually earned his Master of Science in Urban Horticulture in 2005. While working on his masters he interned for a year at the Elisabeth Miller Botanical Garden. He left CUH in mid-2005 after many years as Facilities Coordinator, accepting a new position as Head Gardener at Hill-Crest, the UW-owned residence of the university president. There he oversaw the renovation of the 1.5-acre, 100-year-old garden. In 2013 he was hired as the Curator of Living Collections at the UW Botanic Gardens. In 2016, Curator of the Herbarium was added to his duties. Ray completed two terms as president of the Northwest Horticultural Society in November 2011. Ray lives and gardens in northeast Seattle with his 7 year-old daughter, Hazel.
Mark Lyke (2017-2019)
Mark Lyke grew up in Washington State, but Alaska lured him with what he thought would be a one year stint teaching in Angoon, an Alaskan Native village between Sitka and Juneau. Mark a Husky, a retired public school teacher after spending 34 years in Alaska, now serves as Horticulture Manager for Lakewold Gardens in Lakewood. He ended up returning to Des Moines, WA where his wife grew up. They now live in Federal Way. Mark graduated from Shorecrest High School, University of Washington, Seattle University and the University of Alaska, Southeast. During the winter and summer, Mark and his wife, Joanie, still retreat to their cabin in Talkeetna, AK. Mark also has Master Gardener certification in both Alaska and Washington.
Hans Mandt (2015-2017)
Hans was born in Germany, grew up in southwestern Ohio where he graduated from Miami University with a degree in Physics. During his forty-year career as a Computer Scientist he had the dream job of teaching at his Alma Mater for five years. Having gardened most of his adult life, he decided to pursue gardening seriously as his next career. This brought him to NHS (four prior board terms), where he served as president, chair of the finance committee, chair of the symposium committee and as a member of the education committee he developed the enlightening book corner we had for many years. Hans also led a tour to Germany for NHS in 2013. He is currently revamping his garden to make it simpler to manage.
Gillian Mathews (2016-2018)
British-born Gillian followed her gardening sister to the United States, where she developed a passion for gardening and retail. Over seventeen years ago she established Ravenna Gardens. She served on the NHS board for three prior terms with a particular passion for the educational program where she has arranged many exciting local, national and international tours.
Meagan McManus (2015-2017)
Meagan is a Seattle native who grew up in Lake Forest Park. She comes from an ancestry of gardeners and orchardists based in Central Washington. Meagan credits her love of gardening to her parents who required that she and sisters work in the large family garden every Sunday of their youth. As a young girl she spent summer months hiking and botanizing in the Cascade Mountians. She attended Western Washington University, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Environmental Studies. Later she received her certificate in Wetland Science and Management from the University of Washington, and worked as a Wetland Ecologist for several years. After a stint abroad working with organic farmers around Tuscany, Meagan returned to horticulture. She has worked at area nurseries doing everything from plant buying to design and merchandising. She volunteered for many years with the University of Washington Rare Plant Care group archiving Washington endemic rare and endangered plant seeds. She lives in West Seattle with her husband, daughter and five chickens, where they tend to their growing perennial borders and large vegetable garden.
Ciscoe Morris (2017-2019)
After 24 years as Grounds Manager at Seattle University, Ciscoe now takes his organic gardening tips to the public via television, radio and public appearances. Serving on several horticultural boards, this native Wisconsonian is also a Master Gardener and certified arborist. Ooh la la!
Renee Montgelas (2016-2018)
Renee’s interest in gardening began gradually with sprouting avocado seeds and propagating house plants. It grew into an obsession with an evolving group of plants as she began landscaping her yard soon after buying her house in Seattle in 1982. She is now working on renovating this garden. Gardening was her “therapy” during her 30-year career in the public sector in the transportation planning and policy field. Upon retirement, she volunteered for the NHS Fall plant sale and took an NHS tour to New Zealand, the first of many NHS trips. Renee served two terms on the NHS board from 2006-2011 and co-chairs the tours committee with Gillian Mathews. She also enjoys leading tours as a docent at the Dunn Gardens in north Seattle.
Susan Picquelle (2016-2018)
Susan Picquelle is almost a native Seattlite, having lived here since 1983 with her husband Jim Meador. The two of them have been crazed gardeners ever since they moved into their first home here over three decades ago. Susan recently began her new career as a landscape designer after 30 years in her first career as a statistician conducting research on marine ecosystems. Immediately upon retiring from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Susan eagerly jumped into the Landscape Design Program at Edmonds Community College, and graduated from the program in 2012. But her horticultural education began much earlier, thanks to the excellent programs from NHS and other groups in Seattle’s hotbed of horticulture. An admitted plant addict, her plant lust is no longer restrained by the bounds of her own garden now that she designs densely planted gardens for others. How wonderful to be able to feed an addiction and even get paid for it! Besides being an NHS devotee, Susan also volunteers with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, and occasionally with the Arboretum Foundation and the Northwest Perennial Alliance. In addition to her own landscape design business, Susan works part time as a designer for Nyce Gardens (http://nycegardens.com/). When not designing gardens or working in her own garden or attending or planning garden events, Susan enjoys scuba diving in tropical waters, drinking wine with friends, and wearing hats, not necessarily in that order.
Richie Steffen (2017-2019)
Richie Steffen is the curator of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden. His interest in gardening started with a love of the outdoors as a child growing a small patch of volunteer cherry tomatoes, sunflowers and weedy sweet peas (Lathyrus latifolius) along a gravel driveway in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC. Taking horticulture classes in high school sparked a real passion for plants and lead to studying greenhouse management and nursery management at the University of Maryland. Escaping from the heat and humidity of the East Coast by moving to Seattle in 1989, Richie soon took full advantage of the new growing opportunities by trying every plant he could afford and is still in this mode today. NHS was one of the first organizations Richie joined after moving to the Northwest and he has been actively involved for many years. Richie has served on the NHS board in the past and is currently serving as president. He especially likes the great plant sales and is forever on the lookout for the newest and rarest plants to buy.
Walter Thompson (2017-2019)
Walter Thompson, a retired small business owner, is a Seattle native. He’s been a Snohomish County Master Gardener (MG) for 10 years, and a regular volunteer at the Betty Miller Garden for nine years. As a MG, he works with the 7th grade science teachers at Canyon Park Jr. High School in Bothell to introduce the kids to horticulture through their science curriculum. He has a plantsman’s garden in Edmonds, which has been on several garden tours and which showcases his abiding interest in unique plants. Outside of horticulture, he manages the Willow Creek Hatchery and Aquatic Education Center in Edmonds and works with kids who raise salmon in their classrooms and release them into small urban creeks. So, when he’s not planting plants, he’s planting fish.
Sue Tong (2017-2019)
A Seattle native, Sue began her passion for horticulture while raising her family in Laurelhurst. Left with a large underdeveloped yard, she began an intense study of plants and hardscape to form a cohesive design and created an English garden. Attending lectures and NHS classes provided learning opportunities to gain more horticultural knowledge. After a garden tour to Italy with the Center for Urban Horticulture, she moved to Inverness with a south facing property and transformed the site into a Tuscan garden complete with several water features by Little and Lewis.
She owned and operated an insurance agency for 35 years but interior and garden design has been her passion. She majored in Textiles, Clothing and Art at the University of Washington which helped the organization, color and textures of plants came naturally.
Eileen Van Schaik (2017-2019)
Eileen Van Schaik grew up in Dayton OH where three peony bushes marked home base in the side yard where her seven siblings and the neighbor kids played kick ball and wiffle ball. Zinnias, four o’clocks and occasionally tomatoes were planted in a small patch under the kitchen windows. Moving into an old apartment building with a lawn and sycamore trees after nursing school, Eileen planted zinnias in the window wells and moved a scraggly rose bush to a more advantages positon where it thrived. She has gardened everywhere she’s lived since, including raising vegetables and zinnias in a community patch while she was in graduate school in Lexington KY, experimenting with annuals and perennials in the garden of the home she shared with her future husband while writing her dissertation in Louisville KY, and planting lavender in the heavy clay soil at her home in Birmingham AL where she joined the faculty at the university after earning her PhD. She’d left the zinnias behind but clearly had a lot to learn. Eileen and her husband moved to Seattle in the fall of 1998 and settled into an old house in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Eileen began expanding the narrow borders around the patio and periphery of the property and found plants growing in her garden that she’d never seen before. She soon discovered the Center for Urban Horticulture and the Northwest Horticultural Society and enrolled in her first NHS symposium. For years she delighted in attending the symposiums and monthly lectures, learning about all things horticultural in the Northwest and beyond while expanding her home garden and experimenting with the bounty of plants that could be grown here. In 2014, Eileen shifted from full-time to part time work and began enrolling in NHS classes and tours. She took on the task of providing refreshments for the monthly lectures and acquired a plot in the P-Patch at Interbay. Now fully retired, gardening is at the center of Eileen’s life, and she is grateful for the continual learning, creativity, and community it provides. Next spring she’s going to plant zinnias in thanksgiving.
Lia Ward (2017-2019)
Lia moved from Los Angeles in 1993 and fell in love with all the lush green of the Northwest. After joining NHS, and armed with classes, trips, and the Miller Library, she was able to make the most of her yard. Lia has also done landscape consulting, design, and troubleshooting for a large residential multifamily community. She enjoys working plant sales, finding new plants and making new friends.
Sherri Wilson (2017-2019)
Sherri moved from California with her husband and family to Bainbridge Island 25 years ago. Heronswood was right down the street; when Dan visited my garden, he said he recognized my name from all the checks I had written to Heronswood! When we moved in, the garden was mostly horse pasture, but it is now full of trees, shrubs and perennials….no ‘low maintenance gardening’ here. As a small animal veterinary specialist, my job is intense, but gardening is the therapy. I have made so many friends at NHS, through lectures and garden touring, and look forward to a closer association with NHS serving on the board.
Holly Zipp (2015-2017)
Holly is the Head Gardener at the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden. In 2008 she moved to Seattle from her hometown of Washington, DC after completing her Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Michigan. As a new transplant, she found NHS immediately and volunteered for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show booth so that she could make friends in the northwest horticulture community. Prior to joining the board she served on the NHS Scholarship committee and is now on the Library committee. Between college and graduate school, she spent several years working on organic vegetable farms on the East Coast. She enjoys traveling to visit gardens whenever she can, and manages to eek a garden from the front yard at her apartment.
Jackie White (Past President)
Jackie White has retired from a career of representing public interest clients (primarily cities, counties and transit) before the Washington State Legislature that included serving on a number of boards, associations and commissions. She now has time to explore many interests, but is most passionate about gardening (especially vegetables), broadening her knowledge of horticulture, travel and cooking. She occasionally mentors and teaches youth how to cook what they grow in the garden and about the nutritional value of food. Jackie has been gardening and cooking since her youth, but soon after retiring a friend brought her to NHS where she’s spent many hours attending lectures, going on tours, volunteering and meeting new friends. She served two six year terms on the NHS Board and was president of NHS the past two years. She is also an active member of the Master Gardeners Program of Thurston County and is the past president of the Master Gardeners Foundation.